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About Phil | Philosophy of Worship | Faith Story

About Phil

I have been leading worship since 2000. Initially with a cross-country volunteer ministry team through Youth Encounter, then vocationally in churches in Orlando, FL and Mequon, WI; currently I serve two churches in Southeastern Wisconsin as a volunteer, leading worship 3 times a month on average.

I have an amazingly supportive wife and two beautiful children. My church background is Lutheran, although I have been blessed to have spent a lot of time visiting other churches and developing strong relationships with Christians of various backgrounds and worship preferences over the years.

In addition to music ministry, I enjoy playing trumpet, teaching guitar (or trumpet, or French horn) lessons; the theater (watching and acting), and striving to be the best husband and father I can be.

Philosophy of Worship

We are more like ministers who spread the Gospel through music, than musicians who happen to perform in church.

Dr. Constance Cherry

1. I believe the role of a worship leader, and the worship team, is first and foremost to love God and love His people.  This means the primary aim is to bring glory to God and draw people closer to God in worship. 

2. (borrowed from Andi Rozier, leader of Vertical Church Band) We are to be like tour guides, taking our congregation to the throne of God and pointing people to him.  If we do our job well, people shouldn’t notice us, because their focus is on God.  

3. There is often a tension within each of us on a worship team, between performing with excellence and not making it about the performance.  It is so easy to let our egos get the best of us, focusing on our performance – how good we can play or sing, how creative we can be.  We should strive for excellence, but we perform our best because God deserves our best.  We don’t perform so that people will notice what great musicians we are.  We are worship leaders first, and performers second. 

In today’s culture, it’s too easy for people to fall into the trap of just watching – and for some, evaluating – “the band.”  Part of the role of the worship leader and team is to train the congregation to be an active participant in worship.  We don’t sing to the congregation; we sing to God, with the congregation. 

Personal style – it’s important to be authentic.  I try to be the same person on the platform as off. 

In worship planning, I believe the most impactful and memorable worship experiences happen when all elements of worship (music, preaching, and everything else) reinforce the same basic message or focus.   

  • While I love the use of various forms of creative arts – drama, multimedia, visual art – they should always reinforce the spoken word, and shouldn’t be used solely for the sake of being creative, if they don’t fit with the rest of the service. 
  • Creativity is important, but Content is more important.  The difference between people leaving our services praising God or praising us.  

My Faith Story

I have been blessed to be a Christian as long as I can remember. I was baptized as an infant and grew up in a family that embraced the faith and tried to live it out. I attended church every Sunday and was very involved in church activities and ministries, from Sunday School through confirmation and youth group, and I just continued the pattern when I went to college. 

It was during my first year in college that I really took ownership of my faith.  During a Maundy Thursday service, I don’t remember what the pastor said, but something in the sermon just clicked in my mind. I realized that I wanted to believe in and follow Jesus, not because it was what I’d been taught, but because I believed it for myself. 

My parents instilled in me, early on, the importance of serving God in worship. My father at times was an usher, elder, and congregational treasurer. Both parents sang in the church choir. My mother was an organist most of her life, and as I learned to play the trumpet in school, she started having me accompany her on hymns or preludes. After graduating from college, I became a public high school band director, and I quickly found a home church in the area where I was teaching and got involved in music ministry, drama ministry, and men’s ministry.  Through my home church, God provided me a spiritual mentor who taught and showed me how to be a strong, yet gentle, man of God.

As a young adult, some of the more formative moments of my spiritual growth included attending a Weekend at Emmaus ( a very intensive men’s retreat full of teaching, worship and fellowship in an ecumenical setting) and attending a few Promise Keeper conferences. Through these, I was beginning to see a broader picture of the universal church. 

Then one Christmas break, while I was visiting my parents and having my devotion time, God impressed on my mind and heart that it was time to leave teaching. So when I returned from the break, I gave my principal notice and finished out that year, still not knowing exactly where God was leading. I just had grown to trust God that He would lead me where He wanted me to go. 

I ended up accepting a call to the organization Youth Encounter; it was based in Minneapolis, but unfortunately it dissolved a few years ago.  I travelled for two years with a relational youth ministry band. It was an amazing time of spiritual growth, not only through the ministry we provided, but by sharing the experience (including many hours in a van) with teammates from varying backgrounds, including Mennonite, Primitive Methodist, Lutheran Church of New Zealand, and non-denominational. Again, I appreciated gaining a broader understanding of the church and different theological points of view. But I also grew deeper in understanding and applying my faith to everyday life, from interpersonal dynamics to trusting God for daily provision. 

As a result of my time with Youth Encounter, I knew God was calling me to full time music ministry. My first such job was at Spirit of Joy Lutheran Church in Orlando, Florida. It was a small church that was meeting in an elementary school when I first started there; we had one service that was blended worship, leaning more toward contemporary than traditional. I served at Spirit of Joy for eight years through two location changes.  During this season I saw God lead our congregation through ‘wilderness’ times – many years of looking for a permanent building – to a ‘promised land.’ I also began a practice of reading the Bible and journaling. In addition to my official musical duties, I also formed a small group and ministry for young adults. Though it wasn’t my intent, I ended up meeting my wife through this group. 

Shortly after getting married, God led me to a new job, at Christ Church in Mequon, Wisconsin. During this season my wife and I started a family. Being a husband and father was something I thought God might not have planned for me, but I learned to wait on God’s timing for both.

In 2016 I had to leave Christ Church, once again not knowing to what or where God was leading me (and my family) next. But once again, God provided in a number of ways: a steady job in a field completely unrelated to music or ministry, but one that allows me the flexibility to support my family and serve God through our current church. In fact, God has placed me in a situation in which I am able to serve two churches as a volunteer worship leader.

It’s up to God now, whether I get back into full time music ministry, or continue serving him as I do now. But regardless of what the future holds, I know that God wants me to share what he’s taught me through this blog.

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