Julian Michael new EP

I am pleased to announce that Julian has released a new EP called Land. Get more information at his website www.julianmichaelmusic.com


Summer is here, or is it?

I just came home from the airport where I dropped my son off so he can go out of the country for 10 weeks. We did the same thing last year, and it seems we do that most years with him. So now that he is on his way I wondered if this meant that Summer is actually here? The weather has finally warmed up a bit which is a good sign. The sprinklers are currently going outside as we attempt to grow new grass at our Black Forest patch of dirt (okay to be fair, we have grass elsewhere on the property, we’re just hoping to grow it up a bit right out our front door). The Miller moths are swarming and I have albums to mix (2 of them!). Seems like during the Summer I spend many hours in the studio mixing stuff. I am not sure that ever really changes throughout the year, but Summer turns up the heat on studio activity for some reason. I worked hard in the Spring learning a lot of new technique in the studio (and I think my mixes are improving, who knows, it is a never ending cycle). So yeah, I am ready to say Summer is here. I know we could still get some Spring-like weather such as a strange dump of snow (just heard that some ski resorts might stay open until July 4th!). But I like warmth, it makes me happy. So I’ll go there and say Summer is here. Plus, I had an air conditioner given to me for the studio and putting in an air conditioner has Summer written all over it. I get a little nervous about cutting holes in walls so hopefully I can recruit a friend to wield the saw sometime in the next few weeks.

So while my son minsters to drug addicts and AIDS victims for the next 2 1/2 months, I’ll be mixing his latest album “Land” and praising God for my wonderful life. Look for a Fall release of Kirby Beneventi’s new project as well. And yes, I still hope to complete that worship album sometime this year. I got a lot on my plate and its all good. I pray you all are as blessed.

P.S. The resource site is continuing to inch forward and we’re working on more music, so thanks so all of you who continue to ask about how it’s going and pray for us. And if you ever want to hang out in a worship service with us, check out New Covenant Church in Larkspur. We’re there every week!


Happy March 2011. Wow, is it really March already?

Okay I know it’s been awhile and guess what, I’m still kicking. I am working on some really cool stuff for a resource website for Destinysong that will help people play guitar. This is a huge endeavor and it’s occupying most of my time. Julian tracked a new album in January and it needs to be mixed. No rush, our target release is the Fall so I should be okay. And yes I still write songs, just haven’t committed anything to tape so I can’t exactly share it right now. And yes, I still lead worship on a regular basis. Currently I am on staff at New Covenant Church in Larkspur, CO and I also lead at Shirley Strand’s Wind of the Spirit meetings which are twice a month in Colorado Springs. Anyhow, be blessed and continue to pursue transformation in the name of Jesus.


Julian New Album

My son, Julian Michael Burwell is a singer and songwriter. His first project “Time to Move On” was released last Thanksgiving. Well somehow in the midst of a very intense school and travel schedule just one year later he was able to write 8 new songs and record and release them on a new album. It is now available at www.julianmichaelmusic.com. The album is called “Ocean” and shows a real maturation in his writing and performing. I am very proud of Julian and the way he is developing in his walk with the Lord, his schooling, his character development, and as a musician. Once again he plays all instruments on this project which is just crazy to me. Drums, bass, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, acoustic piano, keys, etc. Please support him by checking out the album and grabbing a copy for your very own. Any purchases also support what the Lord is calling to do through Destinysong.


State of the Blog

Hey everyone, I know it’s been awhile since I posted. I suppose that happens at one point or another in a bloggers life so I should cut myself some slack. Anyhow, life is full and enjoyable and yet also extremely busy. I am developing a new direction for michaelburwell.com and it may be that this blog shifts direction to something more resource-based. So while it’s in development I’ll keep this active and you can browse the archives. I suggest starting with the “How to be a Worship Leader” series.

In the meantime, there is no shortage of activity at Destinysong. We recently released Khrystian’s debut project. You can check her out at www.khrystianlewis.com. Support the cause getting your copy of the album. I really like it and am super happy for Khrystian.

Back soon. God bless you all!


how to be a worship leader – part 4

Worship as Our Purpose

Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD. – Psalm 150:6

Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:23 “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.”

This verse clarifies 4 vital questions about worship:
Who worships? The believer
What do we worship? The Father
When to worship? The present
Where to worship? In the spirit of each believer (where the Holy Spirit lives and leads)

I suggest everyone pick up a copy of Rick Muchow’s “The Worship Answer Book.” Gems like the list of 4 things above can be found all throughout this resource. One thing I love about this list is that it clarifies our role, and the object of our worship so clearly. We are to worship in everyday life, all the time, connecting spirit to Spirit. Non-believers cannot worship; it is impossible. Only a person who has given their heart wholly over to Jesus can actually worship Him. Yes, only the believer can experience the passionate joy of knowing a Savior. It’s our cool, not-so-little club that anyone can join. But sadly even though there is no entrance fee, so many decide against it. So rejoice that we get this opportunity to worship. In fact, this is our real and true purpose once we enter into the club of Christ, also known as “the church.”

Understanding Worship as our purpose:

As the church, there is a threefold vision we can claim from scripture as it relates to worship as our purpose.

1. We were created to worship:
“Everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” – Isaiah 43:7

In other words, God made us worshipping beings. Webster’s definition of “human” is: of or characteristic of people as opposed to God or animals or machines, esp. in being susceptible to weaknesses. You’ve heard “I’m only human” which is meant to say, “I have obvious faults.” Yet a 5-gallon container can hold 5 gallons of water since that is what it was designed to do. As created beings designed to give God glory, we not only have the capability to worship, but the capacity as well since that is our function; it is why we were made.

2. We are commanded to worship:
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. – Matthew 22:36-38

If you take nothing else from this study, I pray that you walk away with this: giving God glory is our number one function. All worship should be focused in this direction, this being our main prize, and main reward if you will: the incredible gift of true relationship with God.

3. The primary purpose of the church is worship:
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. – 1 Peter 2:9

Can you see? We are a chosen, royal, holy, and a people belonging to God. And for what purpose? “That you may declare the praises…” You see, the only reason we exist as a church, is to glorify God. I do not have space to unpack this truth here but I will say, that if everyone in the church understood this purpose more clearly, we would see an explosion of love and service that no revival or humanitarian movement of the past could ever compare to.

In closing, this seems like a good time to revisit the definition from part 1 of How to be a Worship Leader:

Act out your total love, praise, and thankfulness to God the Father, in every action you take and through this example, you will inspire others to do the same

My prayer is that each of you now knows what it means to be a real Worship Leader and that you feel empowered to act this out – even today.


How to be a Worship Leader – part 3

Lead Worshipper vs. Worship Leader

In researching “worship leader” years ago I came across this great definition, surprisingly on a non-Christian website: “In some churches, every member of the choir or band is considered to be a worship leader, by helping to lead the congregation in worship by truly worshipping God with their voice or instrument.” I like this since it not only challenges the traditional view of worship leader but also puts in context the idea of what it means to be a lead-worshipper.

On worship teams that I lead, I teach that while we may have someone assigned the job of worship leader, each member of the team is actually a lead worshipper. I define it this way in our Praise and Worship team manual:

Each and every person on the team is a leader in their position. One description of our role that I believe encapsulates this best is using the term “Lead Worshipper” rather than “Worship Leader.” My interpretation of this is that we all have a great responsibility in each of our assigned roles. Therefore we should see ourselves as leading God’s people from our position. We are all driving to the same ultimate goal, yet each of us has been assigned different responsibilities.

You have been assigned a role in the body of Christ. And from that role I believe you have a responsibility to be a worship leader. I.e. to lead others by your example of being a true worshipper of God. Your sphere of influence is different from mine, yet we are all working to the same ultimate goal: glorification of God in the service of others.

“Worship is our response, both personal and corporate, to God for who He is and what He has done, expressed in and by the things we say and the way we live.” – Louie Giglio

I first heard the term “lead worshipper” from Louie Giglio in a small breakout session at a Passion Conference (to put this event in context, then unknown David Crowder Band was introduced at the late night extended worship session and it was also the first time Tim Hughes had ever played “Here I am to Worship” outside of his home church). To be perfectly candid, at first I thought it was just a cute play on words designed to make everyone who is not leading take more ownership of their role. Let’s be honest, we all have likely been in a position of feeling like we are an “extra” on the platform. And in that context, I suppose the term is helpful, but the true heart behind this expression goes so much deeper.

“I believe you can bring glory to God, regardless of what you are doing, as long as what you are doing honors Him” – Rick Muchow

Rick points out that regardless of our position (on the worship team, in life) we can and should bring glory to God. And if you recall in part 1 that our first and foremost purpose in worship is to glorify God, this means that every time we step onto the platform, or even attend a gathering of believers (see part 2) we have a chance to be a lead worshipper, in that we glorify God with what we do at that very moment in time and influence others to do the same.

To put this in the setting of a worship team, I believe that the bass player or alto singer has just as much potential influence at certain moments in time on the worship gathering as the person who is leading the team. One simple way this happens is that each and every person in the gathering relates to each member of the worship ensemble differently. Some people key in on the drums, some on the harmonies, etc. If you are leading from your position, you will maximize the influence you can have on the gathering. If your heart is one to glorify God in all you do, the likelihood of the Holy Spirit working through you is higher. And with the Holy Spirit comes anointing, and with anointing exponential power to influence others. I have seen life transformation happen in others simply because I was obedient to the Lord in strumming a few chords and singing with the best of my ability in an effort to glorify God. Imagine how humbling an experience that can be, to be truly used by God to bring about change in others and pleasure to the Almighty.

“And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.” Colossians 1:10

I’ll wrap up this series next time with a final look at worship as our purpose.


How to be a Worship Leader – Part 2

In part one of this study I defined being a worship leader in these terms:

To be respected, and therefore to influence others for the advancement of the Kingdom via your daily display of heart-felt humble adoration and reverence of God in all you do.

Or to put it more simply: acting out your total love, praise, and thankfulness to God the Father, in every action you take and through this example, inspiring others to do the same.

You may think this sounds intimidating and therefore might wonder, “Do I have a responsibility to others?”

Jesus was once asked the greatest commandment of all and in responding he gave us two. In that second commandment he commits us all to acts of service to others. In Matthew 22:39 Jesus says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

The logical result of this order of things that God has put before us is simple; you are not the priority, God is #1 and the service of others follows. God didn’t tell us to love ourselves first, then treat others in a similar way. No, he directs that the capacity we have to exalt ourselves needs to be spent in exalting others. Put plainly, it is to be God first and others second.

So how do we do this? A systematic Bible study reveals a 4-part doctrine, or foundation of worship:
Biblical worship must be done in love. No love – no worship (1 Corinthians 13)
Biblical worship is always accompanied by humility and reverent fear (Isaiah 66:2)
Biblical worship is commanded by God (Luke 10:27/Matthew 22)
Biblical worship involves surrendering your entire life as an offering to God (Romans 12:1)

Love, humility and reverence, obedience, surrender…

This begs the question, so how in fact do we lead others with our worship of God? The four foundations of worship is a lot to handle, and I will admit that I do not always feel capable of being a worship leader. Most of us feel handicapped in our ability to influence others, especially when it comes to relationships. In her job my wife works with disabled children every day. To put the concept of being handicapped in perspective for all of us, here is a revelation that she discovered:

My life is forever changed because of what I have learned about the power that He {God} really did create us all equally! I remember when I asked God what makes handicapped people different from me or the all the other people, Why did He create them so different? And He spoke to me very clearly and said, “The difference between them and you is that their handicaps are on the outside in plan view for everyone to see and yours are on the inside and can be camouflaged so there is really no difference”…So I learned we are equal!

We all have the similar levels of deficiency; some people just have the ability to mask theirs a little better than others. So I say, get over it, don’t be intimidated by people’s camouflage and begin to see yourself as a leader from the position that God has planted you in. Yes that’s right, no matter where you sit in the sanctuary for a worship service, no matter what chair you find yourself at during the work week, no matter what group of people you find yourself in relationship with inside or outside the church, all of us are to be leaders from whatever position we hold. God gave us a beautiful picture of how the Body of Christ works together in Paul’s epistle 1 Corinthians chapter 12. In part he says, “in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.”

Since we have been given a responsibility to lead, and God placed us where we are at, it seems we all must step up and claim our position of authority in Christ and how we interact with the world and others. And yet you still may not think of yourself as a leader. The next time we will cover the idea of being a lead worshipper vs. being a worship leader.


How to be a Worship Leader

When you hear the term “worship leader” what comes to mind? Likely it is this: a man or woman who is a musician, typically one who plays the guitar or piano, standing in front of a group of people singing songs that you are invited to follow along with, and in following this person’s lead, you will hopefully connect with God.

That is not an inaccurate picture since the official definition of “worship leader” is: a musician or singer who leads a congregation in musical expression of worship. Most people do not consider themselves worship leaders and additionally, they believe they never will be. This is based in the notion that to be a worship leader you must be a vocalist or instrumentalist. I challenge that today, and suggest that being a worship leader is not predicated on whether or not you can lead people in song with your voice or with an instrument. Stick with me and I think you will find that not only can you be a worship leader in your own right, but that you actually have a responsibility to be a worship leader.

Let’s start with a breakdown of what the term worship leader actually means. This may seem obvious, but to be a worship leader, you must first be a leader.

A “leader” is defined as a person who “leads or exhibits leadership.” Leadership can have a formal aspect, as in most political or business leadership, or an informal one, as in most friendships. Speaking of “leadership” usually implies that the persons doing the leading have some leadership skills or competencies. Several types of people may provide or exhibit leadership, including:

– A person in the position of authority
– A person in a position associated with expertise, skill, or experience
– A group of respected people

You can see that leadership implies a relationship of power — the power to guide others. Better put, it is the ability of an individual to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute toward the effectiveness and success of the organizations of which they are members. All of us have been the benfactors of leaders and leadership in one form or another.

Second, and hopefully just as obvious, to be a worship leader you must also be a worshipper.

The English definition of worship is: honor and adoration, admiration and respect, directed to God. Now while the English Bible uses one word for Worship, the Hebrew and Greek texts use 10 different words to define it. In the New Testament, two of them particularly are noteworthy:

Proskuneo (e.g. Matthew 2:2, John 4:24): it means “to kiss the hand,” or “to bow down,” it is the word used to signify humble adoration and reverence. And second, Latreuo (e.g. Philippians 3:3): used 21 times in the NT, it means “to serve” or “to minister” it suggests rendering honor, or paying homage.

The act of worshiping is fundamental to who we are as people. Christian theologians have defined humanity as “homo adorans,” which means, the “worshipping man,” and thus the worship of God is at the very core of what it means to be human. Rick Warren puts it this way, “Worship is any expression of our love to God – for who he is, for what he said, and what he’s doing.”

Rick suggests that “any” expression is valid as an act of worship. I agree with him. You see, as Christians, we are instructed that everything we do on a daily basis needs to be offered up to the Lord as worship: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Thus, we can conclude that worship involves offering ALL we have to God: “Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship” Romans 12:1

Therefore, I define being a worship leader in these terms:

To be respected, and therefore to influence others for the advancement of the Kingdom via your daily display of heart-felt humble adoration and reverence of God in all you do.

Or to put it more simply: acting out your total love, praise, and thankfulness to God, in every action you take and through this example, inspiring others to do the same.

You may think this sounds intimidating. Next time, I will provide some insight into understanding our responsibility to lead.


Break the Religious Boundary (“The Look”)

Religious boundaries are everywhere and they usually manifest from a place of fear and/or control. When something happens that shakes a religious paradigm, religion responds by seeking to control it. This often spills over into relationship. I pray that the following experience of mine will nudge you to risk a little in reputation, and reach out to brothers and sisters in Christ who may have gone through difficult transitions that caused them to step outside of your immediate circle of relationships.

Today in Mardel (a Christian bookstore ) I saw some old acquaintances I knew from our former church and I moved to greet them. The response I got is what I call “the look” and they turned and walked away. “The look” is something you will only experience if you have been though something similar to what my family and I have been. I can only describe it as a look of judgment mixed with surprise and fear. I am not really sure if that is the exact recipe since I don’t think I have ever given the look to anyone, but I certainly have been on the receiving end numerous times.

A little over a year ago I had a falling out in relationship with leadership at the church I was on staff at (which happened to be a large church), and when the emotional reactions started flying, I made a commitment to take the high road. To take that difficult, narrow path of turning the other cheek and not saying anything in response to what many perceived as attacks on my character. Though it was painful, I released judgment into the Lord’s hands and forgave, and attempted to forget…and hopefully learn something from the whole mess. I did not defend myself and learned not to try and tell my side of the story. The few times I did it always backfired the relationship so I remained silent in the midst of some sad and tough times for my family.

Now I experience “the look.” To help you relate to “the look,” I suppose it may be like someone who divorces and then encounters family members from the other side. Or someone who gets fired from a company and they see former co-workers at an industry event in town. In a nutshell “the look” says: “what are you doing here?” I have received it at ministry events around town, in other churches, at Christian concerts, etc.

The look has that sense that it’s a little odd to see me in a place like Mardel. It implies that because I left their church, I also may have left the Body of Christ so in fact why am I in a Christian book store? Like the four walls of the church I used to be in comprise the whole Kingdom. Maybe they think I am a backslider or that I lost my salvation. I only suggest this because once I got a comment (as opposed to the see-and-flee reaction), “are you still going to church?”

And there is an additional humorous (to me) result of this adjustment in relationship as well. People who used to religiously refer to me as “Pastor Mike” now abandon the honorific “Pastor” as if now that I am not on staff at that church I am now no longer a pastor. (Not that I ever wanted the moniker in the first place, it was a part of that particular church’s culture. I would joke that the pastoral was odd in that when you took the position, your name actually changed, like a doctor). Today I serve as a pastor on staff in what some may call a small church. Sometimes when I get “the look” I sense a judgment of demotion. That I must be down, and in a way, out. Over the past year I have respectfully turned down positions at churches that were very much larger than the one I left and also walked away from a corporation that promised an equity payout that would likely have equaled a huge sum in just a few years time. I did this through the leading of the Holy Spirit and now I serve at a church of roughly 250 believers. Our church follows all the Biblical mandates (e.g. care of widows and orphans, spread the Gospel, etc.). We feel fulfilled in relationship, are serving the community, and are growing in our walk with the Lord. Our prevailing posture is that we want to honor the Lord through our involvement in the church. I am there because God led my family and I there. Rather than a demotion, I sense it is more like a promotion.

In closing, I encourage any of you who know people who have had a separation in relationship or a separation from a group or church, to reach out. They may have made the decision to move on, or maybe that decision was made for them. But let that person know that you validate them as people, and as Christ followers, rather than in your silence, communicating judgment. A comment, note, card or email that says “hi, I have been thinking of you.” This may be an important ministry of yours. Treat others as you would wish to be treated. Break the religious boundary and act as a true member of the Body of Christ by “lov[ing] your neighbor as yourself.”


May 2023

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