Scott Jasmin / Blog

Putting it all together (part 2)

Basketball is a way of life. I am not the biggest basketball fan, but every now and then I will really get into it. When I was in high school, our team went all the way to the Minnesota State Championship. School was cancelled so that any student who wanted could go. I remember getting ON THE BUS and riding up to the game in Minneapolis. I remember the excitement and anticipation from the time we got on the bus until the final moments before tipoff. I remember dressing in our school colors and screaming and yelling throughout the entire game. The pep band played, the cheerleaders cheered and the guys on the team gave their all. Years later it became a common expression for a star player, during a post-game interview, to say something like, “I just tried to leave everything on the court.” It meant that they gave their all. They summoned every bit of their desire, hunger, concentration and energy and harnessed it, channeling it all into one pursuit–victory. Leaving it all on the court renders a player completely exhausted, unable to go on, spent… but basking in the glory of a championship won. As Carman has already illustrated for us, Jesus already won the championship. He is the Champion. We weren’t there to see Him win it all, but we are invited to the Homecoming party! Every time we get together to worship with other believers we have the chance to press in, draw near, pursue God with all of our desire, hunger, concentration and energy. In Mark 12:30 Jesus said, ”Love the Lord your God with all your heart (desire) and with all your soul (hunger) and with all your mind (concentration) and with all your strength (energy).” No, he wasn’t merely talking about the corporate worship setting. But I believe it does apply to that setting as well. I know far too many people who complain about church, saying it’s “boring.” Perhaps they’ve gone to church expecting to receive without giving, to be served without serving. Perhaps they weren’t hungry for God, aching to know Him, focusing every ounce of their energy on meeting with Him. Perhaps they never got ON THE BUS. Worship is a way of life. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Leave it all on the court. Scott Jasmin

The Foundation

If you walk into the site of a house under construction, you will see plumbers, carpenters, electricians, masons, architects, engineers, etc. And the person who puts it all together so that the right thing gets done by the right person at the right time is the general contractor. Being a worship leader who leads a band is a lot like being a general contractor. And putting together a good sound with your band is a little like building a house. First, you have to lay a solid foundation. I like to consider the drums, bass and percussion the foundation of the worship house. I began playing drums at age 13. I used to spend hours a day practicing all alone in my room. Playing alone meant having to fill up the space with wild, busy fills. When I began playing drums for worship, the worship leader said to me, “Whoa there, Mr Happy Feet! Take it easy. Simplify. Give me quarter notes on the kick drum with a snare on two and four.” At first I thought she was nuts, but as I submitted to her leading I could hear the band beginning to come together and get “tight.” I began leading worship in 1995. For a while I led from behind the drums on an electronic drum set with a headset microphone. That way I was my own drummer and played what I wanted the drummer to do. When I began leading from the guitar I gained a whole new appreciation for drummers. I told one young drummer, “Whoa there, Mr Happy Feet! Take it easy. Simplify. Give me quarter notes on the kick drum with a snare on two and four.” I also added, “Plus, you get one fill per song–ONE.” He looked at me like I had rabbits growing out of my ears… and he was the pastor’s son! But the end result was effective. Simplified drums make for a solid foundation. My friend Nic pointed out to me the other day how the drum track on Tomlin’s “Everlasting God” doesn’t have one single fill the entire song… I couldn’t believe it! But I was so impressed by how much the simplicity actually ADDED to the overall sound. I’m not saying that the drummer always needs to play something simple. On the contrary, no one appreciates a syncopated beat or sweet fill more than I do. I’m just saying that, as a rule, less is more. The next step is adding bass guitar. Some of the best, simplest advice I’ve gotten is to have the bass player emulate the bass drum. If the drummer is playing quarter notes on the kick drum, the bass player can play quarter notes too. Like the drummer, the bass player can play an occasional tasty lick. But remember, less is more. One other piece of good advice is to play more staccato on the verse and more legato on the chorus. That helps give the song more interesting and expressive dynamics. It’s not a rule, just a guideline. Remember, we’re trying to build a solid foundation. Once you’ve got your drummer and bassist laying down a solid groove, you can add some additional percussion. My favorite thing to add is a little shaker. Shakers come in all sorts of timbres: soft, loud, muffled, sandy, rocky, etc. I’ve even heard of some people making their own shaker by putting dry pinto beans into a soup can! My best advice with shakers is this: if you’re going to play it, PLAY IT. To me, nothing sounds worse than a shaker being played half-heartedly. Another great piece of percussion is the tambourine. Remember, less is more, so don’t overplay the tambourine. And be careful not to play it too fast. There is a fine line between tasty and messy. A skillful tambourine player adds a lot to almost any song. There are many, many percussion instruments that can be added. I recommend you find someone in your team with 1) an excellent sense of rhythm and 2) a desire to explore the world of percussion instruments and master playing them. Skillfully played percussion can become more of a piece of art on the walls of your sound than a part of the foundation, but I am getting ahead of myself. More on that to come. Scott Jasmin

The intimacy factor (part 2)

A large group and yourself all pour out of the bus and enter the restaurant. You check in and are escorted to your table. The chair across from you is empty. You sit for a while and make conversation with some of the others patrons, also sitting across from empty chairs. You begin again to daydream about your date–only moments away– and you hum the melody of ‘your song.’ You quietly whisper her name and close your eyes. As you open your eyes, you see that she is now sitting across from you. She is beautiful. You are so glad to finally be with her. The waiter comes to your table and pours some water. He takes your drink order, then has you stand up and greet the other patrons at the tables surrounding yours. Next, they spend a few minutes letting you know what their specials will be over the next few weeks. Your waiter seats you again and leaves. You say to your date, “You look radiant tonight” and you offer your hand, which she takes. You notice how soft, how warm it is. You become aware of romantic music being piped in. You look long and deep into each other’s eyes. You lean in. The room lights dim so that you can only see her now. You move closer, clasping her hand with both of yours. Your mind is flooded with thoughts about her. Your heart is overflowing with feelings of love, romance, connection. You search for the words to convey what you are thinking and feeling. The background music suddenly stops with a loud scratch, like a needle being dragged across a record. The lights go up and the waiter, who is again at your table, announces his return with an “Ahem!” He takes your order and then introduces the Head Waiter, who directs you to take out a copy of your date’s diary, which is hidden under your seat. He has his own copy of her diary, from which he reads several entries and then spends the next 30-45 minutes telling you all about her. He closes his presentation with an invitation to meet her. Okay, Hopefully you can see that I’m using some exaggerated metaphor to make a point. When we constantly interrupt our worship services for announcements, scripture readings, homily’s, prayers, etc., we are disrupting the flow of the service, which disrupts the intimacy of the worship. To me, it’s like the story above, where the couple is really keying into each other and the waiter keeps interrupting them. Am I saying don’t have announcements? No. Am I saying skip scripture readings, homily’s and prayers? No. Am I discounting the Bible or sermons? No way! I’m just saying that if it is truly our goal to get THERE–to help our worshipers enter into deep, intimate, personal worship with the God of the universe–then we need to limit distractions and encourage flow in our services. We can start off the service with a gathering song, stop to make announcements, then enter into an extended time of worship. Many churches then celebrate communion. I like to FLOW into communion, letting one or more instruments play quietly as someone shares a communion meditation and/or prayer. Then the service can continue to flow as music plays during the passing of the elements or the congregational procession to receive them. If it is a prayer time that follows, the music can subtly underscore the prayer time or delicately fade out as the prayer time starts. I’m not telling anyone how to program their service. I’m just trying to illustrate the importance of intimacy in worship, and how distractions and start/stop service styles detract from that. Remember, we worship leaders are the bus driver trying to get our worship tour passengers from HERE to THERE and keep them there so they can meet with God. Scott Jasmin

The intimacy factor (part 1)

Imagine yourself on a date–not a blind date or a date with someone you don’t know very well–but a date with someone with whom you are madly in love and you know them very, very well. Because I am a man–and to make the writing and reading easier–I will write from the perspective of a man. You get dressed and check your look in the mirror, all the while thinking about her and how beautiful she is and how much you love her and love to be with her. You hop on the city bus that takes you to your favorite restaurant where she said she’d meet you. As you ride the bus you daydream of your time with her, even rehearse some things you plan to say to her. You make small talk with other passengers about your upcoming date and they tell you they are also on their way to dates at the very same restaurant. You all spend the rest of the ride talking excitedly about your dates. See Part 2

Getting from HERE to THERE

“Do you love Jesus today?” is a pretty common way for me to open a worship service. It usually catches some people off guard, and I get a mumbled, indiscernible response. So I usually ask again, a little louder, “Do you love Jesus today?” The second time there are usually a few more people who perk up and respond with “Yes!” or “Amen!” Quite often I’ll ask a third time, “Do you love Jesus today?!?” Almost always, the third response is loudest and clearest: some sort of shout of affirmation. Now I realize that I could probably just as well go out and say three times “Would you like some free doughnuts?” and there would be a similar response (although I doubt anyone would shout “Amen!”) But I’m not giving away doughnuts. I’m not giving away or selling anything. I’m leading worship. I’m trying to take a group of flawed, burdened, easily-distracted people from here to there. So where is here? Here is the livingroom, the sanctuary, the chapel, the fireside, the classroom in which the people have gathered. Here is an earthly confine. Here is where our minds are full of worry and strife. Here is where our arthritic knees ache, our noses run, our children fidget and our bills pile up. Here is the battleground. You see, ultimately, worship is a Heavenly activity–a spiritual thing. Worship is what the elders, the angels, the entire Heavenly host and all the redeemed will do forever in the very presence of God Himself. Our earthly worship is but a foreshadowing of the worship to come… when we get… there. There is the presence of God. There is the Holy of Holies, the most intimate place on Earth in which to meet with God. In Old Testament times, the Holy of Holies was a physical place where the Spirit of God dwelt between the cherubim. Only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies, and only once a year. But Jesus’ death and resurrection resulted in the rending of the curtain that separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy place; the curtain was torn in two from top to bottom, representing the reconciliation of relationship between God and man. Jesus made the way for us! God no longer makes His dwelling in a building. He lives in the hearts of His children. And I believe that He manifests Himself in a special, powerful way when we as the Body gather together to worship Him in unity. When I lead worship I have the mindset of a tour bus driver. It is my job to get the Body from here to there. I may point out some landmarks and make some comments along the way, but my primary goal is to get them to their destination: into the presence of God. I realize that God is omnipresent. He is all places at all times, so one may argue that I don’t have to take the people anywhere because God is already with us. Good point. My job is not to move God. God is already here with us, waiting for us to worship Him and enter into intimate fellowship with Him. God doesn’t need to move. We are the ones who need to move, to draw near to Him. It is my job as the worship leader to load the congregation onto the bus and take them to be with God. Along the way we’re going to speak, sing, pray, shout, dance, read scripture, seek, be still, be silent, etc. But our ultimate destination is to get there. Because there we find, peace, healing, wholeness, rest, victory, forgiveness, belonging, security in the presence of the Almighty God of the Universe. There’s nothing wrong with starting a worship service with “Good morning!” But “Do you love Jesus today?” helps me get people on the bus. It’s almost like saying “All aboard!” Do you love Jesus today? Scott Jasmin

There are no worship leaders in Heaven

In 1995 I moved to Wisconsin to take a position as a Youth Pastor and started another contemporary worship service. I don’t remember exactly when, but somewhere over the next few years we started referring to me as the ‘Worship Leader.’ It was my role to ‘lead’ the worship. Over the 14 years since then God has shown and taught me a lot about worship. One of the big things that I have learned is that the Worship Leader has to LEAD. They lead the band, the song and the congregation. For me, the biggest challenge has always been leading the congregation. Sunday after Sunday they come into the sanctuary, dressed up and beaten down. Outwardly, they greet each other with smiles, hugs and pleasantries while inside they are crying, suffering under the weight of sin, divorce, anger, depression, jealousy, bankruptcy, lust, addiction, shame and a long list of other adversities. And it’s my job to lead them before the throne of God. In my worship seminar I encourage people to “be real, let go, plug in.” We have to be real–with God and with each each other. You see, we can’t fool God. He reads our mail. He knows our heart. He knows everything about us, so there’s really no point putting up a facade. It’s funny–we confess our sin to Him as if we were breaking the news to Him that we have sinned. He already knows and He loves us anyway! So where is the sense in pretending to be okay when we’re not? And what’s the point of pretending we’re okay in front of our brothers and sisters in Christ when in fact they’re the ones to whom we should be turning for comfort and support? We short-change ourselves when we fail to confess our sins to one another. And how many times have we tried to worship at church, only to fail because we are harboring hurt or anger in our heart toward a brother or sister who is a few rows away? There was one Sunday in particular when the worship I was attempting to lead was being suppressed. I could sense a spiritual ‘wall’ that was keeping us from really entering into God’s presence. I literally stopped the song, stopped the service to confront the situation. I explained that there was a spiritual roadblock to Spirit-led worship that needed to be dealt with. I told the congregation that if they had unconfessed, unresolved sin that they needed to confess it and deal with it. It seemed awkward at the time, but in my heart I knew God was giving me the words to say. We then spent the next five or ten minutes in prayer as some took others aside to have private conversations. As we resumed worship the wall was no longer there, and the presence of the Holy Spirit was almost palpable. He accomplished a lot that morning. I learned a lot too. Now I’m not saying that the Worship Leader ought to stop the service on a regular basis and call people out. That was a very unique situation. But I am saying that while we are still here on earth, we Worship Leaders have to be sensitive to the Spirit and follow His lead, even when it is awkward or unorthodox. Submit to pastoral leadership and listen to the Still Small Voice as you lead. The people you lead are born-again spirits trapped in sinful, fleshly bodies (please, no comments on gnosticism or asceticism). Ask Father to help you to worship Him in Spirit and in Truth, so that you may also lead your congregation. One day we will no longer be weighed down by sin. We will be taken into the very presence of Jesus himself as we and all the redeemed from all the ages and around the world fall at His feet and worship Him forever. There will be no more sin, no more separation between God and man, only pure worship–and no more need for Worship Leaders. Scott Jasmin

Powerfully pivotal position

I want you to be keenly cognizant of how powerfully pivotal you are in your position as worship leader. A pastor once equated the worship leader with the rudder of a ship, saying that the worship leader has the ability to ‘turn’ the church. Turn the church? From what? Toward what? That conversation could be lengthy. Today I want to discuss the worship leader’s responsibility to steer the church toward true worship. Now we all know that forms of worship vary in different parts of the country (not to mention the world) just as dress, foods, leisure activities and accents vary. I’m not writing to argue who is right in their form. I grew up in a Presbyterian church in southern Minnesota. Our church had a beautiful pipe organ and a talented organist. We had a wonderful choir that would sing an acapella prelude and then process down the aisle toward the choir loft where they were mostly out of view. Trailing the choir was their director, Chum Sandeen, who would sing an angelic descant over the top of the choir. Though the choir walked slowly and orderly down the aisle, Chum would flow with a bounce in her step, or an occasional spin or twirl. For this 13 year old kid, she brought the songs to life. She helped me understand the difference between singing and worshiping. I’m sure there were some in our church who questioned or even disapproved of her unorthodox behavior. Perhaps it made them uncomfortable. Uncomfortable–should we be uncomfortable in church? In this day of “bring your coffee into the sanctuary,” is it okay to make people uncomfortable? One of the pastors with whom I have served would regularly remind me to not “coach” the people too much. He didn’t want me to try to pull shouts of “Amen” out of them nor try too hard to get them to raise their hands, clap or even sing. His reasoning was that a large percentage of his congregation were not familiar with that style of worship and he didn’t want to make them ‘uncomfortable.’ To be honest, I can understand his position…to a point. I am not a proponent of ’showy’ worship. I don’t care for hand motions or silliness in worship. However, I do believe in active, participative, expressive, emotional, demonstrative, Spirit-led, freedom-filled, shout if you feel it, cry if need to, honest worship. Music is a language that God gave us to help us understand His love for us and to help us express our love for him. How can we honestly do that flat-footed and stone-faced? I believe it is our responsibility as worship leader to not only set an example, but encourage the free expression of our worship in the corporate setting. That may include (but is not limited to) swaying, kneeling, jumping, dancing, clapping, shouting, weeping, laughing or just being silent. Sure it’s going to make people uncomfortable when you start dancing, especially if you encourage them to dance too! But isn’t your pastor encouraging them to tithe, to fast, to volunteer their time mowing the church lawn for four hours on a beautiful July day? Surely these things make them uncomfortable. The pastor asks them to step out of their comfort zones to stretch them and help them become who they are meant to be in Christ. It is no less so with the worship leader. The worship leader’s role is to set an example and call the people to become the worshipers they are meant to be in Christ. Jesus said, “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth: for such doth the Father seek to be his worshippers.” Worship leaders, you are in a pivotal position to steer your church toward true worship. Seek it first for yourself, and then be a leader who isn’t afraid to make people uncomfortable in pursuit of true worship. Humbly, Scott Jasmin www.ScottJasmin.com

Cruise control

I have an hour commute to and from work each day, five days a week. If that weren’t bad enough, my cruise control has been out of commission for about the past six months. I don’t know about you, but having to keep my foot on the gas pedal and pay attention to the speedometer makes me nuts. But I wasn’t going to take my car in to the shop just to get that one thing fixed. Luckily, one of the very expensive cylinder coils went bad, and I had to take the car in. So while it was in the shop, I had them fix the cruise control as well. I cannot tell you how nice it is to have my cruise back. I can finally enjoy my commute again! Yesterday, as I was driving home, I thought about how I have a tendency to put my Spiritual life on cruise control. I can so easily get caught up in the busy-ness of life’s demands and pleasures that I fail to pay enough attention to my Walk. I’m not thinking of this in a legalistic way, like I’ve got to spend X amount of time praying and read X chapters of the Bible each day. Rather, I’m talking about being actively conscious of my Walk, setting aside time to pray, read God’s Word, meditate, be silent and still, make healthy entertainment choices, etc. I know that in my life, there is no standing still. Either I’m working hard to make forward progress or I’m losing ground. And as a worship leader I can’t afford to be losing ground. If I’m going to lead others I had better not be in Spiritual cruise control. In Minnesota, the Interstate speed limit is 70, so here’s a little word from Psalm 70: “Let all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; And let those who love Your salvation say continually, Let God be magnified.” Worship Leader, you are a pivotal person in the lives of those you lead. Use your cruise control on the highway, not in your Walk. Humbly submitted, Scott Jasmin

Writing original praise & worship music

I thought I would share a little on writing original worship music from scripture. I love God’s Word. It is so inspiring. Especially the Psalms. I can hardly read the Psalms without composing a song. Let’s look together at Psalm 70: “Hasten, O God, to save me; O LORD, come quickly to help me. May those who seek my life be put to shame and confusion; may all who desire my ruin be turned back in disgrace. May those who say to me, “Aha! Aha!” turn back because of their shame. But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation always say, ”Let God be exalted!” Yet I am poor and needy; come quickly to me, O God. You are my help and my deliverer; O LORD, do not delay.” After reading it through a few times, I begin to look for key phrases that really speak to me personally: “Save me. Help me. May all who seek You rejoice. May those who love Your salvation always say, “Let God be exalted!” Come quickly to me, O God. You are my help and my deliverer; O LORD, do not delay.” Then I pick up my guitar and capo up to a comfortable place and just sing those phrases extemporaneously. As I do, they almost seem to organize themselves: Save me, help me, come quickly to me, O God. Help me, deliver me, O LORD, do not delay. May all who seek You rejoice… May all who seek You rejoice… Let God be exalted! Let God alone be praised! Let those who would destroy me be surely put to shame! O Lord you are my help, I’m calling on Your Name. Be exalted, O God, I pray. There, I can hear the melody writing itself. Obviously, I’ve taken some poetic liberties with the scripture. But the heart of the Psalm remains. I hope this helps you as you strive to write original worship songs. For me, there’s no greater source of inspiration than God’s Holy Word. In Christ, Scott Jasmin

The Power of Worship

There’s something powerful about worship. Something powerful about leading worship, about leading people before the throne of God, about being at the center of it all. There’s something powerful about unveiling a new worship song that the Holy Spirit has just laid on your heart. Something powerful about seeing its impact on the hearts of those who receive it, about the tears that roll down the faces of those who meet Him. There’s something powerful about the first strum of the guitar, the wail of a Hammond organ, the ringing of cymbals and chimes. There’s something powerful about hushed voices singing in sweet harmony, about throngs standing with hands lifted high in silent surrender, waiting… just waiting in the moment. The power isn’t in the songs. It isn’t in the instruments or the voices. It isn’t in the worship leader. It isn’t even in the worship. The power is the Spirit of God. The worship leader is not the source of this power, but he must harness it. And he must handle it respectfully and nobly like the captain of a great ship. He must set sail in the waters of Spirit and Truth headed for the destiny of God’s Presence. He must command his crew, the worship team, and deliver his cargo of worshipers. Like a captain sets the sails, the worship leader helps the people set their hearts to be filled by the Spirit, without which the congregation is run aground, beached. The Spirit is like a wind that blows wherever it pleases. Ye captains of worship, fear it with a holy fear… and set sail.