Voices In My Head Podcast Episode #294: Mike Harland and his new book Worship Essentials


Voices In My Head Podcast Episode #294: Mike Harland and his new book Worship Essentials


My guest this week on Voices In My Head is Mike Harland. For most of his life, Mike has led churches in worship leadership roles. Since 2005, Mike has served as the Director of Worship at LifeWay Christian Resources. He is a published author, Dove Award winning songwriter, and a worship leader who sings and speaks nationally and internationally. His blog and podcast, “WorshipLife” is followed by pastors, worship leaders, and church musicians around the world.

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Mike Harland’s latest book, Worship Essentials, released on November 1st.


Your Host: Rick Lee James 


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Rick Lee James




Voices In My Head Podcast #246: Wonder, Coco, and the Most Moving Voices In 2017

Happy new year! This week on the podcast I share some coming events for 2018 and talk about things that moved me deeply in 2017. It’s a very special end of the year broadcast.

Thanks for listening to Voices In My Head. Make sure to check out out my music, interviews, & videos on https://www.ccmmagazine.com/?s=Rick+Lee+James.

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Lifeway Christian Store Exclusive Album Featuring Music By Rick Lee James To Release on June 20th

Rick Lee James Music Featured on Exclusive Lifeway Christian Store Release — 

I’m excited to announce that on June 20th a new album called “Psalms and Songs” will be released exclusively to Lifeway Christian Stores nationwide. The album will feature music by Rick Lee James (a.k.a. me) as well as several other artists. Make sure to visit your local Lifeway Christian Stores to pick up a copy. I’d love to have pictures of you with the new album in from of your local Lifeway Store posted to social media to help us celebrate. Thank you Lifeway for including me on this new worship album.

Rick Lee James


Worship Leader as Prayer Leader

Note: This article originally appeared in Worship Leader Magazine Jan/Feb issue 2017

Psalm 95:6 Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker;
Ancient believers understood that worship is prayer. The book of Psalms was not only the hymnbook of our ancient Faith, it was also the prayerbook. The songs and the prayers of the people were one and the same, that is to say, when they were singing, they were praying. There didn’t need to be a prayer chorus to lead into the pastoral prayer time because the song itself was a form of prayer and when the service started the praying had already begun.

There is a wonderful Latin phrase, “lex orandi, lex credendi,” which loosley translated means “the law of praying is the law of believing”. A simpler way of saying it might be, “our worship forms our theology”. Lex orandi, lex credendi was the guiding principle in the ancient church for developing the creeds, the canon of scripture, and other doctrinal matters based on the prayers (liturgy) of the church. Before the church had the Bible, it had it’s worship liturgy. Before we had the New Testament, we had the prayers of the people filling our worship. The close communion with God that the church had in its praying and it’s liturgy is a huge part of what guided us to the canonizing of the Bible.

Worship fueled the imagination of the early church and led it to act upon it’s theology. In Acts chapter 2 we see a church at worship in an upper room in Jerusalem, actively waiting and praying together for the promise of God. We notice in the story that when the Holy Spirit overcame the church in Jerusalem, it didn’t just land at random in people on the street. The Holy Spirit fell first upon those believers who were praying and waiting in worship.

The worship of the early church was not rote and inactive, it was a worship that led them into the streets with a message like no other. “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38) Make no mistake about it, this is a literal call to worship. Repentance is the action of turning away from sin and this turning away is rooted in prayer. This turning away is marked in a liturgical action called baptism. To paraphrase William Willimon, our baptism is thethe departure/death from empire to live into a physical Kingdom of God with it’s own logic, language, and culture. Worship is the way that we pass along the Christian faith with its logic, language and culture. Worship is the church at prayer.

Should our view of the congregational liturgy be any different from those early Christians? When we gather together to worship as the body of Christ shouldn’t we be just as engaged in worship as prayer? From gathering to the benediction our worship is prayer. Do we understand this when we are doing service planning?

Rather than increasing our repertoire of music, what if our driving goal as worship leaders and service planners was to increase our congregation’s repertoire for prayer? What if we saw our vocation as a way to helping our people communicate with God? James Hudson Taylor once said, “I have seen many men work without praying, though I have never seen any good come out of it; but I have never seen a man pray without working.” When we study the great revivals of history we can see that prayer has been at the center of them all. While revival may not always be the result of our prayers, we do know that revival has never come without prayer.

If liturgy is in fact the work of the people then shouldn’t prayer be our primary tool in that work? What if we put real effort, advanced effort even, into helping our congregations pray as they worship? What if all words spoken to God in our worship services were intentionally words of prayer? What if our quiet moments in worship were intentionally designed to help our people listen? What would happen if Prayer saturated our services? What if in our service planning we made sure that every service element was one of prayer?

According to the Book of Common Prayer, “Prayer is responding to God, by thought and by deeds, with or without words.” We know that the principal kinds of prayer are adoration, praise, thanksgiving, penitence, oblation, intercession, and petition so imagine with me what it might look like if we worked to make every element of our worship a form of prayer?

If prayer is the one essential thing we do in worship, maybe we should examine the structure of our weekly services and ask if the elements at play could be considered prayer. Is the offering a time of true oblation for the people in our congregation or do they simply write out checks and quietly chit chat to each other while the plates are passed and a song is played? Are your announcement times placed in a part of the service that helps or hinders your congregation’s connection with God? Are your greeting times truly moments of passing God’s peace to each other or are they simply short times of shooting the breeze in the middle of the service? Are there opportunities for repentance and confession in each service, preferably near the beginning, where your people can enter into God’s presence with clean hearts?

I’ll close with a few questions to ask after we have examined the structure of our services:

  • Are there are elements of our services that are clearly not forms of prayer?
  • Are we able to do without them and use the time in a more effective, or more holy way?
  • Are the songs that we are singing helping us to prayer?
  • Are there songs that may actually be hindering us from praying?
  • As worship leaders and worship songwriters we are literally putting words into the mouths of worshippers, are those words worthy of the gospel?
  • Are we striving to make every minute of worship Kairos/holy time or are we just simply trying to fill the hour?
  • What does our worship say about where God is calling us?
  • Do our prayer times call our people to actively participate engage in prayer?
  • What does our worship say about God?

The Invitation Official Music Video



The Invitation (Official Music Video) performed by Rick Lee James.
Rick Lee James Links:
Copyright (C) 2015 © Copyright 2014, Assigned 2015 McKinney Music, Inc. (BMI) (admin. by LifeWay Worship c/o Music Services, http://www.musicservices.org)/ Mr. Andy’s Music (ASCAP). All rights reserved..
Written by Rick Lee James and Andrew Greer

Rick Lee James, Laura Story, and Mark Harris to Judge Cedarville University Songwriting Competition

Cedarville University’s Department of Music and Worship has announced its annual songwriting competition. The competition is open to all current Cedarville University students, and its goal is to develop musical resources for congregational singing.

“The heart of the worship degree is to prepare students to serve the body of Christ, and this competition challenges our students to write theologically sound, musically compelling songs for congregations,” said Dr. Roger O’Neel, director of Cedarville’s worship program.
“It is our goal to give God alone the glory for the talents that he has entrusted to us as well as be good stewards and use these talents to serve the body of Christ.”
– Susan Plemons, assistant professor of worship
The worship department sought out an internationally renowned, award-winning panel of judges for the 2017 competition. The songs will be judged by Laura Story, Rick Lee James and Mark Harris, all three of whom are accomplished songwriters.

Story wrote the No. 1 worship hit “Indescribable,” which Chris Tomlin recorded in 2004, and her 2008 national debut won a Dove Award for Inspirational Album of the Year. She also earned two consecutive nominations for Female Vocalist of the Year. She serves on staff at Perimeter Church in Atlanta, Georgia, and is an artist with INO Records.

Harris is a former member of 4Him, winner of eight Dove Awards and author of 24 No. 1 hits. He joined the staff at Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas, in 2013 where he serves as lead worship pastor. His project “Walls,” by Gateway Worship, was the No. 1 album on Billboard’s Christian chart in October 2015. He will be on campus leading worship with Gateway and teaching at Cedarville University’s Worship 4:24 Conference in January 2017.

James has more than 15 years of experience in ministry as a worship leader, singer, songwriter, preacher, author and podcast host. His latest album was released March 2016 and has been featured in CCLI, CCM Magazine, Worship Leader Magazine and other national spotlights.

The contest entry deadline is Wednesday, February 15, 2017. Students must submit original songs that are intended for congregations for the competition and include an mp3 file for an audio demo as well as a pdf file of the chord chart or lead sheet. Submissions should be sent either by campus mail or electronically to Susan Plemons, assistant professor of worship (susanplemons@cedarville.edu). The winners will be announced in March and will receive $300 for first place, $200 for second place and $100 for third place.

“Soli Deo Gloria” is the motto of the music and worship department,” said Plemons. “It is our goal to give God alone the glory for the talents that he has entrusted to us as well as be good stewards and use these talents to serve the body of Christ.”

Located in southwest Ohio, Cedarville University is an accredited, Christ-centered, Baptist institution with an enrollment of 3,760 undergraduate, graduate, and online students in more than 100 areas of study. Founded in 1887, Cedarville is recognized nationally for its authentic Christian community, rigorous academic programs, strong graduation and retention rates, accredited professional and health science offerings, and leading student satisfaction ratings. For more information about the University, visit http://www.cedarville.edu.

© Copyright 2017 Cedarville University





Advent = Waiting

I think half of my childhood was spent waiting on Christmas Day. When I was in the first grade I remember lying in bed one cool October night with my imagination running wild, just thinking about what it would be like when Christmas came. Like most 6 year olds, I didn’t have a very good grasp of time. I remember getting out of bed and walking into our kitchen where I heard my mother cleaning and getting our lunches ready for school the next day. I asked her how long it would be until Christmas. When she told me that I still had several more weeks to wait my heart sank a bit.

I was ready for Christmas. I wanted to see my grandparents, I wanted to eat Christmas cookies, I wanted to decorate the tree, and I especially wanted to open presents. The longing stayed with me. The hope, the expectation, the and the waiting were all part Christmas manifesting itself into my world. In my heart Christmas had already arrived, but Christmas Day was still to come. Those are my earliest memories of living in the already and the not yet.

As an adult the waiting and longing in life continues. This past summer–still in the shadow of the loss of my Grandfather only a month prior–I along with many of my family members, waited around the bedside of my Grandmother as hospice was called to administer care. Over several days, she slowly drifted from this life into the next. We sang hymns about heaven with her, we shared the Lord’s Supper, we recited the Apostles Creed as we grieved and steadied our lives facing the inevitable. We were waiting, watching, longing, and hanging on her every breath; wondering which one would be her last. When she waved her final goodbye we were relieved that her suffering was over, we were hurting because we already missed her, and we were heavy with the hope that all believers have. We will have to wait, but we hope in God, knowing will see her again.

My wife and I also experienced two miscarriages this year. The watching, waiting, and longing to see our babies ended in hospital rooms with doctors telling us the babies didn’t make it. As I held my wife in those hospital rooms, I recited the Apostles Creed again, trusting, believing and hoping in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. We needed that hope more than ever before. We still do.

2000 years ago heaven sent a baby into this world named Jesus. The prophets foretold his birth and for many, many years the people of God put their hope in the Messiah who would come to save them from the brokenness of the world in which they found themselves. They watched for him, they waited, they longed and prayed for the coming King, but it seemed that silence was the only reply from Heaven.

But then, in a way they never imagined, the silence of the years was broken. An angel came to Mary and her relatives with a message that the Messiah was coming. One night in Bethlehem as angels sang songs of glory and terrified shepherds trembled in their fields at the heralded announcement of his advent, Jesus the Savior of the world was born. The One who had been watched for, waited upon, and longed for was among us, wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger where livestock fed.

God made good on His promise by sending His Son, Jesus Christ. He was a man in the flesh and a Jew by birth; he grew up poor and lived in a small village until the time was right. At the age of 30 he left his home and journeyed into the world doing good, curing people through the power of his Father, teaching the Good News of the Kingdom of God, and revealing that the meaning of religion is love.

His people rejected by him, tortured him and nailed hands and feet to a cross where he died like a criminal between two theives. He lay buried in the grave, but death could not defeat him. On the third day, he rose from the grave, he revealed himself to his followers, he told them to wait on the Holy Spirit, he ascended into heaven and he is seated at the right hand of the Father. He is the Lord and He will come again. We wait expectantly for him to return.

So, once again, we find ourselves waiting; just as we’ve been waiting for 2000 years for a Savior who is, and was, and is to come. We wait in the confidence that all our sins are forgiven through Him. We watch for him, believing that all who have faith in Him must repent, be baptized in the Holy Spirit of God, and live as citizens of the Kingdom of God. While we wait, we break bread together and in love announce this Good News to others until Jesus comes again: Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.

I’m still ready for Christmas. I still want to see my grandparents. I really want to hold my unborn children. I still want to eat Christmas cookies, I still want to decorate the tree, and I still like to open presents. Yet the gift that means more to me than any other is Jesus. The longing to see the Savior has formed me. Because he lives I believe I will see my grandparents again. Because he is alive, we believe we will one day hold our unborn children. We believe that one day soon, the the Kingdom of God will come in it’s fullness.
The season of Advent is a season of watching, waiting, and longing for the coming of Christ. With the season of Advent the Christian new year starts and we begin to tell this story of hope all over again. The word Advent literally means coming, in this four week season we are waiting for our Savior who was, is, and is to come. Advent is a season of hope.
“Advent Hymn (Watching, Waiting, Longing)” is a song of expectation that looks to the second coming of Christ through the lens of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. It is a joyful song of celebration and a way to retell of the story of Jesus. I’m so pleased that Lifeway Worship has made this song available for churches to use during this Advent season. What a story of hope we have to share.

Check out the release of the brand new music video for Advent Hymn (Watching, Waiting Longing).

This blog originally appeared on LifeWay’s WorshipLife blog found at this link link: http://worshiplife.com/2016/11/23/advent-hymn-watching-waiting-longing-by-rick-lee-james/