Worship, meet Mission. Mission, meet Worship.

So last night, 7 of us from Oikos Church rode the Metro Rail south in the Near Northside from Moody Park. As we pulled up to the Fulton stop, a homeless gentleman got on board with a $5 Little Caesars pizza. With guitars in hand, we struck up a conversation, his name was Cowboy. I asked him about his thoughts with regards to the tension between the Northside and the Salvation Army. He spoke about how unfortunate it is that so many of the men at the shelter are working hard to succeed and then everyone wants you to leave the neighborhood because of “one bad apple.” As we pulled up to the Quitman platform, we got off, and he invited us to come into the Salvation Army facility to sing and pray with the men. This was a twist that I didn’t plan on… I was simply planning on worshiping and praying out front, but God put Cowboy in our path to direct our steps deeper into the heart of where we were going.

When we got to the side gate, out popped a security guard, who asked what we were there to do. So I explained that we just wanted to come worship and pray over the neighborhood and the Salvation Army and that Cowboy had requested we come inside instead. He then said he had to check with his supervisor, who then came out and asked the same question. He then gave us the okay to come in.

As we walked in, there were probably around 100 men, mostly veterans, sitting around this outdoor pavilion in a big square. We greeted a few as we walked in and were welcomed with smiles. We made our way to the center of the pavilion when all of a sudden a couple guys told us we’d better move. Sure enough, there were pigeons roosted above our head and they didn’t want us to get pooped on. However, Adrian’s homemade drum set didn’t make it without casualty. [Sidebar: Adrian made this sweet drum set out of plywood and tupperware that included a hole for his splash cymbal… no joke]. Then these two gentlemen thanked us for being there because we were needed. They gave us their blessing and encouragement.


So we sang “Good Good Father” by Housefires there amidst all the men. The volume of conversation came down. We got to declare who our Heavenly Father is to all the men, that’s He is a good father who is perfect in all of His ways to us and how we as His children are dearly loved by Him. Our time in the pavilion was cut short since the men had trouble hearing their names being called over the music, so then I gave a blessing over the men that God would draw them close to His heart, that His kingdom would reign in this place, that these men would be blessed with health and prosperity, for safety, for transformation, for faith, hope, love and peace.


Ready for another twist? Another gentleman came up to us and recommended that we come back regularly because they currently do not have anyone leading music for their chapel service. What?! We not only received an invitation into the Salvation Army shelter, but got invited to come back. And as we walked out the gates, the security guard who let us in said, “Do you remember me? I met you on the Metro stop last month when you sat on the platform and worshiped with your two friends.” I shouldn’t be surprised at these people the Lord leads me to, but was simply encouraging that nothing we do nor place we go is ever wasted by the Lord.

The night was still young, so us 7 and a couple gentlemen continued with more worship and prayer out front for 30-45 minutes. We prayed for the homeless, we prayed for the Northside residents, we prayed that there would be reconciliation between the neighborhood and Harbor Light (Salvation Army), we declared God’s victory over the evil that has occurred, heaven touched earth on North Main last night.

The afternoon prior to our adventure, I sat down and wrote a song I felt the Lord wanted me to write over this place and situation. Here is the chorus:

“Your light shines into the night // You’ve won, we’ve won // All wrongs made right”

So here are my reflections…

  1. The Holy Spirit will often just give us a glimpse of the mission when he speaks to us, and only when we step out in obedience, even with all the ambiguity that can come with it, do we get to see how the mission is unfolding.
  2. Jesus’ Person of Peace strategy works. In Luke 10, Jesus chooses 72 disciples to go out into towns to search for the persons of peace. He asked them to greet them with peace and if your peace rests upon the household, then stay there. If your greeting of peace is not accepted, then shake the dust from your feet and move on. Harbor Light was a house of peace for us last night. And if this is the case, transformation in Christ is inevitable.
  3. I’ve been praying often for how my Homebrewed spiritual family (missional community) can dig our heels into the Near Northside, and hasn’t been until last night that that was revealed. For me, this reaffirms reflection #1, we need to step out and engage the community we are in in order to find our house of peace.

My prayer for my neighbors is that we embrace our victory in Jesus. In Him we can be strong and courageous without fear, darkness cannot exist when the light shines, and as God’s sons and daughters we get to proclaim the Good News of Jesus that in His kingdom all wrongs are made right. The catch? In order to see the kingdom of God we may have to take a risk and love our homeless neighbors enough to go say hello and introduce ourselves. And if you’re feeling really risky, maybe even invite them into your life… and your home.

If you’re interested in joining my homebrewed spiritual family at Harbor Light, hit me up at jason@theoikos.org. It looks as if we may be having a predictable rhythm of worship and prayer in the near future pending a couple conversations.

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Worship as War @ Near Northside

Three of us sat on the METRO Rail platform in the Near Northside of Houston, Texas with two guitars and a viola. Worship from our hearts. Music from our hands. Prayers from our lips. And a police office in our line of sight…


Ashley and I have had the unique privilege of journeying with a dozen or so other worship leaders in the Love & War Learning Community led by Jon Shirley and the Gathering Network in Kansas City, Missouri. It has been a wild and fun (and hard) ride where we have been stretched in our understanding of what it means to be worship leaders; more importantly incarnational worship leaders. We’ve tackled practices like hearing God’s voice and the role of prophecy, incarnation over presentation, and most recently during our last trip to KC we tackled the practice of intercessory worship, what Jon calls Worship as War. So during our time in KC, we all split up into groups of 4 and set out into the ‘hood with our guitars and our orange Home Depot 5 gallon buckets. What? We’re doing what? Our task was to move out into the neighborhood, pray that the Lord would show us where to go, and when we decided where to sit, we would pray, listen, and then worship over that section of the city. We would then take what we heard the Holy Spirit saying and then write a song for that specific moment in time for that specific place. We were going to war for the kingdom of God against the enemy. It was a good stretch, but how were we to incorporate this into our rhythm of life back home in Houston?

Well, it took a couple of months being back home before I heard the Lord speak. In my discipleship huddle, I invited my guys to join me on a prophetic prayer walk one week day. My friend Victor and I parked at Moody Park, prayed that the Lord would speak to us, that He would show us who we were to speak to that day as we walked. Neither of us came away with a clear word from the Lord, but we walked to the platform, got on the train and headed to the Quitman stop on the Red Line at North Main. We sat, we prayed, we talked, we listened. I made a comment that, “Man… Houston needs more street musicians. This would be an awesome spot for some music.” Then bam… it hit me. The Lord spoke. “I am a musician,” I thought. I shared it with Victor and then remember our worship adventure in Kansas City. Perhaps this is how the Lord wants me to go to war for my neighborhood. To bless those in my part of the city with some music and to go to war for them… through worship, music, and prayer.

It’s worth some biblical support for this, so I’ll throw out to you what Jon threw out to us:

13 As all the men of Judah stood before the Lord with their little ones, wives, and children, 14 the Spirit of the Lord came upon one of the men standing there. His name was Jahaziel son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite who was a descendant of Asaph.

15 He said, “Listen, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Listen, King Jehoshaphat! This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. 16 Tomorrow, march out against them. You will find them coming up through the ascent of Ziz at the end of the valley that opens into the wilderness of Jeruel. 17 But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord’s victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the Lord is with you!

18 Then King Jehoshaphat bowed low with his face to the ground. And all the people of Judah and Jerusalem did the same, worshiping the Lord. 19 Then the Levites from the clans of Kohath and Korah stood to praise the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud shout.

20 Early the next morning the army of Judah went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. On the way Jehoshaphat stopped and said, “Listen to me, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be able to stand firm. Believe in his prophets, and you will succeed.”

21 After consulting the people, the king appointed singers to walk ahead of the army, singing to the Lord and praising him for his holy splendor. This is what they sang: 

“Give thanks to the Lord;
    his faithful love endures forever!”

22 At the very moment they began to sing and give praise, the Lord caused the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir to start fighting among themselves.23 The armies of Moab and Ammon turned against their allies from Mount Seir and killed every one of them. After they had destroyed the army of Seir, they began attacking each other. 24 So when the army of Judah arrived at the lookout point in the wilderness, all they saw were dead bodies lying on the ground as far as they could see. Not a single one of the enemy had escaped.

— 2 Chronicles 20:13-24 NLT

Worship as War. The battle belonged to the Lord. So the singers (Worship Leaders) were placed on the front. They sang and then we read that the enemy became confused and started fighting each other! Get out!

So this past week on June 23rd around 11am, I took our two Oikos Church interns, Wynn and Rachel (also musicians), with me to the METRO Rail. We parked at Moody Park, rode the rail to Quitman @ North Main with two guitars and a viola. With a bit of fear and hesitation we sat down and started playing “Great Are You Lord” by All Sons and Daughters. There were a few people around us, but not too many. As the sun beat down, we sang and played our hearts out as my heart broke for my neighborhood. Houston’s Near Northside has undergone a recent tragedy with the heinous murder of 11-year-old Josue Flores; it’s brought about both fear and solidarity within my neighborhood. I heard the Lord saying he will pour out His peace on this place. So we simply vamped on the instrumental and I tried my best to sing the prayer over the song (this is an art and skill that would do me good to practice!). But I did it: “God, pour out Your peace, release Your peace, here in this place.” Did it work? We’ll get to that.

So we moved on to another song and as we made it to the middle of verse two of “My Lighthouse” by Rend Collective, the METRO Rail Train rolls up and who steps out but a Houston Police Officer. As soon as she stepped off the train, she walked right up to us and said, “What are you guys doing?” Her tone didn’t carry the melody of genuine curiosity… it was more contemptuous and caustic. So I said we were worshiping over the Near Northside and praying for peace. She then told us that we could only be there if we purchased a METRO ticket and asked if we had them. So one by one, she asked each of us to pull out our tickets. We were good until 2:30pm. Phew! Glad we actually purchased our tickets. Before she walked way, she muttered that what we were doing was weird. Well… yeah, I thought so, too in a way! So we continued with our song.

As lunchtime approached and having about 30 minutes of worshiping under our belt, the engagement with others started to happen. We had a guy who was previously homeless, but now a pastor and college student worship with us and film us as we sang “Good Good Father” by Housefires. That got the attention of others, so more came near. We then decided to wrap up. So we stood up and invited the others on the platform to huddle up and pray with us. I kid you not… every man on that platform joined us in prayer. There were probably 10 of us. And the last guy to join us ran from the other end of the platform to make sure he didn’t miss this opportunity. So there we were… mostly strangers, with arms around one another, praying for peace in the Near Northside, that God’s kingdom would breakthrough, that people would be freed from addictions, that crime would stop, that God’s love would be known and felt. We said amen and then the thanksgivings were abundant. One man thanked us several times, because he stated that this immediate has been a very dark place for a long time and that his day was now better because of this. His day was better. The joy of the Lord captured the hearts and minds of those around us. Even the officer left with a half-smile (no… she didn’t stick around to pray, but maybe next time!).

So we got back on the train and headed back to Moody Park. Well… we weren’t done yet. We had the opportunity to sing and worship on the train with some other passengers who were intrigued with our instruments. These two young men said that wanted to be soothed… and soothed they were. They said that song would be stuck in their head all day. Music and worship soothes the soul and is a way of bringing beauty into ugliness, love into hate, light into darkness, and bringing the dead back to life. We went to war for these people and I’m confident that many battles were won that day. The battle belongs to the Lord. And yes, much like the battle of King Jehoshaphat, there was some confusion. But mostly hope. And no one died, which was good.

Worship Leaders, what is the Lord saying to you? How is he inviting you to go to war for Him? What does it look like for you to worship over your city? To intercede on behalf of others? To fight spiritual battles via worship? To make life more beautiful?

Me? Well, this is going to be a weekly practice for me, a predictable pattern. This will be something I will be doing with my new worship leader intern Ian when he begins this July. I also hope this pattern will be an opportunity for a movement to begin to grow within our city of Houston, and I hope to invite other worship leaders in this fine Bayou City to join us. I believe this practice of Worship as War will be a catalyst for a movement of incarnational worship leaders who can begin to live on mission when off the Sunday stage.

I hope this gets you excited. It sure breathes life into my ministry. It’s nothing short of an adventure. Would love to hear from you.

-JP

Following Directions Even When You Didn’t Hear ‘Em

This morning at our daily devotions at Target Central Starbucks, we were discussing hearing the voice of the Lord even during times when He seems silent. We know that the Lord delights to speak to us, spend time with us, and hear from us. However, we also have seasons where either the Lord is withholding His voice, or perhaps the silence is created by all the distractions and cloudiness within our own mind. Either way, God’s character never changes and even in the silence we know that God is near.

As a spiritual family, we read through the Moravian Daily Texts together and this morning’s Psalm was Psalm 77:10-15; a Psalm of Asaph:

10 And I said, “This is my fate;
    the Most High has turned his hand against me.”
11 But then I recall all you have done, O Lord;
    I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago.
12 They are constantly in my thoughts.
    I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works.

13 O God, your ways are holy.
    Is there any god as mighty as you?
14 You are the God of great wonders!
    You demonstrate your awesome power among the nations.
15 By your strong arm, you redeemed your people,
    the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.

In verses 1-10, Asaph is lamenting because God has seemed to have “turned his hand” against him. A time of silence. A time of painful stillness. A time of trouble. However, in verse 11, Asaph’s faith kicks in.

When we can’t hear the voice of the Lord, we then can rely on what we know the Father’s character to be. God is a good father. When we can’t hear him speaking, we still know who he is. When he seems far, we know He is close. When we don’t know what to do, we still have the example of Jesus.

It reminds me of a conversation, well, several conversations actually, with my oldest daughter Bella. We often talk about how she can best represent Ashley and I when she is at school. I remind her often of who she is, she is a Phelps. And we are constantly teaching our children what it means to be a Phelps. Our identity, who and whose we are, forms how we live. Obedience is always flows from our identity. So I remind Bella to remember who her dad is… what kind of decisions do I make? how do I show love? How do I serve? How do I talk to others? What are my priorities? These are things that I hope she remembers, so that when she’s faced with situations she can remember what her dad would do. That she would hear my voice in her head even when I’m not there. But more importantly, I want her to know that she is God’s daughter and I want her to imitate Jesus. I love this quote of Craig Groeschel: “When you know who you are, you know what to do.” (That phrase is said a lot around my house!)

It’s similar with God. We know His character, so even when we can’t hear His voice specifically, we still have a pretty good idea of what Jesus would do. We know who we are, too. We are His kids. And because we are His kids, we represent Him wherever we go. So let’s do what we know He would do.

So today, as I drove home from devotions I didn’t necessarily have a plan for how I would exactly spend my time. So I prayed: “Lord, what is your plan for me today? How should I spend my time? Who should I talk to to? Where should I go?” I had sort of planned to go to our church campus and get some planning done, work on the website, write a song, and other office-type work, but I decided to go home first last minute. As I pulled onto my street, there were my neighbors shoveling two cubic yards of limestone and sand for the pavers they were going to install for their new backyard patio. Alright, here we go. So I got to spend an hour or so shoveling rock with my neighbors. And it was good.

I’m thankful I had the opportunity I did. I didn’t hear the Lord tell me to help my neighbor. But I knew that Jesus would have if He were me earlier today. So take the time in all your comings and goings to consider what Jesus would do if he were you. And I even had  time to finish all the other work I wanted to do (including this blog post), and I feel more energized.

Missional worship leaders are good neighbors. Good neighbors bear good fruit. Good fruit produces more good fruit. How can you be a good neighbor this week?