This one is a bit different… hope you like.

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Before I post my final review, I’d love to point out a few of my friend’s takes on the event:
Nate Fancher on REDISCOVERING THE PSALMS
Brad Loser’s WORSHIPGOD08 DEBRIEF
and conference host/speaker/dude, Bob Kauflin’s overviews of Craig & Thabiti’s talks, and Mark & David’s.
I think you’ll find we were in significant agreement about the conference.

If the other electives available were even half as helpful/enjoyable/awesome as those I signed up for, then this may have been the greatest conference in history.

My first elective was THE TASK OF THE WORSHIP LEADER led by none other that Bob Kauflin himself.  And our task?  To be diligent in connecting individuals, where they are, to WHO HE IS, not to encourage people’s faith to be placed in a song, an emotion, or even a worship leader, but in Christ, as revealed in His Word.  He encouraged all of us worship leaders to:
1.) value the content of a worship song more than it’s hook,
2.) adjust our arrangements & volumes to serve & showcase the lyrical content of worship songs, &
3.) use instrumental solos wisely, in order to be careful to not turn ‘worship’ into mere performance.
 
Yes – it was challenging AND convicting.  His closing statement challenged us to “never settle for having a good meeting”, because meeting with God should be far more than that.  Amen.

My second elective was WRITING SONGS PEOPLE WILL WANT TO SING by Craig Dunnagan.  Craig is an old friend of our Worship Director, Fred McKinnon, and I can see why – they have historically shared a common vision, and interests.  This was, according to Craig, the first time he’s taught specifically on this issue – I wouldn’t have known.  He shared on the priestly, pastoral, and practical heart of Psalmists, told fascinating stories about other songs & artists we’re all familiar with, and best of all encouraged us in writing corporate worship songs that are both theologically correct AND accessible.  My favorite quote from his session: “a great worship song sounds like ANYBODY COULD have written it, but only one person DID.”  O, Holy Spirit, birth at least one of those songs in me.

Next I sat in on a mass guitar lesson with Drew Shirley of Switchfoot, who is a member at a Sovereign Grace church in Cali.  He was humble, approachable, and hardly – if it weren’t for his clothes – would strike you as a rock-star at all.  Sadly, he had JUST arrived as the session began, and was a bit scattered, actually hooking up equipment WHILE teaching.  He gave some fairly simple tips, likely more helpful to the beginning guitarist than the more experienced.  I, personally, was far more blessed by his presence and his heart than by his actual lessons.  That says a lot, I think.  

Next was the most horrifying session of the whole conference: the SONG EVALUATION led by experienced successful worship songwriter, Mark Altrogge.  I entered the room to see my own song, All in All, front & center, loaded up in iTunes and projected onto the screen in the front of the whole room, which was A PACKED HOUSE! Ack!  Even with Brad & Lowell behind me cheering me on, I felt my stomach in my throat, expected it to be shredded.  Thankfully, it wasn’t – in fact, the critique was overall very positive.  Whew!

Sadly, I only attended the first part of Todd Twining’s excellent VOCAL BLENDING elective.  The content was fabulous, but I couldn’t stay awake – coffee couldn’t do a thing…I simply needed a nap.  That said, I stayed for 3/4s of the session, and took a lot home, but it would be hard to share in a blog – very practical stuff.

Lastly, the only session I found somewhat disappointing was TRAINING UP THE NEXT GENERATION OF WORSHIP LEADERS.  I suspect that was because it really was different than I suspected, and they were following so many days of great material.  One thing that struck me was something they said that echoed one of my own beliefs: “encourage all guitarist TO SING”, that way they not only are able to demonstrate worship on stage, but they are able to engage with God through the content and not simply perform, which is the temptation.

Overall, they were some excellent sessions.  Honestly, I’d love to attend another Sovereign Grace conference someday.  Kudos to them for making this one so impactful.

Anyone who’s been following me on Twitter, BeenUp2, or Facebook is likely well aware that I have been in Gaithersburg, MD at the Worship God ’08 Conference hosted by Covenant Life Church/Sovereign Grace Ministries, and what an experience it has been so far!

I’ve been blessed to hook up face-to-face and get to know some fellow TheWorshipCommunity members, like Brad & Lowell from Clear Creek Community Church (who have taken me in like a member of their own church family), and other gifted and friendly worship leaders like Nate from Grace Church in Chapel Hill, Tim & Joel from Mars Hill Seattle, and Ryan & Jonathan from West Coast Revival, as well as the whole Sovereign Grace Music crew, who are incredibly friendly (when Bob Kauflin glanced at my name-tag and recognized my name he proclaimed “I AM SO GLAD YOU COULD MAKE IT!” then gave me a monster bear-hug… that definitely made me feel more than welcome).

One thing that really stands out about this conference is that, in spite of the foremention list of folks, this has really been a conference for the ‘average’ worship leader: very little ‘flash & bang’ or big production.  Worship has been led by real worship teams that lead on Sundays at various churches, leading mostly original songs written in-house at their specific church.  We’ve also been exposed to a WIDE variety of musical forms: bluegrass, jazz, rock, gospel, and combinations I don’t dare label, but which worked wonderfully (one team consisted of a Coldplay-esque rock worship band, accompanied by a violin & viola, drum-loops, record scratching, a black gospel singer, and a soulful blue harmonica player – oh, and they led almost soley old hymns… and for some reason, it wasn’t even that weird, in the moment).

I’ve got a great deal of content to share, but that will have to come later.  Needless to say, this conference has already been of great benefit to me, and I encourage any who have a chance to go in the future to do so.  More to come…

Every once in a while I have a week were I get to live my dreams (like here, here, & here, for instance): this week is one of them.

On this past Sunday night I got to lead worship at the Gathering Place for the first time.  This has been a dream of mine since my first visit to Brunswick and the Golden Isles.  Now, as the Worship Leader for the Gathering Place this Summer, I will be leading multiple teams of High School Musicians – a first in the 28 years the GP has existed – in leading the 1,000+ youth who come from all over to hear the Word taught by some excellent speakers, and worship together in an atmosphere that can be called nothing short of “EXCITING”!  This past Sunday was our first of the Summer, and it was CRAZY!

On Monday night I rehearsed with next week’s team for this coming Sunday.  The two guitarists working with us this week are Freshman in Highschool, but you wouldn’t know it to hear them.  Rehearsal was not only fun, but also a great encouragement to even the adults present.  To see High School kids worshiping God with passion, learning to work together as a team – to see them GET the BIG PICTURE is just exciting!

Last night I spent recording my wife’s vocals, and putting some final touches on a high energy corporate worship song we wrote called “All in All”.  An early demo of it can be heard on our Virb site.  We hope to mix it this weekend, to make it available for free at my brother-n-law’s c.d. release party on the 20th.  More on that in a few days.

Today – in just a few minutes – I will be heading over to St. Simons Community Church to lead spontaneous worship during a corporate prayer time we have there weekly.  I won’t say I’m not a little nervous, as spontaneity is not one of my gifts, but I’m more than willing to step out in faith and give it a try.  God will catch me.

Tonight, a highlight of every week, is Inside Out.  I’ve been leading the worship team there for a few years now: I love the kids – I love the energy – I love the ministry that takes place there.  Honestly, I look forward to Wednesdays the same way most people look towards Friday.

On Thursday night I’ll be rehearsing with Harriet Jones, preparing for Sunday morning at SSCC.  Friday night I will be mixing “All in All”.  Saturday morning I will be rehearsing with Saint Lewis to prepare for next week’s concert.  Sunday morning, singing tenor & playing a little guitar for both services at SSCC, and then I’ll be back at the GP for the 2nd main event.

I’m sure to some it sounds exhausting, and physically, it is.  But I feel so blessed with opportunity during weeks like this – I get to live my dream of playing music, & worshiping God.  It gets no better than this.

What makes you feel valued – of worth? Gifts? A phone call? Has anyone ever sung a song for you (Happy Birthday, per chance)? Better yet, has anyone ever WRITTEN a song for you? Music is powerful – SINGING IS POWERFUL. I’m serious: guys, if you know you are ugly, and you want to get married one day, buy an instrument NOW! But, music – and singing – is not enough. What if someone wrote you a song, but then hit on your best friend? Wouldn’t be quite as cool, would it? In fact, you’d probably despise that song, and turn the radio station any time it came on. There is more to feeling loved – to being praised- than simply being sung about, or to. This is an important point: WORSHIP IS NOT – at least not in any ‘ultimate’ sense – ABOUT SINGING, and, in the most important sense of the term, I am not your “worship leader”.

Sure, I may lead people in song, and on my best days (or, hopefully, MOST days) I encourage then to sing to God, but that’s not necessarily ‘worship’, and at best that makes me a ‘lead worshiper’ or a ‘song-leader’, not a worship leader. My ‘official title’ here at the church, at least the one on my job description, says “Associate Music Director”, which is very appropriate, I think, and Biblical.

I know what some people THINK we worship leaders are trying to do. I’ve heard it. Haven’t you ever heard someone who was really into a corporate worship service say of the so-called ‘worship leader’; “he really led me into the presence of God”? Or were you the one who said it? Now, I think I understand their heart, and what they’re TRYING to convey, but they were absolutely wrong because NO worship leader today can do that! I can’t do that – I was never MEANT to do that! But, someone else was, and DID! Read the rest of this entry »

I’ve always enjoyed conferences. I come away from them rested (even apart from getting no sleep, oft-times!), encouraged, challenged, and just plain excited, with a fresh of vision of what I can do and how things can be. Wouldn’t it be nice to take your whole team to a conference? Unfortunately, that’s just plain not feasible, given the complexities of people’s schedules, and financial issues. So a few years back I began putting on my own ‘mini-conferences’ for my youth group musicians, and those interested in one day being on the team, which I call ‘Youth Worship Workshops’. They’ve done well for us, not only in giving the youth a new vision for our team and a new passion for worshiping God, but also as essentially ‘try-outs’ to discover and invest in future talent which will slowly be integrated into, and one day replace, the current team. If you’re a worship leader an interested in doing one at your church, here’s the basics of what we do: Read the rest of this entry »

If you’re not already subscribed to the ‘Resurgence Podcast’ what are you waiting for?! Not only have they – in the past – made available the audio on such topics as Missional Christianity and responding to post-modernism, now they’re beginning to post all of the conference sessions, and question & answer sessions, from the CONTINUOUS WORSHIP conference, featuring Worship theologian Harold Best.

Currently there’s only one session from the conference available, but if you’d like to skip subscribing to the podcast, and listen to the messages as they come available, you can visit here. The first post is a DEEP teaching by Mark Driscoll on idolatry.

Be blessed…

Sovereign Grace for FREE!

August 22, 2007

Sovereign Grace Ministries has just made ALL of their mp3 downloads available for FREE. Yes, that includes past conferences lessons and the like. Let me directly point you towards Sovereign Grace Ministries various messages on WORSHIP. I could take you months to get though it all.

DOWNLOAD AWAY!

Come on – go ahead! You know you want to.

Here are a few places you can start (by request):
Worship: What really Matters
Creating a Flow in Worship
Why do we Sing?
Becoming a better Songwriter
Principles of Songwriting
Heart attitudes for the Worship Team

I absolutely love podcasts – it’s an excellent way to access great Bible teaching without having to read continually, or travel extensively to conferences around the country. Here are a few incredible teachings on ‘worship’ that I’ve found very challenging/encouraging over the past few months…

DEDICATION AND DELIGHT (Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill Seattle)

WHY DO WE SING? (Bob Kauflin, ChristChurch UK)

WORSHIP: THE SOUNDTRACK OF OUR LIVES (Mike Plewniak, Cornerstone Church of Knoxville)
this is an excellent resource, an overview of ‘worship’ – though I have a copy on my computer, I can’t currently find it on the web – check back soon, as I’m going to keep looking…and if any of you know the folks over at Cornerstone Church, tell them to put it back up!

CHRIST, OUR ACCESS (Mark Mullery, Sovereign Grace Church of Fairfax)

May 16, 1973 – I was born in a small town called Georgetown, Ohio – famous only for General & President Ulysses S. Grant and Pro basketball player, and my schoolmate, Brian Grant.

Mom’s father, Ted, was raised a Quaker but was an Atheist, I believe due to his extremely dangerous stint as a gunner in WWII, and my grandmother, Rosie, a nominal Methodist who did all of the good things Methodists do, but who didn’t have a very deep faith in God.

My Dad was a much sadder story: his mother, Clara, was from a dirt poor family – she had to drop out of school in the 3rd grade to support her sisters. And his Dad – my grandfather: well, we don’t know all that much about him. He became mentally ill shortly after my Dad’s older sister was born, and after my Dad was born he became dangerous and – for their safety – was essentially removed from their lives completely. Read the rest of this entry »