CMB 007 : Joe Day of Mars Hill Church

joedayIn this episode, I spoke with worship pastor from Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Joe Day. Joe is a family man, a songwriter, and he oversees the worship ministries at two of Mars Hill’s campuses. He has a lot on his plate, so I was grateful for the time to sit down with him.
As I mentioned in the session, I have a few more notes than normal for this particular episode. We talked about a lot!

I bolded the primary things that jumped out to me.

Clarity Over Creativity

I think this is so important. It certainly applies to you if you’re serving as a worship leader in a collective, congregational context. If you’re writing songs for Church gatherings this is huge…

What’s the point of the gathering? What’s the big idea? Is it Jesus?

The point is this:

…Make it obvious.

Listen to or download the podcast here, and check out the detailed show notes below….


Here are few of the things that were said:

  • Joe’s songwriting story in the Seattle music scene:
  • His old Gibson LGO and considering the lyrics
  • Joshua Tree experience
  • Played drums in bands first
  • Had no intention of being a pastor
  • Bands as a ministry, but not a part of a local church….. freedom?? Nope.
  • The need for pastoral oversight
  • Visited a church and kept going
  • The band almost signed a contract, but he felt called to the local church
  • 1998, the first Acts 29 church plant
  • Songwriting as a pastor…. Does it change??
  • Every song is a worship song?
  • Worship songs according to Mars Hill: Crist centered, congregational, and musically accesible
  • Their desire is for people to meet Jesus…. Their music serves that desire
  • The distinction between congregational (or “church worship”) vs. non-congregational
  • Clarity over creativity
  • Paul in 1 Cor giving up his freedom for the sake of others
  • Don’t think less of creativity, but rather, employ it to clearly communicate Jesus….
  • So…. lyrics that are clearly Christ centered…
  • Not leaving things hanging in the air, but seeing things resolved… in Christ
  • Gospel being the center and not leaving much to abstraction….
  • Avoiding buzz phrases that sound good but don’t say much
  • The flip side of this is thinking of the people who are unchurched
  • Wanting people to know Jesus…. experiencing his love and grace
  • Art for only art’s sake is dangerous…. (but art should be highly valued…)
  • Is Jesus higher than everything else?
  • Band in the club (non “worship music”): What are you trying to accomplish? What are your convictions?
  • Leading worship in the church teaches you how to arrange music that helps people respond, which helps you when you’re playing music “out there”
  • At the same time…. have a space for experimentation
  • His album Grace
  • Currently, pastoral ministry is taking up time and giving him a full plate
  • Joe’s songwriting process (and EVERNOTE)
  • Pennies in the Bank… (ESM!!!!!!)
  • Writing lots of verses… then picking the best!!
  • don’t stop at just your first three four verses
  • His co-writing experiences – Death to Life (Tooth and Nail… Nate Garvey)
  • Writing in solitude vs co-writing
  • Mars Hill Music
  • Encouragement in the Great Commission (make disciples, plant churches)
  • Jesus is with us!!! He should be the vision
  • Work backward from there….. Location > Tulsa? > How do people in the city respond to music… what are they responding to?
  • There’s nothing sacred about a “worship team”
  • Elevate the vision, and people will sacrifice their time and comfort
  • If people are energized with what you’re doing then, burn out is the last thing on their mind….
  • All the forms that we employ are tweak-able!! Nothing about the forms are sacred…

Joe’s Links

Twitter – @joeday

 2013 Mars Hill Music

Tooth and Nail and Mars Hill Music is getting the music and message out…

Here are some of the bands:


Ghost Ship

Dustin Kensrue

Kings Kaleidoscope

And make sure to visit the music site here –

Twitter – @marshillmusic

Other Things Mentioned (for ESM – Evernote Songwriting Method)

5 Reasons to Kill “Christian Music” – (What do you think?)

***This article is philosophically meaty. It requires you to be actively engaged with your thinking cap on as you read it. It’s provocative and insightful on certain points, but I think there is a good chance for him to be misunderstood at the same time, so certain things need to be clarified (in my opinion…)

I’ve considered writing a blog post in response to it at some point so standby for that…

Want to meet each other??

Join the CMB Facebook group (I mentioned this in the beginning of the episode here.)