main cow pic


Setting up for The Practice

Filed under: A New Liturgy,Discipleship,The Practice — 6:14 pm
The Chapel

The Willow Chapel

So excited.  We spent yesterday setting up the Willow chapel in preparation for our first gathering of The Practice this Sunday night.  I can’t possibly convey how much we’re looking forward to this new adventure.

Our goal for the chapel is to help it feel like a holy living room.  Simple, reverent, and human.  The chairs are set up in the round because we long to become a tribe together, and the Eucharist table is in the very center of the room because we know that Christ is the very center of everything.  It’s simple, but hopefully the room will preach louder than any words.

Becky and I even had the chance to run through some of the opening liturgy.  Friends, we can’t wait to dive into this with you.

T minus three days…


“Lord Have Mercy” FREE on NoiseTrade

Filed under: A New Liturgy — 1:05 pm

In preparation for Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent, we are giving away A New Liturgy No 3: Lord Have Mercy on NoiseTrade.  Maybe you happily belong to a modern church but want to also connect into something more historic.  Or maybe you are deeply rooted in the high church tradition, but are looking for a fresh way to engage this deep season.  May this be a bridge and a gift in some small way.  (Free until March 5th.  Available HERE after that.)

A couple ways you could use it…

(1) Personally.  Lent is such a great time to look inward and invite God to shine light into every dark corner.  Maybe you could set one hour aside each week to pray along with the “Lord Have Mercy” liturgy and see how God leads you to respond.

(2) Small group.  This may be a little intense, but might your small group be ready to engage this together?  You could listen and pray through the first six tracks together, and then after the “Litany of Penitence”, pause the recording and spend some time sharing with each other.  A question to start might be:  “What is one area in your life that you most need God’s mercy right now?”  And a second question:  “How can we, as your community, help you receive this mercy?”

(3) Ash Wednesday Service.  If you would like to lead your community through this liturgy (or a modified version of it) on Ash Wednesday, you can Download the basic chord charts and string quartet parts.  Feel free to use this in any way that would serve your church.



Something deeper

Filed under: A New Liturgy,church,God's movement — 8:35 pm

I just read a great article about the many young evangelicals that are becoming Roman Catholic, high Anglican or Lutheran.  The contemporary evangelical tradition has taken them as far as it can, and they are yearning for something deeper and more grounded.  To be honest, myself and many of my friends feel this too, so the article connected deeply.  But this paragraph stopped me in my tracks…

Andrea Palpant Dilley explains her own shift from Presbyterianism to apostacy to generic evangelicalism to high church: “In my 20s, liturgy seemed rote, but now in my 30s, it reminds me that I’m part of an institution much larger and older than myself. As the poet Czeslaw Milosz said,

‘The sacred exists and is stronger than all our rebellions.’

Both my doubt and my faith, and even my ongoing frustrations with the church itself,
are part of a tradition that started before I was born and will continue after I die.
I rest in the assurance that I have something to lean against, something to resist and,
more importantly, something that resists me.”

There are no words to describe how deeply this moves me.  Or how badly I need this.



You Can Have it All…

Filed under: A New Liturgy — 5:00 am
available today

available today


Today we are launching the inventively named “COMPLETE COLLECTION”, which is
everything that A New Liturgy has created so far.  Including…

  • Liturgies 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5 (both physical CDs and downloads)
  • the brand new Remix EP (vol 3)
  • Creation (Live on a Sunday) album
  • Remix EP 1-2
  • the Blessed (Live at Axis) video
  • the Making of No 3 video
  • all the chord charts

You can find this, and each individual liturgy, at the new New Liturgy Store.

So may this Collection overwhelm you with helpful ways to create holy space wherever you find yourself.



Liturgy is not a style, but a feast

Filed under: A New Liturgy,church,worship — 1:39 pm

As you may know, I believe that our current approach to worship music is both fantastic and way too narrow. The modern rock, anthemic, expression-driven worship music that dominates the CCM world and most evangelical churches is one kind of healthy spiritual food.  And it is wonderful for what it does.  But I worry that a steady diet of it will create malnourished worshipers.  Which is why the liturgy is so brilliant.

The Liturgy is, in my wife’s excellence words, a well-balanced meal.

This doesn’t mean that every church should turn into a traditionally “Liturgical church”, whatever that means. We don’t need to become stylistically Catholic or theologically Episcopalian or suddenly hang stained glass everywhere.  This isn’t about style, but about form.  Do we have a plan in place to help form our community into Christlikeness?  It’s not about the songs we choose or the genre of music, but the questions we begin with.  

So as a worship leader, I’ve been asking myself:  Am I offering the church a well-balanced meal?

Over the course of a month…
-Do we practice a number of different worship forms…or do we only sing?
-Do we focus on many aspects of God’s character…or just the most common in worship songs?
-Do we encourage the full range of human emotion (joy, sorrow, gratefulness, lament, etc)…or find ourselves in a pretty narrow bandwidth?
-Do we learn how to worship from many different traditions…or are we only influenced by our own tradition?

If my church community feasts on the worship practices we offer, month after month, will they become well-nourished worshipers?

well balanced feast

the feast

What about you and your church?  What are the worship practices that keep your community healthy?  Is there a certain “food group” that you might need to introduce…or take a break from?


All the notes, slides, and links from my ECHO breakout

Filed under: A New Liturgy,church,God's movement,worship — 1:00 pm

ECHO 2013

This afternoon I have the privilege of sharing a bit of my journey at the ECHO Conference.  This topic is something I’m deeply passionate about, but if I’m honest, still wrestling with.  So who knows what will happen!  The breakout is called…

“Evangelical Worship Leading, The Liturgy, and me.”

“While leading worship in a mega-church for the last ten years (at Mars Hill in Grand Rapids, MI and Willow Creek in Chicago, IL), I’ve been feeling more and more drawn to The Liturgy – both personally and as a worship pastor.  The depth, reverence, and historical grounding have been profoundly moving.  But how does this fit into an evangelical mega-church with big screens and moving lights?  Is there a way to bring these ancient practices into this modern context, or are they fundamentally incompatible?  In this breakout, I’ll share what I’m learning, what I’m wrestling with, and a few big mistakes I’ve made.  And then we’ll dream together about the future.”

ECHO Breakout notes

ECHO Breakout powerpoint


The Story of A New Liturgy (video)
Ian Cron: “Becoming the Liturgy” (video)
Glenn Packiam’s blog
“Church is Bigger Than the Church” (my article for Relevant)
“Common Prayer”, Clainborne, Wilson-Hartgrove
The Book of Common Prayer online
Brian Mclaren’s open letter to Worship Songwriters


“Desiring the Kingdom”, James KA Smith
“A Guide to the Sacraments” John Macquarrie

“The Immortal Diamond”, Fr. Richard Rohr
“Everything Belongs”, Fr Richard Rohr
“The Holy Longing”, Fr Ronald Rolheiser
“To Change the World”, James Hunter
“Finding Our Way”, Margaret Wheatley
“Liturgy For Living”, Weil, Price 
“The Wisdom Jesus”, Cynthia Bourgeault

Examples (video):

A New Liturgy No 4: Creation (live at Willow Creek)
A New Liturgy No 2: Blessed to Be a Blessing (live at Axis):   (password = liveliturgy)
Love Can Change the World / St Francis / Have Thine Own Way (live at Willow)
The Resistance Experience (live at Willow)
Worship band IN the room (live at Willow)


Five people who brought ANL No 5 to life

Filed under: A New Liturgy,music — 10:38 am

As you know, an idea is only as good as the team of people willing to breathe life into it. And with A New Liturgy, I am lucky enough to have a ridiculously talented tribe of artists and dreamers who give WAY more than I could ever pay them. Can I tell you about just five of the people who brought No 5: Here Are My Hands to life?

Tracking No 5

Tracking No 5

(1) Aaron Ruse – If you wonder why each New Liturgy sounds better than the last, it’s because Aaron Ruse keeps getting more involved. And on New Liturgy No 5, Aaron engineered nearly every session and then spent a couple weeks mixing it. The quality of sounds he is able to capture on my shoe-string budget blows me away. But more than engineering and mixing, I love working with Aaron because he is a musician. He doesn’t just care about how the kick drum sounds; he is always listening for what is best for the song. Everything he touches gets better.

(2) Eric Niequist – When I asked my brother to help create a video for ANL No 5, I never imaged we’d end up with something as great as THIS. And that is a tribute to his tireless creativity, passion, and vision. My idea was a one-shot interview in a car, and he kindly invited me to dream bigger. Thanks so much, bro! Your encouragement and energy and belief in A New Liturgy blows me away. (If you want Eric a part of your future project – which I think you do – check out NewBranchFilms.)

(3) Robbie Seay – When we landed on “Here Are My Hands” as the central song for this liturgy, it became apparent that my voice wouldn’t cut it. This song needed more soul, grit, and guts…and I kept saying “If only someone like Robbie Seay would sing it.” Well, thankfully, Robbie was kind enough to throw himself into the song and take it into the deep, honest, raw place the liturgy needed to go. Wow.

So here’s the deal, Robbie: If you ever need my sissy voice to make one of your songs less-soulful, less-raw, and less-powerful, just let me know! You are very welcome.

string quartet

The String Quartet

(4) Steve Myers – One of my favorite people on the Willow Creek staff is Steve Myers. He’s been a music director at Willow for about a hundred years, is a killer musician at almost every level, and is pure joy to work with. On Liturgy No 5, Steve arranged all the string quartet parts and directed them in the studio. And as you can tell, he did a KILLER job! The strings are the emotive heart of this journey, and I couldn’t be happier.

(5) Nick Moon – Nick is one of the only people to contribute to all five New Liturgies, and I honestly think that his mastering work on No 5 is his best. A great mastering engineer (in my opinion) enters into the soul of a recording and brings out all the magic, which is what Nick is so freaking good at.
May I highly, highly recommend you check out his work at ToneProper.


A New Liturgy No 5: Here Are My Hands

Filed under: A New Liturgy — 7:10 am

Friends, the new…new liturgy is officially live at  It is an “on the way to work” and an “on the way home from work” liturgy that I hope will help you recapture the holy possibility of your commute.

This 2 minute video shares the heart of “Here Are My Hands”…


Check out more and download it at

Thanks and many blessings!


First listen of A New Liturgy No 5

Filed under: A New Liturgy — 9:37 am

In the next couple days, we are launching A New Liturgy No 5: Here Are My Hands at It is an “on the way to work” liturgy, and an “on the way home from work” liturgy…I can’t wait for you to hear it!

In fact, because I can’t wait, here is an early listen of the first ten minutes of Part 1…


Bet Lehem Live (part 3)

Filed under: A New Liturgy,music,Palestine / Israel — 4:01 am
Bet Lehem Live

Bet Lehem Live

The other set of lyrics that came to life in Bethlehem were from my song “God’s Children”. A couple specific lines…

“Father of the beaten down”
“Father of the most oppressed”
“Lover of each immigrant”
“God of every class from the greenest grass to the underpass.”
“You are Maker of us all.”
“The Loving Seer of us all.”

While singing these lyrics and looking out at our Palestinian brothers and sisters, I could feel a lump forming in my throat. (Which makes it tough to sing!) But what happened at the end completely blew me away. As we began the final verse…

“We were all once aliens…”

…people spontaneously starting cheering – as if to say “Yes! Us too! We’re all in this together! Thanks for seeing us! Thank you for giving voice to our shared human experience!”

I don’t think I will ever forget this moment. An unexpected holy moment of deep solidarity with 1500 Christian and Muslim Palestinians that reminded us we are all humans together on the same planet. Brothers and sisters in the deepest sense. The lyrics continued…

We were all once aliens
And we’re all so full of sin
But in Jesus’ name we are welcomed in, as citizens
A brand new family, old and young
From every nation, faith, and tongue
A new creation has begun
From every nation, faith, and tongue

O You love Your children, love Your children
Every daughter, every son
O You love Your children, all Your children
Help us see You in each one

It was really beautiful to be reminded again that God is not an American.

But the Eternal Creator loves every single one of his daughters and sons on earth…and desires that NONE should perish but that all should live an Eternal kind of Life. God loves His children, all His children. And that includes you, me, and everyone we’ll ever meet. Hallelujah!


A glimpse of the church’s future (hopefully)

Filed under: A New Liturgy,church,God's movement — 10:59 am


Last Tuesday night, nearly a thousand 20 and 30-somethings from many church traditions and denominations packed in Historic First Pres Church in downtown Phoenix for a night of worship. And the God is Love liturgy came alive in a way I’ve never seen. (Check out the deeply compelling vision of Jeff Gokee for PhoenixONE here.)

I’m not exactly sure all the reasons why it was such a holy gathering, but here is one thing I can’t stop thinking about:

Ecumenicalism is the future.

Christianity has divided and specialized ourselves into a thousand small corners, and we’re all missing out on what the other has to bring. (It’s like every kid in a family deciding to only eat their favorite food…nothing else. They are happy for a while, but end up malnourished and sick.)

Tuesday night was a beautiful mingling of traditions. You could see the mainline folks digging deeply into the more liturgical elements. The evangelical folks lead the charge as we sang “One Thing Remains”. And thank God for our charismatic brothers and sisters – raising hands and dancing in the isles. We were all enriched by what the other had to bring.

And I guess this is the heart of what we’re trying to do with A New Liturgy.

Singing four worship songs and a hymn is a great way to worship God, but a little one-dimensional. A steady diet of only this could create malnourished worshipers. But as much as I idealize The Liturgy, many of my mainline friends are longing for more heart, life, and passion than the conventional liturgy. It seems that every tradition understands something profound about worshiping God, but we lack (1) A way to share this wisdom with other traditions who would benefit, and (2) A way to learn from other traditions who are strong in other areas. And so most of us end up spiritually isolated, one-dimentional, and malnourished.

Wow, I’m discovering (as I write this post!) how much this matters to me.

We Christians have become experts at defending our faith and sharing the truth. This is good in many ways. But I think we need to also recapture our ability to learn from those outside of our circle. Courage is a beautiful thing, but so is humility.

I suspect that the church of the future will be lead by people who know and admit what they don’t know…and then humbly partner with those who can teach them.

Can you imagine a church that said “Jesus is the center and focus of everything we do, but we acknowledge our limited vantage point. And so we will embrace and learn from any tradition or practice that elevates Christ and forms us into His likeness.” Reading ancient prayers? Yes. Singing pop songs with our hands in the air? Yes. Praying Jewish blessings from the Torah? Yes. Singing old spiritual laments? Yes.

As each member of a church is just one part of the body, I wonder if each church tradition needs to be understood as one part of the Bigger Body. Each is absolutely critical…but only one part of the Story.

Thank God for our fundamentalist brothers and sisters who remind us that God’s truth is profoundly important. Thank God for our Catholic brothers and sisters’ commitment to working for good in the world. Thank God for Evangelicals who remind us that we need to be saved. Thank God for the open hearts of our Episcopalian brothers and sisters.

Each one is a glorious part of the tangible Kingdom of God among us! And how can the foot say to the eye “I don’t need you!”… (1 Cor 12)

The big question is: How can we come together? Where are the safe places to lay down our tribal flags and learn from our “other” brothers and sisters? Who will create and protect more of these safe places?

We really need each other.


A crazy couple months

Hey everyone.  There has been a ton going on lately, and I wanted to share a quick update.

We spent most of May tracking A New Liturgy No 5: Here Are My Hands.  Largely built around the piano, string quartet, and a pounding floor tom, this liturgy is all about our commute:  Part 1 is a 15 minute “on-the-way-to-work liturgy”, and part 2 is a 15 minute “on-the-way-home-from-work liturgy”.  Available July 8th. Here’s a clip from our string quartet recording session…

And now June is all about traveling.  After leading worship this weekend at Willow, on Tuesday night I get to be a part of PhoenixONE.  This really exciting worship gathering aims to unite 20 & 30 somethings from around Phoenix and get them connected to local churches.  What a beautiful vision!  They’ve asked me to lead through the “God is Love” liturgy, which I can’t wait to experience with them.  So if you live in the Phoenix area, please join us!

Next weekend, I get to join up with my friends at Granger Community Church to share the “Creation” liturgy. Their phenomenal team of musicians, pastors, and artists are coming together to turn the whole service into a celebration of God’s work in Creation.  Check out pastor Jason’s vision for the series HERE.  I love when a church gathering tells one cohesive, beautiful story – from music to message to announcements to visuals – and the Granger team is diving in with both feet.  Again, if you live near Granger, Indiana, please join us.

Finally, on the following Wednesday, I’m jumping on a plane for Bethlehem to be a part of the Bet Lehem Live Festival…and then go on a tour of Palestine and Israel.  I will share SO much more about this “alternative pilgrimage” over the next few weeks, so be looking for stories and pictures.

Last thing:  In all the busyness, the absolute best part of this season is Shauna, Henry, and Mac.  Life with them is so much fun, and I keep pinching myself with thankfulness.  So please indulge me as I end this post with a couple pictures.  (Yes, I have officially become that ridiculously proud dad with no shame or restraint!)

Shauna, Henry, and Mac

Shauna, Henry, and Mac


Announcing A New Liturgy No 5

Filed under: A New Liturgy — 8:33 pm

Hello friends!  I wanted to let you know that we’ve been hard at work over the last few weeks recording A New Liturgy No 5, which is called “Here Are My Hands”.  As you know, A New Liturgy exists to help us create holy space wherever we find ourselves, and this new one gets even more specific.  Let me explain.

For the first time, we have split the liturgy into two 15 minute parts…
Part one:  An on-the-way-to-work liturgy
Part two:  An on-the-way-home-from-work liturgy

While traveling to work, part one is a way that we can say “Here are my hands, God” on the way to our job.  An experience that helps us open ourselves to whatever God might want to do through us during the day.  The central prayer is “God, I am open.”

While traveling home from work, part two is a way that we can thank God for the day, ask forgiveness for sins, and forgive those who might have hurt us.  An experience that helps us let go, leave work at work, and fully engage the rest of our day.  The central prayer is “God, I am letting it go.”

Available on July 9th, 2013.

But that’s all I can tell you for now!  More details and specifics and surprises coming soon.

Let me just leave you with a few studio pictures (double click for full size)…


Four Free recordings of “God’s Children”

Filed under: A New Liturgy,willow,worship — 9:18 pm

Last weekend at Willow, in the spirit of Celebration of Hope, we sang “God’s Children” together.
This song is a sweeping celebration of God’s immense love for every single person on earth.  Without exception. For God so loves the world…

Afterward, a friend mentioned that they have the “New Liturgy” version of the song, but wanted a recording
of the more driving, rock version we did at Willow.  So I’ve decided to pull together every recorded version of
“God’s Children” and give them away on Noisetrade…

(1) “God’s Children (New Liturgy version)” – from ANL No 1: God is Love
(2) “God’s Children (Toms and Trombones Version)” – from Remix EP 1.  The story of it is HERE.
(3) “God’s Children (Alberta Remix)” – the fun electronic remix by Alberta from Remix EP 2.
(4) “God’s Children (live at Willow)” – this is the rough board mix from our last service.  It doesn’t
sound as full as it did in the room, but hopefully it captures some of the energy.

You can download the chord charts HERE.

Finally, if you’re interested, here is a video from the very first time we taught this song at Willow…

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