AuthorBob Castelline

The worship leader — like a pair of glasses

During my years as a church musician, I’ve experienced just about every type of worship situation imaginable.

I’ve played conferences where things were so crazy, so charismatic, that I was afraid somebody would call the cops. Other times, I’ve been the only musician in a room with one or two silent prayer warriors. I’ve seen people speak in tongues, anoint with oil, paint stunning images on canvas, share incredible testimonies, create spontaneous songs, and heal the sick.

Of course, most of my time has been spent in worship that looks a lot like what we do on Sunday mornings. And believe me, I’m thankful for that.

Yes, there are many styles, customs, and experiences in worship. But a common thread weaves its way through all of it — the most profound, life-changing worship happens when God’s people earnestly seek His heart.

And that can’t happen unless the worship leader is transparent. Continue reading

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5 things your Worship Leader isn’t there to do (and probably shouldn’t even try)

I hear it nearly every week. And every week, it brings out the same feelings in me.

The music was GREAT today!

There was a time in my life that such a compliment would absolutely make my day. And why not? A very nice person has made the effort to walk up to me and validate the thing I care most about. In many cases, that person has made a special point to search me out and tell me how much the music moved them. I should be over the moon, right?

But for the longest time, something about that comment made me uncomfortable. I’d smile and say, “Thank you,” but inside, I just wanted to hide. It didn’t make sense. I mean, why should something so wonderful cause me such heartache?

Finally it dawned on me.

When you say, “The music was great today,” it means I have FAILED.

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Any old song will do? Not a chance.

Choosing songs for worship used to be pretty easy. You simply grabbed the hymnal, maybe peeked in the back at the keyword index, and “take your pick.” Any song will do.


Choosing worship songs has never been more complicated.

Today, it’s a different story. Modern worship planners stand beneath an avalanche of praise and worship choruses. With more than 100,000 songs available and hundreds of songs playing on the radio, never before have we had so much music to choose from.

And never before have worship leaders shouldered as much responsibility for the quality of music as they do now. In bygone days, hymns were included in hymnals only after a panel of theologians and musicians had deemed them appropriate for worship. In the modern worship era, that job falls to individual worship leaders.

All this may leave you wondering: How does a worship leader select the songs? Here are three simple-yet-important questions I ask when considering a new song for worship.


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Ready, set, go! The 2-minute Gospel


Ever had to make an elevator pitch?

You know, the idea where you convince somebody of something in the time it takes to ride in an elevator. It’s talked about mostly in the field of sales, but it applies to any situation where you need to make your case in a short period of time. Most sales people tell you that’s about two minutes, max.

Now, let’s be real here. You can’t convince someone, even the most impulsive person imaginable, to make a major life decision in two minutes. But you CAN pique their interest and make them want to know more. And that’s the real art of the elevator pitch.

In the case of Christianity, I like to call it The 2-Minute Gospel. And I think everybody ought to have one at the ready. Understand, by “gospel,” I’m not talking about reciting the entire books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in two minutes. By “gospel,” I’m talking about Miriam Webster’s FOURTH definition.

Gospel: Something accepted or promoted as infallible truth or as a guiding principle.

In other words, we’re talking about truth. And my question for you today is simple: Can you state what YOU believe to be true about God in 2 minutes or less?

In this day and age of outcry against public dissemination of God’s word, it’s more important than ever for Christians to be able to share the truth — individually, quickly, passionately. The world won’t allow us to stand on the street corner and shout it anymore. First Amendment or not, that right is being abridged daily.

But we can share His truth one-on-one. Are you ready?

And here’s the thing … you never know when the opportunity may arise. It could be in line at the grocery store. In the break room at work. Riding the bus to work. Anywhere. We simply can’t afford to be caught off guard.

So here’s my challenge you: Develop a 2-minute gospel. Edit it until you can do it in 2 minutes or less. Practice it on other believers to see if it’s effective. Have it ready, then USE it when you have the chance.

In a moment, I’m going to share my 2-minute gospel. It’s my way of explaining what I believe, and yours will be different. My gospel really breaks down in to three sections.

1. God created everything.
2. God gave us free will so that we would choose to love Him.
3. We messed it up, so He sent Jesus to pay the penalty that should be ours.

My 2-minute gospel is below. Believe it or not, I can recite this in exactly two minutes. I know because I’ve practiced it many times. You can also find it in the What I Believe section of this blog.

Good luck with yours. I pray that you have a chance to use it.

Bob’s 2-Minute Gospel

I believe God created everything. Heaven, earth, stars, planets, people … maybe even little green men from outer space. Who knows?

I believe He created us so He could love us. At the same time, I believe He left us to decide whether we’d love Him back. Why would He do that? Well, think about it. What kind of relationship would it be if He simply programmed us to love Him? We’d be like Stepford wives. It wouldn’t be real. And that would leave God very lonely.

I believe we messed it up in the Garden of Eden when we decided we needed to know what God knows. Silly us. We can’t know everything He knows. But satan (I won’t even capitalize his name, that’s how much I despise him) tricked us into thinking we could. That led us to sin, which is separation from God. We had paradise in the bag. After the fall, we got our eyes opened to the real world. We became slaves to sin.

I believe that our colossal blunder cost us eternity with God because God can’t have filthy people in heaven (or anything less than perfection, for that matter). Our sentence became an eternal party in the lake of fire, hosted by satan himself.

I believe that God loved us so much, however, that He just couldn’t stand to see us suffer for all eternity. So He made a way for us to be washed spotless — by sending His son, Jesus, to die in our place.

I believe Jesus did come to earth, born of a virgin (yep, a virgin), and lived among us, teaching us everything we needed to know in order to carry out God’s plan. The religious leaders of the time felt threatened by His presence, so they conspired with the Romans to have Him put to death in a gruesome manner on the cross. They thought they had defeated Jesus, but they didn’t know it was all part of God’s plan.

I believe that Jesus rose from the grave after three days, defeating death and completing the job He had been sent to do, fulfilling the prophesies of Isaiah and others from hundreds of years earlier. He made a way.

I believe He returned to heaven to be with His Father, after a time with His closest friends.

I believe God then sent the Holy Spirit to be with us and guide us until the day Jesus returns.

And finally, I believe that I — along with anyone who chooses to believe in what Jesus did for us — will live eternally with God someday in an unimaginable paradise.

It seems like a lot. It’s actually very simple. And the question is … what do you believe?

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What? Me worry?


I’m told it’s a virtue. Honestly, I wouldn’t know. I have none.

OK, that’s not true. I have plenty of patience for other people. But I have none for myself, as anyone who knows me can attest. And I have very little patience for things that are out of my control, especially when there’s an outcome I really care about.

Who wouldn’t want a house with a gorgeous family room like this?

For example, my wife and I are trying to sell our home. We’ve done lots of great work to the place — landscaping, siding, roofing, and a bunch of stuff to the inside to really make the house beautiful. It looks fabulous. Here’s a photo of our family room, which is a source of great satisfaction for me because I designed it myself. Pretty great, huh? I mean, this home is READY. Somebody’s going to get a great deal.

Here’s the problem … I’m an impatient ball of stress. Continue reading

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SCOTUS ruling … not even a blip on eternity’s radar

The recent Supreme Court ruling that gives same-sex couples the right to marry has, to say the least, caused a great deal of hoopla in this country.

SCOTUSEvangelical Christians are up in arms with the decision. After all, it’s pretty clear in the bible that God intends marriage to be the union of one man and one woman. Allowing same-sex marriage is akin to condoning sin.

Meanwhile, the LGBT community and its supporters are celebrating. This is about an individual’s right to choose his or her own lifestyle. Evangelicals can’t tell us how to live, they say.

And you know what? The LGBT community is right.
They DO have the choice. After all, that’s how God made things.

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Jesus never preached tolerance

Christ urine

Offended? You must be intolerant.

In 1987, photographer Andre Sarano shot an image of a small crucifix submerged in a jar filled with some sort of amber liquid. What was that liquid? Well, the title — Piss Christ — should be a fairly obvious clue.

In 1996, mixed-media artist Chris Ofili created a painting of the virgin Mary that hung in a prominent New York gallery. His media? Pornographic images and elephant dung.

To the surprise of no one, Christians were deeply offended by both of these works of art. But the more progressive minded of our country demanded tolerance. Never mind that both works were funded, in part, by taxpayer dollars. All forms of art are legitimate, even if they offend. Nobody’s forcing you to look at it.

You must be tolerant, they said.

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‘Don’t lie’ doesn’t mean ‘don’t speak’

Recently in church, we talked about the 9th commandment. “You will not bear false witness.” In other words, “Don’t lie.”

It’s part of a 10-week series about the 10 Commandments, and I have to admit … it’s been tough for me. Week after week, Pastor Glen Blumer stands up on the platform and tells me something I find very hard to swallow: “You can’t follow 10 simple rules.”

See, I’m a competitive guy by nature, so my first instinct is to take each commandment as a challenge.

Glen says, “You can’t follow this commandment.”

Bob says, “Wanna bet?”

Take the 9th commandment. Don’t lie. OK, I won’t. I mean, how easy is THAT? In fact, if I so much as FEEL THE URGE to lie, I’ll just shut my mouth. If I don’t say ANYTHING, it’s all good, right?

Yes! Yes! YES! (Fist pump with each “yes”) Take that, Blumer!

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Keeping Your Antennae Up

Occasionally I’m asked how I go about writing songs. Do I write the music first? Do the lyrics come first? Where do I get my ideas?

Honestly, the “music or lyrics” question is kind of like the chicken and the egg. It’s hard to say which comes first. In fact, I’d say it varies by song. But one thing that never varies is where I get my ideas. Or more accurately, how I get them.

antenna-my-favorite-martianI keep my antennae up.

No, I don’t have strange pointy things growing out of my head. I’m also not an alien, although I can look like one on a bad hair day. But what I do have is a pretty keen awareness of my surroundings. An ear to the ground. An eye to the environment. I notice things. And that’s where the vast majority of my song ideas come from. It’s pretty rare when anything else works, at least for me. I can’t just go into a room with a pen and paper and go, “OK, I’m going to write a song now.” If I were to try that, chance are I’d get bored within about 4 minutes and pop on Netflix for an exciting episode of Breaking Bad. Continue reading

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The Amazing Serendipity of God

Anyone who hangs around me long enough finds out that I’m sort of a word nerd. I’m fascinated by the way words sound when we speak them, and how they work together when we form thoughts and sentences. If I say, “The sun smiles on my face,” it evokes a completely different emotion than if I say, “The sun is in my eyes.” I believe my word fixation really helps me as a songwriter. It keeps me (hopefully) from singing words that sound bad when you sing them, or pairing words that make for awkward phrasing.

I’m particularly fascinated by words known as “ideophones,” which can be quickly defined as words that give a vivid representation of an idea by their sound. In other words, they sound like what they mean. Some examples in the English language are pitter-patter (the sound of rain), twinkle (something sparkly or shiny), swish (the sound of swift movement), and ta-da (the sound of fanfare). Ideophones don’t really work as written elements … they don’t take on the characteristic unless you say them aloud, or at least think about how they sound when spoken aloud.

PitterPatterOne of my favorite ideophones – or at least I think it’s an ideophone – is the word “serendipity.” It just sounds happy. Musical. Joyful. Colorful. And with good reason – serendipity describes a chance event that occurs in a happy or beneficial way. Basically, serendipity is a stroke of good luck.

It’s interesting. The more I read scripture, the more I begin to see that serendipity actually comes from God. Continue reading

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