I’ll admit it, I’m pretty much a perfectionist when it comes to the musical aspect of worship, or for that matter, anything musical.  When it comes to concerts I’ve performed, very few live up to my expectations.  That’s to say, when the band does not feel like it’s really ‘gelling’, I can become very frustrated.  Apparently, worship happened last night, according to others.  Here, however, is the worship-confessional I cut with our Tech guy, Chris, immediately after walking off stage.  This one is being dual-posted at both Chris & I’s sites.  Enjoy.

Inside Out Worship/Tech Confessional – October 8, 2008

It was late Spring/early Summer, sometime near my 9th grade year, not long after the locust plague, when walking outside was always crunchy, and our cars slip-sided from side to side on the pavement because we were continually hydroplaning on swarms of living insect carcasses.  It had been a dry Summer, so the numerous hummingbirds were clinging to our many feeders for survival.

Looking back, it probably wasn’t fair to the local avian life that our garage was painted sky-blue, and had so many windows.  It makes perfect sense how it had gotten trapped: garage door open wide, & a feeder hanging feet from the door filled with bright red sweetness.  

When I walked into the garage from the house, I immediately flinched, thinking it full of bumble-bees.  My recent encounter with a Bumble Bee nest, armed with nothing more than my younger cousin, and two baseball bats, had left a burning impression – many burning impressions – upon me, to say the least.  “Buzzzzzz – THWAK!”  It smacked HARD against the ceiling.  “Bzzzzz – THUMP!”  Against the window.  “Bzzzzzz – BOINK!”  Against the raised garage door.  That poor hummingbird was so disorientated by the color of our garage that it thwaked itself against everything but the wide-open garage door.  No matter how hard I tried to shoe it out the open door, if resisted my movements.  After almost an hour of struggle, it eventually landed in the middle of our empty Garage and simply gave up.

Its tiny body heaved with enormous breaths – it had clearly given up, and was giving itself over to me, likely convinced – or even, at this point, hoping – I would eat him up immediately and end this misery. 

I walked slowly up to the tiny bird, and scooped him up very gently in my hands: so small – so fragile & delicate.  It was like holding a rose petal, except that I could feel it’s breath, and it’s heart pitter-pattering like a tiny, infinitely fast motor whirring along within.  I walked outside the garage and held the tiny thing towards the sun.  It sat still for a time, simply resting in my palm, then buzzed away.

How hard we fight and struggle to make things happen, when usually the most important step is to “be still” – to sit back and let that mighty hand carry us, as we catch our breath.  Human effort can only take us so far, but the most important step towards freedom is always trusting one greater than ourselves to take the next step. Yes, often it looks and feels like death – it seems like ‘the end’, but that hand is good, lifting us towards the brightest Son, and releasing us to fly.

Ants

October 6, 2008

Some while back Cyle bought a “bounce-house” (a 10×10 ‘building’, filled with air?) for a measly $10, which I recently set up in our back yard for one of Kenimer’s (my 3 year old) play-dates.  Looking as though it may rain, this morning I zipped outside, and began folding it up to store it in our building.  While laying across the folded bounce-house, to speed it’s  release of air, a number of tiny ants caught my eye.  Moving my face closer to the ground, and straining to seem them clearly, I noted how the zipped this directly and that, as though they somehow held the fate of the universe in their ‘hands’.  For at least fifteen minutes I watched these ridiculous busy-bodies zip to and fro, accomplishing nothing of note, yet running as fast as they can to do it.  At one point I just wanted to shout, “Dude – you’re just an Ant! RELAX!”

Part of me admires the stupid bug for being so self-convinced of his own importance – for working with such passion and intensity.  Another part of me wonders how often God looks down upon us and whispers, “Dude – slow down, you’re just a human.  Relax.”

Don’t tell me it’s not possible.

Okay, gotta run – I’m really important and have a lot of really important things to do, which all must be done very quickly so I can get to all of my other important things.

😉

Yesterday via my iPod one of my favorite Bible teachers/authors – Rich Nathan of the Columbus Vineyard – reminded me of a passage I hadn’t looked at in quite a while: “…the people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes… Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said ‘Oh that we had meet to eat!  We remember the fish we at in Egypt that cost nothing…” (excerpts from Numbers 11:1a, 4-5a)

Part of me just wants to slap them – those fish didn’t cost anything BECAUSE YOU DIDN’T HAVE ANY MONEY TO SPEND – YOU WERE SOMEONE’S PROPERTY!!!  My lawnmower doesn’t pay for it’s own gas, either – surprised?  I buy the gas, then fill it up, then USE IT.  It’s MY lawnmower – my property – so I take care of it’s needs. Idiots.  Then, I think – been there, done that.

The whole time I was an ultra-conservative, politically, that was my motivation: return to the “Good Ole’ Days”.  Too many Christians, in fact, lack a ‘Kingdom mindset’ and even their evangelism is not based on love for others and a desire for them to meet Jesus, so much as to save culture and protect what they’ve got – to keep the status quo of comfort for themselves and their families.  Sadly, the “Good Ole’ Days” weren’t “good” – they were just “ole'”, er, I mean, OLD.  

That means “past”, and let me tell you – my    memory   is   selective when remembering that stuff.  In fact, I began many years ago (still not finished, though) writing an autobiographical book which recounts some particular moments in my past which I know for an absolute fact did not occur exactly as I remember them.  My mind has dreamed about these events, I’ve daydreamed what might have been, I’ve told the stories in different fashions to different friends so many times that not even I remember precisely what really happened.  Sure, if I wanted to be ‘historical’ about them, I can pretty much piece together the solid bits with a little “critical realism” applied to my memories, but that’s no fun, so I’m writing these stories with all the extra little oddities left in – call it a study of dreams and memories, cloaked in dramatic biography.  Blah blah blah – whatever I was talking about, though…

That was all the long-winded ‘Shannon’-way of saying, if you asked yourself DURING what you now consider the “Good Ole’ Days”, you probably would complain to point to another bit of “Good Ole’ Days” even further in the past, or – if you’re a political liberal (I did that for a while, too), you point to some imagined idyllic utopia in the future, which any historian worth his weight in butter will tell you will result in something that looks like Communist China or Nazi Germany.  The road to destruction is paved with great intentions, huh?

What we have is NOW.  The only “Good Ole’ Days” that ever existed were at some point in the way distant past visualized for us as a Garden where God walked with us in unbroken relationship, and the only idyllic utopia in the future we have to look forward to is the Garden-ic moment reworked in us through God’s Kingdom come – and coming – which happens NOW, before it happens any other time – and right HERE, in our hearts, first and foremost – before it happens any place else.  It’s not a ‘return’ to what life was like 10 or 20 years ago, because the sin in people’s hearts was just as hell-bent then as it is now – the only difference was which sins were publicly acceptable (those have always changed) and which were condemned and frowned upon.

So, there you go: the “Good Ole’ Days” probably sucked too.  Stop complaining before the Lord and trying to RETURN to something that never was, and in the NOW step forward with God into His Kingdom, which begins inside of each of us – that starts with ME.

Let Your Kingdom come… let Your will be done… so that everyone might know Your name.
(Let Your Kingdom Come – Bob Kauflin)

This has been a good week.  I call it a good week because it was a week chock full of me doing what I was made to do: worship.  Yes, that should happen ALWAYS – we should all live there – but I, personally, find a heightened sense of God’s presence when I’m worshiping in community and with song.  

First, My wife & I led our church’s Wednesday noon prayer meeting.  Pulling from an assortment of old favorites like “Consuming Fire” & “Give us clean Hands“, a few newer ‘prophetic’ songs from IHOP, and an original chorus by my wife, we spontaneously led various numbers interspersed with and flowing from the prayers being offered up in the room.  I’ll be honest – I find that degree of spontaneity personally challenging (though, I’ll admit it: my wife LIVES THERE), & I was a bit unsure of whether or not we really ‘connected’ to those in the room.  I found hope in the fact that, at least from my own heart, God was worshiped, and I received a number of kind remarks about it later in the week.  That’s an area I’d like to grow in, but God graciously showed His face to us in spite of my weakness.

Later than night, we had a special INSIDE OUT Sr. High service with an extended time of worship, which I co-led with one of my youth leaders, Aaron.  His worship leading is energetic and infectious and most definitely connects with his peers, and I love to see younger leaders stepping up to the plate.  Though it wasn’t the single most passionate/expressive Wednesday night we’ve had so far this school year (there have been weeks that I wondered if we’d go ‘pentecostal’), the Holy Spirit was clearly present, and hearts were changed.  First, Aaron led the opening set of “My Glorious” (Delirious), “One Way” (Hillsong United), and a powerful song he introduced to our youth the week before – which, I might add, I’ve been pulling for since I heard the demo – “Glorious One” (Fee).  What’s more interesting, HE LED FROM THE BASS – and did it very well.  My personal favorite from his set is Steve Fee’s “Glorious One“, as it’s such a good balance of Biblical truth and personal response, packaged in a powerfully melodic chorus, yet at the same time it’s very easy to pull off (unlike his other awesome, but nearly unreplicable, “All because of Jesus”).  Later, following a time of sharing & testimonies, I continued our corporate singing by re-introducing our youth to the infamous “Healer” (which I love even more BECAUSE of the controversy: the song feels even deeper knowing the real story behind it), “Jesus Paid it All” (a favorite at our church, especially among our youth), and sent them home with a challenge, much like Fred delivered on SSCC’s night of worship, to reach our community, with “God of this City“.  Overall, it was a truly exciting night as I looked out over the room and saw a mix of indifferent (dudes who are merely there to pick up chics – at least they’re coming and hearing the Word and seeing authentic worship) and those truly moved (at least 4 groups were huddled up, praying, and in tears).  I love Inside Out and am proud of what goes on there week by week.

 

And this portion is ‘participating’ in Fred’s Sunday Setlist blog.

Lastly, I was in the rotation to lead for this past Sunday morning as well, which is always a joy.  Our Sunday AM musicians are professional, friendly, and a pleasure to work with, so rehearsal is rarely a chore (though even the best band has their moments, I admit it).  I was particularly excited to have my wife on both keys and singing alto for this morning!  Thursday night’s rehearsal was one of the smoothest I’ve ever had to date, and seemed to zip right by, and Sunday morning – apart from me forgetting lyrical phrase (along with EVERYONE ELSE) from one song – went spectacularly.  The band played almost flawlessly, the congregation was fairly responsive and seemed to be connecting with the songs (pockets folks stood and raised their hands of their own initiative), I personal felt ‘connected’ to God and our congregation as a leader.  Our set started off with Tim Hughes’ “Happy Day” – one of my personal favorites – after which I welcomed everyone to church, and dove into a 2 song set of “Your Grace is Enough” (Maher/Tomlin) and “Mighty to Save” (Hillsong).  Though I am by no means a servant of Hillsong – there is particularly much in their lyrics that I question at times – this song in particular deserves recognition and use among churches of every flavor: the lyrics are powerful proclamation and intimate response all wrapped up into one, and the melody is infectious.  I wouldn’t mind singing this song every week, personally.  After an far-more-intense-than-usual sermon by David mostly about trusting God in our current financial climate, we had communion, during which we sang “Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)” and Tomlin/Redman’s classic reworking of a great hymn, “The Wonderful Cross“.  Sadly, we ran short on time during our first service and had to cut our closing song, but for the 2nd service we responded with “Though I Will Trust You“.  If anything were to have gone better on Sunday, I think I should have considered my words more carefully – somehow, I had given what I was going to say that morning little thought, and found myself digging for the right turn of phrase at times, but I don’t think that was too distracting, thankfully.

All in all, it was a wonderful week.  Thank You, Father!

Hello.  My name is Shannon, and I use a capo.”

*GROUP RESPONDS: “Hello Shannon!

I admit it – I’ve thought that before about “Capo Users”.  I’ve gotten hand-cramps for the sake of my glorious anti-capo-dom.  I’ve forced complex songs into simpler keys, far outside my sweet-spot vocally, to massage my ego and not use a capo.  I’ve played chord-shapes that don’t ideally befit the riff/hook for the sake of being that guy who’s “better than the capo users”.  Yes, on rare occasions I used a capo, but only on open tuned guitars – the fact that I had 4 guitars on stage, 3 of which were in alternate tunings, gave me enough “cool points” to counteract the evil capo – sorta like buying “Carbon Credits”.

In ’03, however, I saw Shane & Shane live.  That dude MASTERED the guitar, and he was a capo maniac: capos upon capos – cut capos inserted at odd angles into other cut capos.  I think at one point he had to be using a capo on his vocal chords, too – Mr. Bernard’s range is pretty …well… “pretty” – in the “female” sense of the word.  Is it normal for a guy to sing soprano?  In all seriousness, I love Shane & Shane, and that show was where I realize that a capo is a tool (and not in the sense that some people may consider me one at times – oh no!  Did I just go Mark-Driscoll on you?!!).  Just like any tool, it has it’s purpose, and can also be misused.

So here’s my theory of Capo: please don’t use it as a crutch to hide the fact that you only know 3 chords – that’s sad.  Granted, if you DO only know 3 chords, and you’re asked to lead worship somewhere, I’d rather you used a capo and play well than not use one and be an obnoxious distraction.  However, let your goal be to learn the real chords, and use them when it sounds good.  However, some songs only sound ‘right’ with certain chord shapes on the guitar, and a capo is how you get those shapes.  “Marvelous Light” is the greatest example: the song is most singable, and in my opinion, grooves best in ‘B’, however if you play a ‘B’ chord shape (any of them) on an acoustic guitar to drive the song you really loose the bright, ‘jangly-ness’ of the song.  Playing a B, E, G#m, F#, & etc. on an acoustic has ‘thump’ on the low-end (which is why I don’t capo “Sweetly Broken”, though it’s the same chord progression – the ‘bottom end’ of the chord progression helps keep the song ‘weighty’), but capo to the 4th fret, and play a G-shape, C9, Em7, & etc – their is a brightness, and a continuity in the changes (particularly on the high end) that carries the song.

Therefore, I repent – or rather, I repented some time ago.  Use a capo, but not as a crutch – use it as a tool.  Use it to open up your guitar to tones that help you blend into an overall band setting, give brightness or weight to a progression, depending on the song’s ‘mood’, or even – as Shane & Shane do with cut capos – to significantly alter your guitar’s tuning in a flash (not just up a step, but from Standard, to open G, or drop D).  Used this way a capo can really open up the breadth of what your guitar is capable of.

So, “Hello.  My name is Shannon, and I use a capo.”

Earlier today I responded to Fred’s blog on DISTRACTING WORSHIP, and it led me to want to ask the positive side of the question:  WHAT (corporately) ENCOURAGES YOU TO WORSHIP GOD? That could mean; what leads you to recognize God’s greatness?  What pushes you to want to live all-out for Him?  What actions, places, environment, physical expressions, phrases, etc. encourage you to focus upon God during times where the body is gathered and praising Him, and increases your personal passion to pursue Him more fully?  Okay, I’m sure you’ve got some… WHAT ARE THEY?!??

Do you go to the Inside Out / Rush Hour youth groups at St. Simons Community Church and are looking for recordings on the songs we sing?  Are you a worship leader looking for a few proven new songs to add to your set?  Do you just enjoy worship music and are always looking for something new?.  This iMix is for you:

INSIDE OUT/RUSH HOUR – greatest hits

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.

One thing that made Worship God ’08 unique from many worship conferences is the content of the main sessions.  Apart from the fact that the Psalms are the Old Testament hymn-book, none of the sessions were necessarily directly related to worship as it is commonly understood: corporate singing.  Likewise, only one of the sessions was taught by an individual others would consider a “worship leader”, and that was Bob Kauflin, the organizer of the whole event.  Instead, the speakers were  primarily Bible teachers, Pastors, & even Seminary professors, all of whom were solidly evangelical, and who took their time applying serious scholarship to the text before reaching into the various areas of application.  It was like a 4 day seminary for worship pastors, and much akin to drinking from a fire hydrant.  In fact, I will likely be going over my notes for several weeks in order to process it all.

The Wednesday night main session was KNOWING GOD WITH THE PSALMIST by Craig Cabaniss, a pastor in Frisco, TX.  “Where do we get our ideas about God?” Craig asked at the outset, noting that “…our perception of God will shape our response to God.”  Focusing his attention on Psalm 33, he drew attention to the WHY of worship, and challenged us to “…respond to GOD, who He IS and what He has DONE, and not to whether or not we are familiar with or like a song“.  Craig taught with great passion, and began the conference on the right step.

Thursday morning’s session was EXPRESSING EMOTION WITH THE PSALMIST by Thabiti Anyabwile, a jovial yet passionate pastor currently serving in the Grand Camman Islands, and the author of the excellent new book “What is a Healthy Church Member?” in the IX Marks series.  Taking apart Psalm 73, and teaching through it piece by piece, Thabiti pointed out that “…we as humans are terrible at predicting the source of joy…“, later adding that all “man-centered emotions ultimately lead to despair“.  The 73rd Psalm, it turns out, is a helpful reminder that believers may be experiencing a wide range of emotions.  Thabiti challenged us “too often we lead from ‘happy’ to ‘great joy’“, not addressing the fact that much of our congregation are simply not there.  Emotions are real, and important, but we – as pastors and worship leaders – need to address our congregations, and lead worship, in a way that directs our emotions God-ward, and guides and trains people’s hearts to respond to the right things.  Emotions for emotions’ sake will lead to despair, but “when I see Him, I will be satisfied“.  I found Thabiti’s applications particularly helpful, as he encouraged us to:
1.) Avoid shallow ways of triggering emotions
2.) Address the full range of emotions in our corporate worship
3.) Teach about and address suffereing
4.) Help our people see God in  way that draws them from self-centeredness to God-centeredness.

In many ways what I drew from these first two main sessions is quite similar: to lead passionately, doing all I can to put together worship sets, and lead in a way, that meets our people where they are, and merely where I think they should be.  I was also challenged to better address our congregation in a way that leads them to see God, and aspects of God, and leading songs that give them an opportunity to respond to revelation genuinely, rather than merely encouraging emotion and excitement for the sake of emotion itself.  Though it may be exciting for me to see a whole room ‘stirred up’, doing so when the emotion isn’t genuine may actually be training our people to lead the ‘train by the caboose’ to use the old Campus Crusade for Christ illustration of FACT (the engine), FAITH (the cars), & FEELING (caboose).  These were helpful reminders, indeed.

Next up, Mark Dever, & David Powlison’s main sessions…

SOLD OUT

July 27, 2008

Haven’t blogged much this last week.  I’m trying to emotionally, intellectually & spiritually make the transition from my stable 8 to 5 week sitting in an office (ie – answering phone calls, counting large sums of money, transcribing minutes from various meetings, & mailing out fund-raising letters) & being confident that my bills will be paid from this week to next, to scheduling important future-shaping (mine & my families, and hopefully OTHERS as well… I’m trusting the impact will be that far reaching) meetings, and trusting that God can indeed work in and through our passions to accomplish awesome things, all while providing for our needs as well!  I can say this much for sure: I am beginning to truly feel ALIVE again!  Apart from developing a vision for the business/ministry I am founding, I’ve spent most of this week mixing down Saint Lewis‘ debut worship e.p., & either leading worship, preparing to lead worship, or rehearsing future musicians to help lead worship for; the Gathering Place, Team Effort, Inside Out/Rush Hour, & St. Simons Community Church.  Walking in your passions & giftings sure feels INCREDIBLE.  It’s been too long coming.

So, I ask myself… why have I put this off so long?  Why do I so seek comfort, without risk – without steps of courage?  I admit it: I am – I have been – afraid.  Today, however, I choose to walk in FAITH… sold out … committed to Him.  It feels great, and somehow even more secure than ever…

Thank You, God!

Amen…

I’m sad to have not known this until now, and I’ve even sadder to know it at all.

Please visit the link below, and do whatever you can to help…

…this is what I did on May 31st with ‘the Tucker Family’. Even played a couple of SAINT LEWIS originals, AND it was for a good cause! Drop by his site, and donate some of your resources to bless our brother in Christ!

So, how many of you guys recording tunes with Logic have ever had it stop mid-session and the words of doom pop onto your screen: CORE AUDIO: DISK TOO SLOW!?  I’m running Logic on a Mac Mini, so I’ve been encountering this problem often as of late, which is terribly given that I’m in a crunch on finishing a few tunes.  Well, apart from purchasing a Western Digital external fire-wire drive, which took a bit of the load off of my system, I discovered another simple fix.  If you’re like me and love using the plug-ins, that can apparently really suck the CPU dry.  So, once you’ve got those tracks pretty much as you want them, click on the little ‘snowflake’ besides the ‘solo’, ‘mute’, & ‘record’ buttons, and freeze the tracks you aren’t going to be messing with for a while.  It takes all of the info in those tracks and creates an aif file for each track freezed, which it refers to until you ‘thaw’ it to make changes to later, which frees up a ton of memory.  In my case, it gave me my ‘recording studio’ back.  So, just a little tip for those interested.

Blessings…

In part one, I explained in detail how worship was, ultimately, not about singing, but about a whole life – heart, mind, soul, and strength – given over to God. I explained how, in the most important sense, I was not a worship leader – that at least I was unable to actually lead anyone into the presence of God, for that is Christ’s job, and was accomplished by his work on the cross on our behalf. Lastly, our personal response to what Christ has done is simple: draw near.

However, If you are ‘in Christ’, you are in God’s presence, and part of God’s kingdom. And if that’s you, I’ve got an important, but possibly confusing message for you, if you’ll allow me a direct contradiction from my last teaching: Worship is all about Singing. Give me a few paragraphs to explain.

Last Sunday morning I led worship for the 11 AM service at church. Oddly enough, I was no where on stage. I had no microphone, never address the congregation verbally from stage, and played no instrument. I didn’t pick songs. I didn’t rehearse the band. I did absolutely nothing that would make you think that I was leading worship, but I was a worship leader, none-the-less.

Who of you is a ‘worship leader’? Not in the sense that Jesus is, by bringing us into the Holy of Holies, but in the sense in which we usually use the word? Which of you are called to lead others in corporately worshiping God? Read the rest of this entry »

For the first 2 parts of this series, see the INTRO, and PART 1.

Due to the incredibly huge nature of this next subject, I’m merely going to touch on this briefly, but when discussing the historical reliability of the Gospels, the time-frame in which they were written is an important factor to consider. Liberal ‘scholars’ often date the Gospels’ earliest manuscripts from 70 A.D., as with the Gospel of Mark, to 95 A.D., in the case of John’s Gospel; 40 to 60 years after the events recorded. Many argue that this is a long period of time, and that many facts could be distorted between the events being written about, and the act of writing them down.  But the fact is that at that time Israel was still an “Oral Community” — people were still reciting the entire Torah from memory. Combining that with the fact that many of Jesus’ teachings were formulated to encourage oral transmission by being spoken in essentially poetic form, in spite of what seems to us moderns like anything but up-to-the-minute breaking news, we can still be confident, even apart from any divine intervention, that the main body of the Jesus story would be rightly transmitted orally, even if those dates were valid.

But accepting such dates is even problematic. Methods for dating the Gospels are often spurious a grasping at straws. What one scholar uses to claim an early date another uses to declare an older one. For example, people using Liberal dating methods often date Mark’s Gospel after 70 A.D., primarily because of Mark 13:2; ‘”Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”‘ This is often interpreted to be a veiled reference to the destruction of the Temple and the Jewish-Roman war, and is used as evidence that Mark’s Gospel had been written after that event. It is assumed that any prophecy of an event that actually took place must have been read back into the mouth of Jesus after the even had taken place. Now the assertation that no one could under any circumstances predict the future in and of itself is very problematic. If any one of you were in the same situation as a person like Jesus, living in such a volatile age you could’ve likely seen the destruction of Jerusalem on the horizon. Given the political climate nearly anyone could have “prophesied” such an event rather accurately; it was obvious that something like the Jewish-Roman war was on the horizon — it took no miracle to figure that out. However, Mark 13:2, rightly understood cannot be a reference to the Jewish-Roman war because only the Temple was destroyed, not the entire city, as is implied by the verse. And even then, if that was intended to be a reference to the Temple’s destruction, that was what many Jews desired, so they could rebuild a VALID temple, because many viewed the current temple as less than perfect because it was built by a Roman and not a Jew. So, if this verse referred to a Temple destruction, it was more a THREAT than prophecy!

Another passage that is used to place a late date on the Gospels, yet again a Temple reference, is John 2:19-21; “Jesus answered them,”Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days. Jews replied, It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are to raise it in three days? But the temple he had spoken of was his body.” Here, it seems, this reference to the Temple again had little to do with the Temple on the Mount of Olives, but rather was a reference to Christ’s own body and his future death and resurrection. Since none of these are references to the Temple destruction that occurred around A.D. 70, then using these references to date the Gospels post-70 is unjustifiable.

That is just to say this: the gospels were written in a community that was trained to pass along large bodies of tradition orally, the message of Jesus fit into the larger story of Israel in a way that made sense and would be easy to pass along, the individual sayings of Jesus were originally given in a fashion that encouraged memorization within that culture, and the dates between the events of Jesus life and their being written down were not nearly as long as many doubters would like us to believe.  That adds up to yet another very good reason to believe what was written about Jesus in the Bible.

Many blessings, and stay tuned for part 3!

As I prepare my second official post in the “Apologetics as Worship” series, I have a special announcement which is highly relevant to all interested in apologetics.

The movie EXPELLED will open in movie theaters around the country this Friday, April 18th!

Don’t be confused: Expelled is NOT a ‘Christian movie’, though it is being ‘marketed’ to people of faith (not just Christians) because the subject matter affects us, particularly in the academy.

The issue: Darwinism has become so entrenched at the University level that as a scientist to even QUESTION Darwinistic Evolution can cost you your job. Note: these scholars are NOT Biblical creationists, though most are ‘theists’ (many believe in God), but their doubt of Darwinism is on Scientific principles, not religious ones. Well, EXPELLED is a light-hearted (as much as one can be light-hearted about such an issue) look at the problem through the eyes of none other than the infamous Ben Stein! I’ve heard they’ve made it as un-academic and accessible as possible, given the subject matter, and that it’s actually an entertaining view that makes you think.

Personally, I’ve gone to conferences with, and met most of the scholars interviewed in this film – they are brilliant men who’s theories are turning the Scientific community on it’s head! I have one whole half of a book-shelf dedicated to their published work. I am thankful these ‘darwin-doubters’ are doing such dangerous work.

If you’re local to St. Simons Island, I’ve heard Island Cinema’s will be showing the film this Friday on its’ debut! Folks, this is an important film – I encourage you ALL to see it.

For those of you who enjoy deep thinking and in-depth Bible study on tough theological issues, I’ve been engaging the excellent book (one of my favorites) over at my other blog, SUFFERING & THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD, a collection of challenging essays by solid Christian thinkers who have each suffered uniquely, who came together to speak to the Desiring God National Conference in 2005.  I’m finding my own thoughts on these subjects challenged, and deepened, and hope to continue ‘reflecting’ on this book chapter-by-chapter all the way to the end.

If you’d like to dive in, here are the posts to date:

INTRO & CHAPTER 1 (10 aspects of God’s Sovereignty over Suffering & Satan’s hand in It)

CHAPTER 2, PART 1 (All the Good that is ours in Christ)

CHAPTER 2, PART 2 (All the Good that is ours in Christ continued)

Be encouraged to discuss…

blessings!

As I prepare to teach on Worship in a few weeks at INSIDE OUT, our Senior High Youth Group at St. Simons Community Church, I picked back up Greg Scheer’s wonderful book “The Art of Worship”. Towards the book’s end he talks about a few of the different ‘styles’ of worship leading – or ‘worship leader personality types’, if you will.

the CONDUCTOR – Leading the congregation almost like a choir, even beating the tempo through songs – often going hand in hand with churches which use primarily hymns during their corporate worship times.

the CHEERLEADER – Great at pumping up the energy of the congregation, a born encourager with an upbeat demeanor, often associated with celebratory praise style of corporate worship.

the ENTERTAINER – Most ‘popular’ worship leaders, like those in the CCM market: a ‘winsome lead-worshiper’ who can encourage those in the pews to follow their example.  These are often skilled vocalists or musicians, and would probably do just as well fronting a rock-band in a club as they would leading worship on Sunday Morning, and some even do both.

the ENLIVENER – Not necessarily the most skilled musician or vocalist in his or her congregation, but is quite effective at drawing others in to participate.  These are most common in ‘communal cultures’, particularly Africa & South America, but there are good examples of them here in the states as well.

Of course, an individual’s spiritual gifts will add other layers to any of these categories (for instance, one of my more prominent spiritual gifts is preaching/teaching, so though I am mostly ‘the ENTERTAINER’ with a little bit of ‘the CHEERLEADER’ mixed in, my preaching/teaching gift makes that look much different from someone else who may fit in the same styles, but have other primary spiritual giftings).

So, I’m just wondering – what type of worship leader are YOU?!

Friday Blog Love

February 22, 2008

Happy Friday! Just thought I’d spread some blog-love around before the weekend.

My friend (and one of my ‘bosses’, though that sounds so harsh & authoritarian), Fred McKinnon, has posted a pic of our new auditorium. It doesn’t represent the full room, but you can get a feel for it. I’m EXCITED!

I just discovered a very cool older post over at Fundamentally Reformed called THE RISE OF THE MODERN HYMN MOVEMENT, as well as a newer follow up post; MODERN HYMN WRITERS. Mandy, you should enjoy this. Being in a songwriting kick, myself, I found it fascinating.

One of my few living heroes, Tim Keller, has finished his new book THE REASON FOR GOD. Along with N.T. Wright‘s SIMPLY CHRISTIAN, this may be one of the best apologetics for the Biblical faith for post-moderns written to date. Good stuff.

Rich Kirkpatrick recently posted a very though provoking blog in his ‘Worship Mythbusters’ series entitled WORSHIP IS NOT ENTERTAINMENT.

I’ll be taking a much-needed blogging break until March 3rd.  Until we meet again!

Amen…and OUT.

Confession: this will be no surprise to most of you, but I – though a card-holding Bible-believing Evangelical Christian – have a few contentions with the American church at large, at least as the Christian faith is often imagined/understood/expressed here (I can’t speak as clearly to European Christianity as I not only don’t find myself in that scene, but haven’t even yet visited – it is possible that my contention may be even more universal in nature, I suppose). That’s not to say that I necessarily believe that Christians who disagree with me are ‘lost’ – only that, at this point, I think they’re mistaken. 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 »

Towards the end of my freshman year in college I went on a retreat with our local Campus Crusade for Christ at Ohio University. That weekend I became friends with Steve Rieske. Read the rest of this entry »

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” —1 Peter 5:5

What a wonderful night! First, God had been convicting a number of us leaders on the importance of humility and unity among our team, and we – in our prayer meeting before INSIDE OUT – leaders began to set forth a vision for the evening: humble dependence, desperate thirst and hunger for God’s Spirit, and repentance. Then we prayed, with the call to not leave the prayer room until we’re really ready. God showed up. Heather, our ‘Vocal Coordinator’, went into much greater detail in her latest blog: Broken Things. I think the key for this night was that ‘worship’ began long before the music or singing – an important lesson for all of us. Read the rest of this entry »

Discipleship (part 1)

December 10, 2007

Having read Chris Moncus‘ excellent blog on Volunteers Reproducing Themselves, I was inspired to post an edited version of an essay I wrote in 2005 on Small Group Ministry and Discipleship, as I think it captures the heart of what Chris was talking about. May this continue to happen at our church!

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“Three men digging a ditch on a scorching summer afternoon were approached by a friend who asked, ‘What are you guys doing?’ The first, already weary from exertion, responded impatiently, ‘What does it look like? We’re digging a hole!’

The second, sensing that the question was not meant to be rhetorical, added, ‘We’re laying a foundation pad. It’s going to be filled with concrete.’

The third man, who had been whistling happily while he labored, laid his shovel aside, wiped his forehead, and began to describe in great detail how this particular hole was strategic for the placement of one of the massive ‘flying buttresses’ that would support an entire wall of stained glass windows for a new cathedral. After describing in great detail the plans and procedures for completion Christmas Eve five years from now, my family and I will worship together at the altar where that rubbish pile is now located.’”

– from Bob DukesA Model for Strategic Disciple Building

Discipleship is the most important ministry in the church – in fact, it IS the ministry of the Church It’s a radical thing to say, but I stand behind it. I’m convinced of it from both Scripture and experience. In the Old Testament, according to God himself in Deuteronomy 6:1-9, Discipleship was teaching the faith, practicing the faith, relationships of faith, and day-to-day walking it out in faith – all were to take place. Who would know better than God the best environments and models for discipleship? Then Jesus, in Mark 13:13-15, called the disciples out, challenged them, raised them up, and even appointed them to positions of authority, ultimately sending them out to do likewise. Discipleship is the primary purpose of the Church, and the problem is not that we don’t try to do it – the problem is that we try, but do not have a vision as to what end we do it, and how to get there. This is where our ditch-digger comes in. Read the rest of this entry »

 Well, apparently it’s FINALLY DONE!  This one book I am most definitely anticipating…

Worship Matters: Leading Others to encounter the Greatness of God by Bob Kauflin, forward by Paul Baloche.

Is anyone else really looking forward to reading this?

What a refreshing morning! I don’t know exactly what it is about leading worship – maybe the Spirit’s anointing? – but I feel so energized by mornings like this one! Read the rest of this entry »

I was really challenged by a letter I received recently from Desiring God Ministries entitled “Remember Why You Sold Everything.”

In it, Desiring God director, Jon Bloom, referenced Matthew 13:44; The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” Read the rest of this entry »

I got to play electric guitar (the delay, wah-wah, & distorted type) on “All because of Jesus” by Steve Fee last night during walk-in music.  Yeah, other stuff happened, and we worshiped God, and had fun games, BUT…
…I got to play electric guitar last night, and if I may say so, I ripped it up!

That was SO MUCH FUN!

Discuss. 😉

This post has struck a chord with many. I thought I’d share it with you all as well… be encouraged to chime in.
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Isn’t it strange that many Christians, especially churches, forgive fellow ‘believers’ and will often go to almost any end to cover their brothers’ sins, especially when it involves breaking the law, and at the same time spend great energy condemning non-believers who are behaving exactly as their morality and conscience allow. Read the rest of this entry »

A profound quote from one of my favorite movies, the Big Kahuna Read the rest of this entry »

I recently stumbled across this older sermon I had preached while working at the University of Georgia and was struck by it’s truth. As tragedy is not foreign to any of us, I wanted to re-post this for the rest of you to consider… Read the rest of this entry »

Why I celebrate Halloween

October 29, 2007

Inspired by my recent referencing at Chris Moncus’ blog, I thought I’d repost this from my myspace blog from this time last year…

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I’ve wavered back and forth on the celebration of Halloween. In my younger years I trick-or-treated faithfully, but becoming a Christian as I went off to college, and attending college at on the spiritual center-points of witchcraft and satanism in the easter USA, the excesses of Ohio University’s Halloween party (oh, I cannot even tell you) and the knowledge of the rituals taking place directly off campus led me to choose, during that period, not to celebrate the holiday while living there. Relocating, later, to Athens, Georgia, I found a significantly less ‘creepy’ and much more celebratory holiday, and at least found myself handing out candy to passing youth. Now, as an adult with my own young’in, I not only passed out candy at my house, but took my little boy out around the neighborhood, ‘trick-or-treating’ and visiting with the locals – it was WONDERFUL! Why am I so wishy-washy? Read the rest of this entry »

So, it’s been a while since I’ve done one of these.

Honestly, I haven’t had much to report – no great tragedies, no huge breakthroughs: just good, albeit normal, times of worship. Last night, however, was different: we had a little of both. Read the rest of this entry »

As a subject that has been on my heart as of late, I’m also ‘cross-posting’ this to both Heat & Light and here.  I’m convinced that the Biblical picture of an ‘Elder/Bishop/Overseer’ has much farther reaching modern day applications that the decision making team many churches call an ‘elder board’, which apply particularly to anyone in an official position of leadership/oversight within their church. Read the rest of this entry »

I recently posted this in a couple of other blogs, most recently at Heat & Light, however given the unusual proclivity towards alcoholism among Christian musicians (particularly in the Nashville scene, as that’s where most of my direct connections reside) and even professional Worship Leaders, I thought it an important reminder for us to remain in line with God’s truth on this subject.

Read the rest of this entry »

This challenging article asks some good questions…

I once had a recent acquaintance, eventually to become a good friend, approach me and say that they had figured out what it was about me that had always seemed so unusual, but which – until that moment – that couldn’t put their finger on: “You are completely without sarcasm, and that’s refreshing.” Oh how the mighty have fallen! Read the rest of this entry »

For those who missed it, please read part 1 first – at least the intro – before diving into this blog. Otherwise, here are 3 more:

The One I LoveREM
Blood & RosesSmithereens
Prayers for Rain
The Cure Read the rest of this entry »

After re-watching the REM video from yesterday’s blog, and due to recently starting to record a new c.d. with my wife as Saint Lewis, it really made me step-back and personally reflect on the songs that have really had a long-term impact on my songwriting Read the rest of this entry »

Praise God, yesterday was a good morning! In spite of odd rehearsal times (we were on staff retreat during our normal rehearsal time, so we had to re-schedule for Monday), 2 of our regular musicians being unavailable to play, and numerous vocalists being unavailable (in one week I had 4 cancellations that I had to reschedule for!), everything went fairly smoothly, and we had a BALL! Read the rest of this entry »

Ahhhhhh…

October 4, 2007

I’m back from the St. Simons Community Church staff retreat Read the rest of this entry »

As you probably know, last week I was ill – the sickest I can recall ever being. Though it was a hard time, I do now feel blessed that I can say that ‘Strep Throat’ is the sickest I’ve ever been. Some are not so blessed with good health. Read the rest of this entry »

For starters, let me suggest, if you are at a larger church with multiple worship environments, leaders, and teams, that those leading the various environments communicate regularly – it’ll help you to avoid scheduling the same musicians in different environments at the same time, which we just narrowly avoided this week, thanks to the wonders of text-messaging and Planning Center Online, which takes me to another issue entirely: it may be possible to convince me of the legality and even importance of human cloning, especially as it relates to good drummers. 🙂 Read the rest of this entry »

Just stuff…

September 14, 2007

Fred McKinnon, the Music Director at St. Simons Community Church, has posted a very interesting continuation of The Original Mudpuppy‘s blog on how one becomes a ‘professional worship leader’. Knowing this would be of interest to some of my readers, I had to pass that along.  It has the potential to be a very interesting discussion.

Over at PerryNoble.com (again, thanks Fred), is an excellent post; 8 Things I think every Worship Leader should Know with Lee‘s excellent response (that’s Perry’s worship pastor), 7 Things Worship Leaders wished their Senior Pastor Knew. I think both articles are spot-on and well worth reading.

Lastly, Vineyard Music has a new download available – the excellent “All I Have” from Vineyards newest, Stand in Awe. Not only can you download the song for free, but also its’ chord-chart. Now, give me one good reason why you wouldn’t do this? That’s what I thought.

I hope you have a beautiful weekend!

For my personal growth and development as a worship leader I’ve been doing a lot of reading these past few months. These books are my personal ‘top picks’: Read the rest of this entry »

This is the last of my machine-gun fire Worship TextFessionals: 3 in 4 days!

Last night was our first ‘normal’ INSIDE OUT meeting of the Fall Semester. INSIDE OUT is the High School youth ministry of St. Simons Community Church. Read the rest of this entry »

Wow. This is proving to be a very busy week.

Monday afternoon my friend Ben called me and asked if I would be willing to lead his team on Tuesday night at Elevate, a local college ministry run by the Gathering Place. Since I love any opportunity to worship and lead worship, I jumped on it.

After breaking a string during sound-check, I restrung my main guitar during our short break, and decided to lead off with my back-up, while the new string ‘settled in’. Read the rest of this entry »

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’m sure all of us have been there – if not yet, I trust you will be. You’re a ‘worship leader’, and as a ‘leader’ there is a certain degree of pressure on you to ‘lead by example’ because, face it – people tend not to follow us to where we’ve never been. What does a worship leader do, however, in the face of great personal tragedy (i.e. – the death of a loved one), or maybe not any one huge event, but the overwhelming nature of innumerable personal disappointments that build up to where one questions the goodness of God, not ‘doctrinally’, but in their heart? Read the rest of this entry »

In an attempt to keep our youth worship ‘cutting edge’ and relevant I have our youth musicians & vocalists, and those connected with the various musical aspects of our youth environments, suggest new songs and, combining it with a few picks of my own, have all involved vote on which ‘new’ (sometimes, as is the case with this list, ‘new to us’) songs we will introduce over the next 4 – 6 months. Well, the results are in, and if you’re a worship leader and not familiar with these songs, I suggest you open up your iTunes and CCLI’s SongSelect and start downloading tunes and chord charts immediately! Here they are, in order of popularity… Read the rest of this entry »

Are we sometimes overlooking part of our calling as Music Ministers? Not the over-arching general calling, but our specific one: based on the spiritual gifts and natural talents that God has given you is your vision for your ministry all that is could/should be?

Last night, I hosted at The Wherehouse – the youth environment at St. Simons Community Church – the 3rd in a series of special Friday night community-wide free ‘outreach’ events. Our first was in June: Saint Lewis, my wife & I’s modern worship band, and the Inside Out band, the worship team from our youth group, led a very passionate exciting night of worship (video worship confessional still-forthcoming – seriously). I used the event to ‘vision-cast’, directing the songs and the event as a whole to move towards challenging our youth to recognize that evangelism is the flip-side of corporate worship – challenging them to participate in our future Friday night events. Our second, in partnership with another local ministry, the Gathering Place. was an open mic night. Having hosted an open mic night for years in Athens, GA, this was truly a delight, and though I didn’t take a headcount, the room was almost uncomfortable at points we had so many in attendance. Last night we brought back one of the stand-out acts from our open mic night to play their own concert. Read the rest of this entry »

Shannon at the Gathering Place 2007Since I’ve been ‘producing’ my last official ‘worship confessional’ video for over 2 months and STILL don’t have it ready to post online, I thought I’d keep this one simple: please pretend the picture (brought courtesy of the honorable Chris Moncus) beside and above this text is moving. See me talking? Good – I call that ‘Poor Man’s Video’, otherwise known as ‘the imagination.’ If you don’t have one, please stop reading this immediately and go play some football, but if you’re with me, I’m very glad to have you. Read the rest of this entry »

I teach with some regularity on worship being a lifestyle (singing/celebrating with the body of Christ is just the ‘tip of the iceberg’, so to say). And though I do fully believe that, I’m also convinced that the musical aspects of ‘worship’ are a very important part of aiding the Church in loving the Lord with our minds (lyrical content) and hearts (good music strongly affects our emotions), which in response often affects our spiritual lives and actions (soul & strength, respectively).

For some, it’s easy to criticize ‘contemporary’ worship. I used to be the ‘critic’. I’ve discovered, however, that most of my issues with ‘contemporary’ worship music were just that: my issues Read the rest of this entry »

I’ve been processing from the last few Christian worship ‘concerts’/events I’ve been to.

Now, I’ve seen a lot of bands live in my lifetime – upwards of 3,500 (I worked as a guitar tech and merch guy at music festivals for 7 years in a row, and used to study in college at a concert venue – and I just like live music): as a result of that, and my age, it’s not really incredible musicianship that impresses me – it’s creativity, great songs, and the ability to move people – to change hearts – to realign people’s passions. I go to these shows not only to be personally moved, but to take ‘mental notes’ – to assess what they’re doing ‘right’, and how I can ‘hone’ my skills as both a performer and a corporate worship leader. Read the rest of this entry »

This is an older blog from my personal site that I thought some on this list might find relevant…
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A few thoughts that have been brewing for a number of months, and have been regularly confirmed by other long-time, local worship leaders… Read the rest of this entry »