How To Reach Every Goal You Set For This Year (or any year)

Well, here we are gang. Well into another year. Looking ahead with high hopes, optimism, goals defined. Sound familiar? It should, because many of us were in the same spot this time last year, looking at the same goals we find ourselves NOT having attained this year.

If I’m being honest with you, that’s where I found myself more than once. Especially in business. Year after year I have made promises and said to myself “this will be my year”. But not much changed in my business. Things didn’t necessarily get worse, but they didn’t get much better.

I finally had to get really honest with myself and realize that if I wanted to really see this thing be successful I was going to have to start really putting forth an effort to learn what I didn’t know. I had to come to grips with the fact that what I had been doing so far simply wasn’t working. And the fact is, what I was doing was “not much”. More about that in a moment.

But you see I believed, like most Christians, that when God has told you to do something, or promised something for you life, it would all come automatically. Haven’t you heard people say that? “If God told you to do it you’ll know because doors will fling open for you and all the traffic lights will turn green just as you approach them and people will be showing up bringing you everything you need….” You get the idea. People believe that when God has promised you something it will come easy and without much effort on your part. However the Bible doesn’t seem to support that, does it?

The most glaring example of that to me is the children of Israel. God promised them the new land. A land flowing with milk and honey. It was absolutely, positively theirs, guaranteed. And yet even with that assurance, they couldn’t just walk in and set up camp. They had to “possess it”. They had to go and fight powerful enemies and defeat them. Yeah. It was their land, but it was in possession of their enemies. God gave them favor over their enemies, but He didn’t give them the promised land without effort on their part.

So many of us are not reaching our goals because of a sheer lack of real effort on our part. We think because we can sing, all we have to do is sing somewhere and people will flood us with offers to come sing somewhere else. And they’ll tell 2 friends, and so-on, and so-on, and so-on. And even if that does happen (and it does for some people) people who find themselves with a full calendar realize after not much time that they lack the skill, training and wisdom to keep it going.

Most of us don’t know how much we don’t know. We go about our daily lives, blissfully unaware that God has placed in front of us everything we need to attain the promise, and we are simply not “possessing it”. We are waiting for doors to fling open on their own when God has given us everything we need to simply turn the door knob and walk through.

Getting back to my own story, I came to the realization a few months ago that I wasn’t achieving success in my business because I simply wasn’t putting forth the effort to learn how to market it properly. I, like many small business owners, was simply trying stuff. Throwing ideas against the wall. Reading an occasional article. Throwing a little money at this thing or that thing. But I finally had to get real with myself and resolve to do what ever it takes to increase my knowledge. To get the training. Learn the skill-sets I needed. And I still continue to do that.

As I started following business coaches, reading about marketing and growing a business, learning new skills, I came to a stark realization. I’m gonna need to spend some money to go to the next level. I’ve simply learned all I can learn free. So I looked into the costs involved in taking my training to the next level. I know for me, that is hiring a professional business coach. I had to do the same thing to become trained to be a vocal coach, so why wouldn’t I have to do it for my business?

And the thing is, God showed me how my own mental blocks were my hindrance. He showed me that my “reasons” for not moving forward were really nothing more than excuses. One of the business coaches I had been following actually called me one day. We began to talk about the things I desired in my business and my goals for the coming year. And I began to go into my same old song and dance about how I really want to but just don’t have the money. “It’s the ultimate catch-22″, I told her. ” I know I can make more money by working with you, but I need to make more money to work with you.”

What she said to me next confirmed something God had already put inside of me but I wasn’t accepting. She said “I want you to change that mindset. I want you to stop saying “I don’t have the money to do it” or “I can’t afford to do it”. She continued “I want you to instead start thinking more along the lines of ‘ok, this is how much I need to do it’ and then start looking for ways to make it happen.” That was really powerful for me. Because I understood then that when I started putting forth the effort God would begin making ways.

Both for me and for you, reaching our goals this year boils down to adopting one word as our motivator. The word is “INVEST”. This, for me, is not just a business. It’s also a ministry. God showed me that in order to really be successful I have to be able to reach many, many more people. Doing so will allow me to be a blessing on a much larger scale. To do that I need to INVEST. I need to invest my time, my talent, my emotions, my heart and yes, my MONEY.

I can’t just show up here and write a blog twice a week and expect people to come, guys. That’s good, but it simply isn’t enough. Even for the blog to be successful I have to market it. If I don’t then nobody sees it, including people God has chosen to be blessed by it. So one of my top priorities last year were to find ways to earn that extra money I need to invest in my business/ministry. I’ve identified what that is, and now it’s time to make it happen. I’ve already planned to work more overtime. I’ve moved into a smaller place. I go out less.

I’ve decided, in other words, to invest in my ministry and my business. If you hope to reach any of your goals this year, you will have to come to the same realization. Even if your ministry is just a ministry and not a business at all, you must invest in that ministry. You must invest in yourself, your skills, your training. You must invest your time. You must, because if you don’t, the ministry cannot survive. Anything that doesn’t grow in some way eventually starts to wither and die.

So I challenge you, as my business coach challenged me, to stop making excuses and start making plans. Stop saying “I don’t have it” and start saying “how can I get it”. Change your mindset and you’ll change your results this year. That business coach told me to decided on a date I wanted to get started with her and make it my business to do everything in my power to find a way to earn the extra money I needed to start on that date.

I’m issuing you the same challenge. Don’t make the mistake of thinking because God gave you a gift, a ministry, a purpose, that there is nothing else for you to do but show up every Sunday. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your having found me out of millions of sites across the world-wide-web is just coincidence. I know for a fact it isn’t, because I fought tooth and nail against focusing my business specifically on on helping music ministries. Traditionally anything Christ-centered or Gospel-focused has a much harder time of succeeding in business, and I was well aware of it.

But God wouldn’t let me put this aside. He dropped in my spirit one day simply this: “I didn’t give you over 30 years of experience in music ministry for you to share your knowledge with just this one church and a few other people right around town.” He told me it was time to share it with a much bigger audience. And, like we always do, I went looking for proof that the audience was actually out there. I didn’t find any. I looked on Google and used their search tools to find out how many people are actually searching for stuff like this. I didn’t find many.

Yet He told me to do it. He told me you were out there, looking. But even though He told me to do this- even though I have His promise that there will be people out there looking for the training services and products He’ll bless me to provide- He helped me to understand that I’d still need to work hard, learn new things, create new skills, and spend money on this business/ministry in order to reach them.

If I don’t I never attain what God promised me. Doesn’t mean I did what He said and it didn’t work. Doesn’t mean I “thought” He said it and He really didn’t. It means He set it before me and I simply didn’t possess it. If I do my part He will do His.

So my battle cry this year- my one word motivator that will keep me on track- is the word INVEST. If I invest in myself, my ministry and my business- both my time and my money- I know that I can’t help but be successful. I’m challenging you to join me and adopt this new mindset for this year and every year. No more “I don’t have”. From here on, it’s “how can I get”. No more waiting for things to come to us. No more standing in front of doors and simply refusing to turn the door-knob. This year let’s “MAKE” it happen. This year let’s POSSESS what God has already promised us.

 

 

How embracing technology can take your ministry to the next level

Moving onIt’s no secret we live in the information age. The entire world is literally at our finger tips now. And yet many people are hesitant to embrace technology. I suspect though, that it’s not  as much about fear as it is about that unwillingness we all have to embrace change. After all, doing something new comes with learning, and fumbling, and reading, and time spent having to think- all of which many of us have “switched off” by the time we’re around 30 or so, in favor of our nice, normal, comfortable lives.

But what if I told you that embracing technology is all a part of God’s plan? Have you ever thought of that? Sure it is. It HAS to be. Remember this scripture?

Matthew 24:14

14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.

I don’t think anyone would argue against the fact that it’s happening right now, and technology is a huge part of what’s making it possible. But what about YOUR message. YOUR ministry. What about what God put inside of YOU? The same technology that is right now sending the Gospel to all parts of the world has been made available for you to use to take your ministry to the next level. That means your singing. Your playing. Your teaching. Your coaching. Your encouraging words. Whatever that gift is that God has given you to bless others. We all have one, some more than one. And we all have them for a purpose

There’s no reason not to take advantage of every tool and resource God has made available to you in order to take your ministry to the next level. And now that we’re in the 21st Century, the time has come to stop resisting change and embrace this new technology that God is using to reach all parts of the world.

Did you know for example, that you can you get one-on-one coaching with me from anywhere in the country? Did you know that we can do live, face-to-face coaching via video, in real time via Skype? Oh, I see. You don’t know anything about Skype and don’t want to have to download something (even if it’s free). And you don’t have a webcam or a microphone so you don’t want the hassle and expense ($50 or less for both) of buying them and setting them up. I understand.

Well would it surprise you to know that you can also do it right from your Facebook profile? YES!! Still don’t trust it? Well, do you trust your cell phone? Because guess what, in the age we live in now, you can make calls all over the country without any long distance charges. So you can even take a lesson with me by phone! I’ve done it myself several times when I studied with a vocal coach out of California.

And the great thing is, there’s no need to stop with just voice lessons. As I type this there is a church music department preparing to install a web cam in their sanctuary so they can do a live praise team workshop with me over the internet. Another long-time reader is planning to take a lesson with me via phone. If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve studied with me already, via my free video vocal training course. Still others have been taking vocal lessons with me for months in my new home study vocal training program Vocal Ministry Breakthough. The possibilities are endless now.

In the 21st Century you can study almost anything you want with anyone you want from anywhere you want. Think of the freedom that gives you. Think of the incredible levels of access you now have. God has literally erased all boundaries and limitations to you having everything you’ve been praying about for your ministry. It’s time you open up your heart and mind and start embracing all of the great and wonderful things God has put in place to get to us everything our heart has desired. It’s time to, as Kirk Franklin said, “Get Up And Live!”

  Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? Isaiah 43:19

 

3 powerful steps to an anointed music ministry

 

There’s a biblical phrase that comes to mind every time I think about being in a state of great anticipation or excitement that I find hard to contain. It’s found in Jeremiah 20:9  where he spoke the often quoted phrase “just like fire, shut up in my bones”.  But Jeremiah wasn’t excited or happy when he said it. He was actually talking about all of the bad things that happen to him when he speaks about God, and how that even though he desires to avoid speaking of God to avoid those things, he finds that he simply can’t hold it in.

For me, I think about that phrase after a great rehearsal where we’ve really worked hard, perfected the song and are excited to present it to our congregation. Over the years I’ve often compared the process of learning a new song to that of a minister’s preparation to bring the message on Sunday morning. When our hearts and minds are in the right place, the two are very similar. Music ministry, after all, is the message and the word of God in song; or it should be if we’re choosing the right song and focusing on the message as our main motivation for choosing them.

That being the case, a choir or praise team should go through a similar process a minister goes through when preparing to deliver his message. A minister consecrates himself. Prays that God use him as a vessel to deliver a word to His people.  A minister has a study somewhere, where he goes to prepare for his message. He digs into it,  searches the scripture for understanding, gets that message into his spirit.  In the process of doing so the message begins to resonate with him on a personal level. God begins to speak to him and give him things that he knows will be a blessing to the congregation.Then he organizes and formulates his thoughts so that he can deliver them effectively to the congregation. He knows he must be prepared or he won’t be able to deliver the message effectively. By the time Sunday rolls around a minister is often burning with anticipation to deliver that message because he knows how much it’s going to bless the people of God.

When we’re approaching music ministry correctly we should be experiencing something similar. I said to my sanctuary choir once that when we come to rehearsal what we’re doing is not unlike what the minister does when he goes into his study. The sanctuary choir stand, practice room or wherever it is that we rehearse, becomes our “study”. The process of learning and perfecting the song(s) is our way of preparing our message to be delivered to God’s people. When we get up on Sunday morning, that stage or that choir stand becomes the pulpit or podium from which we deliver that message to the congregation.

Often the difference in an anointed music ministry and a ministry that simply fills a spot on the program is the attitude and mindset that ministry takes toward every song and every rehearsal. Some of us are still missing the whole “MINISTRY” part of music ministry. Many of us are choosing songs because they’re popular, or contemporary, or older, or have a great beat. So we often miss the fact that some songs just don’t say much lyrically.

Other times we’re so focused on “the words” and “the parts” that we miss the message.  I think that’s a challenge for many music ministries (both choirs and praise teams) because we don’t fully understand that every song really is a mini-sermon. We don’t get the importance of understanding and connecting to it spiritually in some way, and we don’t fully understand or appreciate the importance of preparation to the effective delivery of that message.

Prime example;

There was a song once that the choir really liked but I didn’t feel we “got it”. There was no fire or enthusiasm at rehearsal. And even though it was a very simple song- the kind we learn in 10 minutes at any given rehearsal- we struggled, stumbled and really never got to that level of excitement and fire that we often reach with a new song at rehearsal. Sure enough, the first time we did it, it absolutely tanked.  We missed marks, guessed and fumbled our way through it and it went over like a rock.

At the next rehearsal we went over it again and it was much of the same thing. So I said to them, “look guys, we’re either connecting with this song spiritually or we’re not. We either get it or we don’t, and if we can’t find a spiritual connection with this song then we need to scrap it. There’s no way a song this simple should be giving us this much trouble. Not every song is for us to do, and we son’t always understand why. But we have to do songs we can connect with spiritually so we can minister.”

So I told them at rehearsal that we’d try it one more time and if we don’t get it, we’re scrapping the song. Right after my little speech we went over the song again and the difference was amazing.  There was excitement and energy at rehearsal. Whether it was my little speech or the thought of losing the song is still a mystery. But suddenly everyone was engaged, enthusiastic and on fire.  And that next Sunday, you could feel the anticipation.

The message we missed was finally burning in our spirits, like fire. We couldn’t wait to deliver that message to our congregation-PROPERLY this time- from a different place than when we did before. We did, and it went over great. But it proved to me that it was there all along, and we had simply been missing something in the process of preparation. Sometimes it’s the wrong song. Sometimes it’s the right song at the wrong time for US. Often though, it’s our own mindset that keeps us from going to that next level.

So in summary, I believe if want a powerful, anointed ministry that you’re excited to deliver week after week- one that burns in you like fire the way Jeremiah’s message burned in him, you must:

1. Choose songs for the message.

Listen closely and critically to the lyrical content of songs and make sure they actually have a real message. Don’t neglect the importance of a strong musical arrangement though. Even a good message when coupled with an awful arrangement can fall flat. Just make sure though, that the arrangement alone is not the reason you’re choosing the song. Forget about how current or how old a song is. It is irrelevant if the message is powerful. Don’t sing a song just because it’s new. Don’t avoid a song just because it’s old.

2. Consecrate and  Connect Spiritually.

We must approach rehearsal and ministry prayerfully. Pray together at rehearsal. Pray that God uses the ministry to bless His people, and that everything you do is for His glory and not your own.  Then seek to find, understand and connect on a spiritual and personal level with the song(s) you’ll sing. If we’re choosing songs with powerful messages, then even if you don’t like the song personally you should still be able to find something in it that you can internalize and connect to in a personal way spiritually. It is very important that the song means something to your choir, group or praise team as a group and not just individually. It’s also very important that you’re able to recognize when a song simply doesn’t register with you as a group for whatever reason and be willing to table or scrap that song altogether.

3. Change the way you see and approach rehearsals

Many choirs and praise teams don’t show much enthusiasm at choir rehearsal because for many of us we’re dragging ourselves there after long days at work. We’re tired. And honestly, we just don’t see it as much more than “rehearsal”. This is absolutely a mindset/attitude issue.

Our results change dramatically when our attitude and mindset towards rehearsal changes from “rehearsal” to “preparation to minister to God’s people”. When you begin to see rehearsal as  preparation to deliver a word from God to His people, it takes on a different meaning. The work of perfecting a song can be something you dread or something you enjoy and see as a  necessary part of effective, anointed ministry. It can be one more thing you have to drag yourself to, or it can be a spiritual and emotional lift that gets you through the week. The difference lies in how you choose to see it.

There is nothing like being at a rehearsal where you’re excited, energized and spiritually ignited by the songs you’re rehearsing. That’s when you know you “get it”. But that’s a choice, and something we must decide to do if we want to have a ministry that is anointed and a message that burns in us like fire.

 

 

The blessing in being pushed

JB-09-APFT-001Many people who follow me or have known me for a while don’t know that I’m a veteran. I don’t tend to bring that up when people are talking about veterans though, or celebrating veterans. Someone asked me why one day. I told her that sure, I was in the Army for 3 years, but I never saw a minute of war. I spent the whole time state side. That’s hardly something I feel comfortable comparing to those who actually fought, saw friends murdered, sustained life-altering injuries.

But I did serve 3 years in the Army. The experience taught me a lot of things, but it taught me one thing in particular that I’ve never forgotten and still embrace to this day. That is, that you will never really know what you’re truly capable of until you allow someone to push you beyond what you THINK you’re capable of.  I absolutely hated boot camp. And I absolutely loved boot camp. I hated it because of the drill seargents, of course. At the end though, I loved it for the same reasons.

You see when you’re going through boot camp those drill sergeants are constantly in your face, yelling at you. Screaming at you. Punishing you for every little thing. Forcing you to keep going when you swear you can’t take another step.  We used to run for miles every morning. I remember one guy in our platoon who would constantly fall behind the formation, gradually through the ranks and finally out of the back. Every time he did though, my drill sergeant would turn the entire platoon around. We would all run back to the place he stopped, gather him up and continue on our way. We were so angry, but we were learning a very valuable lesson that created an amazing bond between us.

We all thought they got some kind of sick pleasure out of torturing us. That is, until graduation day. At that moment, standing there in the best shape of our entire lives, strong, confident, self-assured men, it dawned on us what they had been doing all along. Pushing us beyond our own perceived limitations. Forcing us to go further than we thought we could.

And the “punishment” they inflicted on us? Exercise. Yup. Push-ups. One guy in my platoon couldn’t pass the push-up portion of the PT test. So every time we were anywhere   in a formation the drill sergeant would randomly call his name….”JOHNSON! DROP!!! And Johnson would drop to the ground and start doing push-ups. One day (and I’ll never forget this) the drill sergeant told Johnson to drop and give him 20. Only this time when Johnson went down, the entire platoon joined him (remember that bond I talked about?)  And we all did so every time after that. By the time we reached graduation Johnson could do about 80 push-ups in 2 minutes.

I could tell you story after story like that, but hopefully you already see where I’m going with this. You see I’ve worked out on my own off and on many times since then. I’ve been in some pretty good shape, too. But I have never again achieved the level of fitness I achieved during boot camp. Why? Because I’m incapable of pushing myself as hard as they pushed me.

That’s true of most people though. Very few people can push themselves beyond what they perceive is their limit. There is a very strong sense of preservation that is innate in all of us. It’s very difficult to circumvent that sense of self preservation. Even the most determined of us will only push ourselves so far, because it’s too easy to just stop. Even if we don’t want to, the feeling to do so is so overwhelming that it’s hard not to. Yet when when someone comes along and takes that option away from us we find that we can in fact keep going.

What does any of this have to do with music ministry? Everything. You see, most people who love to sing want to be in the best choirs, most awesome praise teams, most anointed groups. But very few people understand what it takes for those groups to perform at that level.  Many others join such groups only to find themselves constantly frustrated and angry about the work involved.

Behind every great, awesome, anointed choir, praise team or group, there is someone relentlessly pushing them towards perfection. There is some person; some director, some musician, some music director- who just won’t take “close enough”, or “not quite”. Someone who keeps making you do it again and again until the harmony is right. And he gets on your last nerve. Makes you angry. You can’t understand why he doesn’t just move on. He’s too much of a perfectionist, you say. You think about getting out of the choir or praise team.

But then something happens. What happens? Sunday comes. And you go forth in anointed, powerful, atmosphere-changing ministry. And God’s people are blessed beyond measure. And YOU’RE blessed. Souls are saved. Yolks broken. And at that moment, standing there basking in the spiritual down-pour, you feel amazing. Like you’re doing the very thing God put you here to do. Oh, to be used by God in such a powerful way!

After church you feel so good as the members come up and go on and on about how powerful the music ministry was today. And maybe you begin to share how the song was ministering to you so much that you were able to just lose yourself in worship. At that moment though, few people are able to make the connection between that, and that guy that was pushing you relentlessly at rehearsal.

It’s hard at that moment to see that the pushing brought about the perfecting, which brought about the praise. You see everyone wants to be a part of an anointed music ministry. But few understand that the most anointed choirs, groups and praise teams are those with the strongest, hardest, most ridged work ethic. And there is always someone at the head of groups like that who pushes, and drives, and insists on the best you can give, even when you feel like you can’t give any more.

Most soldiers don’t really realize how profoundly their drill sergeant has impacted and changed their lives until the end, when it’s time to go. The same is true in life, isn’t it? Whether it’s the hardest teacher, the tough boss or the insistent music director, very few of us really understand the impact they have on our lives until they’re no longer there for whatever reason.

So my challenge to you today is to not only allow yourself to be pushed, but embrace it. Having a mentor, a coach, motivator, a trainer- someone to push you past your limits- will always make you a much better version of yourself than you could ever achieve on your own. Join my mailing list below and start today getting the push you need to take your ministry higher.

Why some music ministries never get better

Today I have a video blog from you. In all my videos I speak from the heart, unscripted. So you will often see the most raw emotion in my video blogs. Such is the case in today’s video, where I talk about something very dear to my heart. That is the complacent attitude of many church choirs and praise teams-even some bands. What is the mental state of your choir or praise team? Are you stuck in a rut, unwilling to move out of your comfort zone to take your music ministry higher? What can we do about it? Enjoy the video, and please leave me your thoughts.

3 ways to develop a “next level” mentality for your music ministry (or anything else you want)

For a great many of us, singing and/or playing an instrument in church is just something we’ve always done. Those of us like me, who gravitate to the front and take on positions like choir director and parts instructor end up doing so because we simply have a natural God-given talent for it. For that reason though, many of us spend most of our lives at pretty-much the same level as far as our music ministry goes. That’s just human nature, really. We all cling to the familiar, don’t we? We stick with what we know. What we’ve always done.
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