main cow pic


Clearing out the cobwebs

Filed under: A New Liturgy,church,worship — 4:58 pm


There once was a man who came to church every Sunday to pray the exact same prayer.  Week and after week, he would stand and proclaim loudly “God, please clear out the cobwebs!”  Finally, after months of listening, a wise women stood after him and said “Why don’t you just kill the damn spider?”

And this is why I want to be a worship leader.

Let me explain…  Through the help of a handful of wise guides (listed below), I’m beginning to realize that worship is not only a way that we express ourselves to God, but it is also a practice that forms us into Christlikeness.  The way we worship shapes us into certain kinds of people.  And so my role as a worship leader is not simply to get people to raise their hands during church, but to help us become the kinds of people who use our hands for good all week long.  Our goal is not simply to create a worship service, but for our worship service to create a certain kind of church in the world.

I believe that the purpose of gathering together is the realization of God’s dream for reality:
the Restoration of All things
.  Like Jesus, we want to see God’s Kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven,
and so we gather to focus on God and practice becoming the kinds of people who can join in this restoration. Through these prayers, songs, readings, and disciplines, we practice being people who can set our little kingdoms aside (if only for a moment, in the safety of a community) and seek God’s epic Kingdom…week after week…until we actually become the kinds of people who can join God’s redeeming work in our office cube on a Tuesday afternoon.

There is an important aspect of worship that helps clear out the cobwebs of the week.  Hallelujah!  We all desperately need the church to be a safe and gracious place.  I know I do.  But at a certain point, a truly safe community is only safe if it also teaches us how to kill the damn spider.

What does this look like in your church?  What could it look like?  What kind of worship liturgy/service/set have you found to be most helpful in forming your community toward Christlikeness?

If you’re interested, here are some wise guides who have much to teach us about all this:  Ian Morgan Cron, Dallas WillardGlenn Packiam, Isaac Wardell, James K. A. Smith.


All my notes, slides, and resources about worship and liturgy

Filed under: A New Liturgy,church,God's movement,worship — 11:38 am
Pulse Conference

Pulse Conference

Today I had the privilege of sharing some thoughts about worship, liturgy, and moving beyond singing at the Pulse Conference in Madison, WI.  I really connect with and respect Paul and the Blackhawk team.  They are the real deal and doing fantastic work.  If you’ve never been to the Pulse Conference, get it on your calendar next year!  Here are my notes…


Workshop 1:  Moving Beyond Singing into something much more Mysterious, Subversive, and Beautiful.

Worship is this huge, beautiful, epic, mysterious, global, active, intimate human/divine interaction, but when someone says “Okay, it’s time to worship”, we all assume “It’s time to sing.”  This is not bad, of course.  Singing is a fantastic way to worship God.  But it’s only one part of the whole. This breakout will explore ways to move beyond our usual framework, and in doing so, help more and more people engage with more and more of The Almighty God.

Moving Beyond Singing Niequist notes

Moving Beyond Singing .ppt slides


Workshop 2:  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.

Worship, Liturgy and Me Niequist notes

Worship Liturgy and Me .ppt slides



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


“A Guide to the Sacraments” John Macquarrie
“The Immortal Diamond”, Fr. Richard Rohr
“Everything Belongs”, Fr Richard Rohr
“The Holy Longing”, Fr Ronald Rolheiser
“Start with Why?”, Simon Sinek 
“To Change the World”, James Hunter
“Finding Our Way”, Margaret Wheatley
“Honest to God”, John Robinson
“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)


We all want to change the world

Filed under: A New Liturgy,books,God's movement — 11:44 am

Last weekend I discovered a brilliant book called To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World.  Basically, the author James Davison Hunter builds a case that our normal assumptions about changing the world are absolutely wrong.  He especially takes exception to the idea that genius individuals are largely responsible for cultural transformation, because history shows it to always be more complicated and multifaceted.  Better said…

“In the end, the good that was produced did not come about through literary, textual, musical, and artistic
genius alone. Nor was it the result of brilliant administrative initiative. By the same token, neither was it a
creation of the extraordinary wealth and patronage of the nobility. It was, of course, a result of the coming
together of all three at once.” (To Change the World, 64)

In my idealism, I’ve always believed that a genius idea alone can change the world.  But history does not support this. All three are required:  genius, administration, and funding.  Ideas, organization, and resources. Plus a thousand other overlapping factors of chance, grace, culture, and timing.

This raises two big feelings in me:  First, respect.  For every William Wilberforce or Martin Luther King Jr. who are rightly praised and placed in the history books, there are thousands of men and women who played
smaller but indispensable roles.  As much as history loves to romanticize the Lone Ranger heroes, the reality is
that they are only the tip of an iceberg. We will never know most of the people who worked and sacrificed and
died to change this world.  But they are worthy of our respect.

Second, humility.  No matter what I think I can do, I am utterly and hopelessly dependent on the men and
women who can do what I could never dream.  And that is beautiful.  It’s not all dependent on your gift or mine…
but on OUR gifts.  Together.

What is one thing you can bring to this world?  What is one thing you are hopelessly dependent on someone else to bring?  Are you ready to link arms, jump in, and help change the world?

I’m only a part of the Story
But wholly a part of the Story
So I’ll take my part in this Story
Get out of myself, get over myself
Get lost in the story (with) somebody else

(Lyrics from Bless, Liturgy No 2)


The Idolatry of Youth Culture in Worship

Filed under: A New Liturgy,worship — 8:04 pm

I posted this video to the A New Liturgy worship blog today, but it’s so good that I had to share it here also. You probably won’t agree with every point they make, but I hope you find it compelling and challenging…

The Idolatry of Youth Culture in Worship from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo


Giving away “Lord Have Mercy” for free until Ash Wednesday

Filed under: A New Liturgy,church,God's movement — 2:10 pm

February 13th is Ash Wednesday  – that dark and beautiful day of repentance and sorrow over our sin.
The first day of Lent.

To honor this season and offer you another way to deeply engage the tradition, we are giving away A New Liturgy No 3: Lord Have Mercy for free until Ash Wednesday.  If you are in a non-liturgical church but would like to participate in this holy day, may “Lord Have Mercy” invite you in.  If you have celebrated Lent for years and are looking for a fresh way to engage it, may “Lord Have Mercy” enhance and deepen your experience.  Or maybe you’re not too concerned with church tradition but need to humbly bring your sin before God…may “Lord Have Mercy” create holy space for you to confess and be healed.

Much of “Lord Have Mercy” is based on the Ash Wednesday liturgy from the Book of Common Prayer. Many of our Christian brothers and sisters around the world have been praying these words for generations, and will again in a few weeks.  Join us.  We’ve attempted to set these great prayers in simple but haunting music. Here’s the heart behind it…

Since my church doesn’t celebrate Ash Wednesday, I will most likely be praying through this by myself, but certainly not alone.  We’re all in this together.  From different traditions, denominations, continents, etc…we are a part of the same, big, diverse Family.

Finally, if you would like the string quartet sheet music to this New Liturgy, please leave your email in a comment, and we’d love to send you those files.  Any way that we can help you invite your community into this experience, we will.

Lord, have mercy on us all.


Creation Liturgy (LIVE at Willow) is now on Vimeo

Filed under: A New Liturgy,willow,worship — 10:02 am
Creation live at Willow

Creation live at Willow

On October 21st, we shared the Creation New Liturgy with the Willow Creek community.  Our band worked hard to capture the sounds, grooves, and textures…and my friend Stephen Proctor created a “visual liturgy” that took our breath away.  The production team masterfully supported it all, and most importantly, the Willow community jumped in to sing, pray, and worship from their toes.  It was a really beautiful weekend.

More and more, we’re discovering that A New Liturgy is meant to be experienced by a community. The readings take on a new energy, the songs become anthems, and the prayers transform into holy acts of solidarity.  It’s no surprise that the word “Liturgy” literally means “the work of the people”.  Indeed.

And so we’re really excited to share this video of the 11:15am service with you.  The music was re-mixed but not fixed, so what you hear is exactly what happened in the room.  It’s not the same as being there, of course, but we hope it pulls you into the beauty of God’s Creation and reminds you that “The Creator of the entire universe knows your name”.

A New Liturgy : CREATION from proctor on Vimeo.


Two great Advent resources

Advent Project

I didn’t grow up celebrating Advent, but the last handful of years have been teaching me the power and beauty of this season.  Millions of our Christian brothers and sisters around the world humbly enter into this practice every year, and it’s been moving to join them.  No matter where you are on your journey, here are two resources that might help you engage Advent this year…

(1) Glenn Packiam’s Blog – Glenn is a pastor/musician/author I respect that has taught me a lot about liturgy and the Eucharist.  His last two blog posts – How Advent Can Be Much More Than “The Christmas Season” and Advent Resources have really helped Shauna and I talk about how our family will enter into Advent this year.  Highly recommended.

(2) The Willow Advent Project - I’m thrilled to announce that the worship leaders of Willow have created a four week Advent resource for the community:  four 8-10 minute prayer and worship recordings…journeys of scripture, music, and reflection…each available for free download at the Willow Creek website.  Our hope is that these recordings would help you slow down every day to pray, worship, and prepare your heart to celebrate Christ’s birth.  You can learn more about the Advent project at Willow’s worship blog.


December doesn’t need to be an exhausted blur of shopping, busyness, and stress.  I’ve let that happen way too many times.  Let’s commit ourselves – as individuals, families, and communities – to live differently this season.

Come, Lord Jesus, come.


A conversation with Clayfire

Clayfire Media

If you are currently working to create worship experiences outside of the modern worship box, you’re going to love Clayfire Media. Linda Parriott and the Clayfire team are asking fantastic questions, pushing into deeper places, and helping worship leaders come up with their own sustainable worship design practices.  Really great stuff.

In fact, it was Linda who gave me a copy of  The Art of Curating Worship: Reshaping the Role of Worship Leader by Mark Pierson.  If you haven’t read this wonderfully provocative book, pick it up immediately.

Recently, I got to be a part of the Clayfire Podcast, which you can watch/read/listen to HERE.  Linda invited me to share a bit about A New Liturgy and my journey into more liturgical streams.  She asked fantastic questions and I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation.  Here’s a short video excerpt…


Worship, Liturgy, and a Conversation about the Future

Filed under: A New Liturgy — 2:33 pm

Hey worship leader and pastor friends!  I’d love to invite you to dream with us about worship, liturgy, and the potential of something new being born.  Or maybe it’s something really old getting re-born.  Or both?

anewliturgy blog

Every Monday, I will get the conversation rolling at our new blog- sharing some kind of idea, theological question, nuts-and-bolts practice, or creation that is challenging and stretching me.  Most often it will be a thought/insight from one of the brilliant people who are out there actually doing it.  My hope is that you’ll find this to be a safe but provocative place to dream, share, and explore the edges of what is possible in worship.  Please join us.

It seems fitting that the first Monday would be launched by a stunning video by Ian Morgan Cron.  Ian has become a good friend and mentor over the last couple years, and no one has shaped my understanding and appreciation of The Liturgy more than him.  I’m at the beginning of my journey, but Ian continues to be a gracious and patient guide as I stumble three steps forward and two steps back.  His words here are sure to launch us into the deep end of the pool….


A New Liturgy No 4: CREATION launches today!

Filed under: A New Liturgy — 9:00 am

A New Liturgy No 4: Creation

1 – ANL No 4 is now available!  “Creation” is a 25 minute, percussion-driven journey to help us find and celebrate God’s fingerprints every-where.  You can learn more and download it at…drumroll please…

2 – The brand new
We’ve redesigned and rebuilt our website from the ground up, and we really hope it’ll help you engage A New Liturgy more deeply.  Once you’re at the new website, you’ll discover that…
drumroll please…

3 – All the New Liturgies are now on iTunes.  Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for you to create holy space wherever you find yourself.  And we hope that iTunes is another step.  (If you have a moment, please take a moment and review No 4.  In fact, please leave an iTunes review for all four liturgies!
This would be so helpful.)

Thanks so much for being a part of this.  May this new liturgy turn your car into a rolling, rocking sanctuary…



A New Liturgy No 4: Creation (free download)

Filed under: A New Liturgy — 10:35 am

I’m really thrilled (and relieved!) to let you know that A New Liturgy No 4: Creation will finally be available on Tuesday, October 16th.  Two weeks from tomorrow!

“Creation” is a 25 minute journey of music, prayer, and scripture that finds and celebrates God’s fingerprints everywhere. It’s vibrant and global and dynamic – driven by ukulele, hand-claps, percussion, marimba, tambura, acoustic guitars, and plenty of drums. The earth is FILLED with the weighty goodness of God, and we believe this is worth celebrating.

If you are a part of the New Liturgy Newsletter, you’re already streaming the entire liturgy.  But in addition, we’re offering a free download of the second movement:  “For the Beauty of the Earth”.  These 5 minutes capture a bit of the spirit and energy of New Liturgy No 4, and I hope you have as much fun listening as we did while creating it!


5 things I’m loving right now…

Filed under: A New Liturgy,creativity — 3:53 pm

Izzy tracking marimba

(1) Creating with a team.  As I write this, A New Liturgy No 4 is being mastered.  Finished!  I’m so excited.  And as I look back over the last few months of making it, the biggest word that comes to mind is collaboration.  Izzy, Ben, Nathan, Becky, and Aaron all brought ideas and grooves and sounds and colors I would have never thought of, and helped create the most exciting New Liturgy yet.  It’s a thrill to create with such great people.

(2) Beats by Dre.  About a month ago I realized that I listen to 90% of my music while running or riding my bike.  But always through mediocre ear buds.  So I cashed in a gift card at Best Buy and picked up the tour earphones by Dr Dre.  Worth every penny.

Beats by Dre

(3) Blaine Hogan’s blog + book.  My good friend Blaine is one of the most creative and thoughtful people I know. And right now, on his blog (which is always worth reading), he is giving away a download of his killer book UNTITLED: Thoughts on the Creative Process.
If you make anything, this book will help you make it better.

(4) Engaging with Middle East Peacemakers.  Many of you know that traveling to Israel/Palestine profoundly marked me…and continues to mess with me.  But rather than being content to theorize or opine endlessly, I really want to be an actual peacemaker in some small way.  And so I’m trying to learn from people who are actually doing it.  If you also want to learn about this complex issue, feel free to join us at Willow Creek on September 21st at 7pm for a Learning Community about Peacemaking in Israel and Palestine.

(5) Adventures with Shauna and the boys.  Even though we’re all busy with our own stuff – Shauna is finishing her 3rd book, I’m already working on Liturgy No 5, Henry just started kindergarden and soccer, and Mac is busy bumping his head into every hard object he can find – we keep finding ways to have adventures TOGETHER.  It’s not easy but so incredibly important.  And fun!  Here’s a video of Henry after his first ride on a real roller coaster – The Demon at Great America…


Worship Leader as Spiritual Guide

Filed under: A New Liturgy,God's movement,worship — 10:51 am

Glenn Packiam just wrote a blog called “The Worship Leader as a Spiritual Guide”.  It was so profoundly inspiring and moving to me…that I had to share it:

 Worship Leader As A Spiritual Guide


Rule of St Benedict

By Glenn Packiam

We are in need of a Biblical imagination.

We need a picture that captiviates us and pulls us into it, giving shape to our vocation, guarding against profaning our profession. This is true, I think, of doctors and nurses, lawyers and business people; but it is also true of pastors and worship leaders. How we see shapes how we act.

A few decades ago, legendary Old Testament scholar, Walter Brueggemann wrote about a “prophetic imagination” as an alternate vision of reality that led to the prophet either criticizing the “Empire” through the language of grief or “energizing” the people of God through the language of hope. Picking up this idea, Eugene Peterson wrote about developing a “pastoral imagination”, the vision of a “personal and local” pastor who can weave the stories of his congregation into the Story of God.

Worship leaders are very much in need of a “worshipping imagination,” something to shape our notion of what it means to be a worship leader…


In some church contexts, the worship leader is a co-pastor.  In other contexts, the worship leader is the warm-up act for the teacher.  In other contexts, the worship leader is the rock star that draws a crowd.  And in other contexts, the worship leader plays more of a prophetic role.

I’m not willing to say that one is right and all the rest are wrong, but some are probably more helpful than others.  Personally, I’ve been really wrestling with “What kind of worship leader has God made me to be, and what is the best context for me to serve in?”  Not easy questions, but Glenn’s blog gave some GREAT language.

I sincerely hope that every single worship leader (and senior pastor) read this blog, and humbly pray and talk about it together.  Thanks, Glenn!


review of “Lord Have Mercy”

Filed under: A New Liturgy,worship — 3:13 pm
Worship Leader Magazine

Worship Leader Magazine

Many thanks to Worship Leader Magazine for the kind review of ANL No 3: Lord Have Mercy.  (Let’s be honest, none of their reviews are un-kind…but I’ll take it!)

If you are a worship leader looking for great ideas, new resources, or solidarity with other worship leaders, I highly recommend this magazine.  Check out either the print or digital versions HERE.

It’s always fascinating to see how people react to this project.  A New Liturgy is definitely a work in process – a journey that we’re making up as we go – and each response helps nudge and shape and move it forward.  I guess I’m as curious as anyone to see what it will become over the next couple years.

In the meantime, though, know that Liturgy No 4 is well under way!  We will be 90% done with tracking by the end of the month…finishing and mixing in August…and then launching in September.

I’m sooo excited for you to hear it.

This one is really fun.

Prepare to dance.

Or at least bob
your head a

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