Wisdom Moon – who’s podcasts have been an encouragement to me on many occasions – was kind enough to include Saint Lewis‘s song “All in All (You’re all I Need)” as the closer for the 10/8/08 edition of the ALL ABOUT WORSHIP podcast.  Why don’t you hop on over and subscribe today?

If you’d like to use “All in All (You’re all I Need)” in your own worship service I’ve attached the pdf files below… thanks!

All in All chord chart
All in All chord chart capo

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

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!

Worship Leading Marathon Week!

September 24, 2008

Yes, these are my favorites.

With Fred on vacation, I was asked to lead worship for our mid-week prayer service – my wife is joining me on keys.  That night we’re having a special night of extended worship with the INSIDE OUT BAND, then Thursday evening rehearsal for “Big Church”, then sliding into home-plate on Sunday morning!  Add in all the planning, extra home rehearsal, and minor arranging, and you’ve got a whole week of working on both of my favorite things: God & music.

This is going to be a GOOD WEEK.

Thank you, Jesus!

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.”

I’ve made a mix of some of our favorite corporate worship songs at INSIDE OUT & RUSH HOUR over the past few years.  There’s some good stuff here.

“Best” Reading…

September 15, 2008

So, I did the ‘swap’ with Fred today, and reluctantly handed off Kauflin‘s amazing WORSHIP MATTERS book in trade for UNCEASING WORSHIP by Harold Best.  I devoured the intro & first chapter at church (don’t tell!!!) this morning (I’m a very fast reader) and really liked the taste of it.  Anyone else read this?  If so, what did you think?

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?!??

Time to get a clue…

September 9, 2008

If you haven’t yet awoken from your CCM induced stupor, it’s time to buy this, and wake up.

It’s about time we all got a clue… what a great c.d.! Creative, original, refreshing worship, indeed.,

So, not a dissertation today – just a question:

What ‘current’ (defined as you see fit) corporate worship songs move you to worship God the most passionately right now?  Do you have a gem that’s just ‘ripping you up’ currently?  I know that for me, “Let Your Kingdom Come” by Bob Kauflin has been my anthem for quite sometime, the Vineyard’s “All I Have“, & Sov. Grace Music’s “Out of the Depths” have really turned my eyes upward, and I can still – after over a year of using it – hardly get through John Mark McMillian’s “How He Loves” without crying, even if we sing it two services back to back!

What about you?  What songs are really moving you at the moment?

THANKS FOR LISTENING!

September 3, 2008

I just wanted to give a shout-out to all who came and and all who listened to us on 89.3FM, WECC The Lighthouse last night, either in person, on the air, or online.  We recieved many encouraging words, and – I must say – we were really blessed to have been there and hope to return again soon in the coming months!

In the meanwhile, they’ve added our song “All in All (You’re all I Need)” to their rotation, so be encouraged to give them a call (800-577-WECC) and request it when you’re in the mood.

Lastly, we were asked by a few people for chordcharts of our originals last night.  Though they’ll be on CCLI and on our own website soon, just drop me an email at saintlewis@bellsouth.net and I’ll get them to you right away.  Thanks for listening, and for the encouragement – blessings to you and yours!

appearing live on the air – tonight – on the Lighthouse, WECC 89.3 @ 6:30PM!

I’ve published a full review of Sovereign Grace Music’s “COME WEARY SAINTS” over at theWorshipCommunity.com.  Stop by and take a read!

This one is a bit different… hope you like.

John Stott on Worship

August 25, 2008

All worship is an intelligent and loving response to the revelation of God, because it is the adoration of his Name. Therefore acceptable worship is impossible without preaching. For preaching is making known the Name of the Lord, and worship is praising the Name of the Lord made known. Far from being an alien intrusion into worship, the reading and preaching of the Word are actually indispensable to it. The two cannot be divorced. Indeed, it is their unnatural divorce which account for the low level of so much contemporary worship.

Our worship is poor because our knowledge of God is poor, and our knowledge of God is poor because our preaching is poor. But when the Word of God is expounded in its fullness, and the congregation begin to glimpse the glory of the living God, they bow down in solemn awe and joyful wonder before his throne. It is preaching which accomplishes this, the proclamation of the Word of God in the power of the Spirit of God.

-John Stott, Between Two Worlds

Believe it or not, this is not from a book on worship, but a book on how to teach the Word of God.  Powerful, convicting stuff, huh?!

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

Man, I do love Louie!  His preaching is passionate, God-centered, & Biblically solid, and his vision is HUGE!  For those of you who agree, I really do suggest watching this official video from the Buckhead (Northpoint) Church blog.  May God inspire you to deeper faith (and acts of faith) as watching this did in me!

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.

I present to you… my first worship confessional… well, actually my second.  I deleted the whole first draft.  I came across as an arrogant, self-centered idiot in it, which rendered me entirely incapable of editing it in iMovie.  This one is better, but still I wonder – will anyone want to watch a 13 minute worship confessional?  I can taste the sinking blog stats now…

By the way, in order to participate in Fred’s ‘Sunday Set-Lists’, the set-list for Sunday was:

WALK IN: Tell the World – Hillsong United
1.  My Savior Lives – New Life Church/Desperation Band
2.  Marvelous Light – Charlie Hall
3.  Lead me to the Cross – Hillsong United
4.  How Great is Our God – Chris Tomlin (w/ How Great Thou Art)
CLOSING: Hosanna – Hillsong United 

Now, I’ll admit right off that though I’ve gotten a great deal out of his blog, and have also profited greatly from reading his books, I’ve never found Mark Dever to be a very engaging speaker.  Add to that the fact that he was given the monumental task of showing how the Psalms related to Jesus in “GLORIFYING CHRIST WITH THE PSALMIST“, I’m sad to admit that this was the session I got the least out of.  It was much closer to an “introductory overview” than a sermon, and was almost more content than I could take in during a session.  I did find one reminder encouraging, and that is that the example that the Psalms give of simultaneously acknowleging our sadness in the midst of times of suffering, while showing us how to remember God’s past goodness, and resting in the work he has done in the saints who have come before us.

David Powlison, who spoke on “ENDURING TRIALS WITH THE PSALMIST”, was almost the opposite.  I have read Powlison twice now – first, one of his own books, which I gave away before I was finished, and second in a chapter in “Suffering & the Sovereignty of God“: his is the only chapter I take exception to, in what is otherwise one of my favorite books of all-time.  That’s just to say, I was primed for disappointment.  I was wrong.  Powlison is a compassionate communicator, and easy to follow, and I took so many notes that it would be very hard to cover them all.  His teaching was laced with gems, as he taught through Psalm 28, eventually bringing three very helpful applications for us as worship leaders:
1.)  Remember the Minor Key
2.)  Slower tempos allow time to process
3.)  Allow for silence – a time for rest

The final main session I missed in order to catch my flight on time, sadly.  It was given by Bob Kauflin, and given my experience listening to him on other occasions during this conference, I have no doubt it was powerful.  My wife heard some of it online and said to me, “Who is this guy?!  He’s GREAT!”  I love the fact that Bob would most certainly take issue with that, pointing the glory back to God and saying “HE IS GREAT!

In review of the main sessions, of those I attended, be sure to not miss KNOWING GOD…, EXPRESSING EMOTION…, & ENDURING TRIALS.

Next, the electives…

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…

At the very outset of the conference Bob Kauflin noted that there were, usually, two different sorts of conferences, as far as worship goes.  There were those where the worship teams pulled together sets of all the most popular, and familiar new tunes, which everyone would be familiar with, or there was THIS CONFERENCE, where they would predominantly do all brand-new, original music, so we’d have fresh, new, Scripture-drench songs to bring back to our own congregations.  In all honesty, given that the great majority of those in attendance were worship leaders themselves, we grabbed hold of even the entirely unfamiliar songs and sang them with every ounce we had within us.  I must say, it was very refreshing to be in a room full to the brim of folks who’s hearts were just overflowing with passion for God every time the corporate singing began.

Though I’ve not yet grown familiar enough with these songs to know which one’s I will choose to introduce in the various corporate worship environments that I’m blessed to lead in, here are a number of the new songs we sang this weekend that have at least become a part of my personal worship time:


From the brand-new Sovereign Grace Music c.d. “Psalms” (you can listen to these songs at this link) these songs really moved me:
“Praise the Lord”, “God Shall Arise”, & “Blessed be the One”.

From the NA Band release “Looked Upon” I was really touched by:
“God over All”, & “Nail My Glory”.  I must say that I am VERY interested in seeing Devon & Jordan Kauflin continue on as songwriters.

And lastly, from Pat & Joel Sczebel’s independently recorded “You and You Alone“:
“Trust in You”, & “You are Good”.  I’ll admit it, these recordings could be better, but those are two POWERFUL songs, and seeing them lead (with Pat’s other son, Joel’s brother, Josh) brought tears to my eyes, not only because they demonstrated how music can be both simple and excellent, but also thinking of my own two sons, and looking towards the future, and what a blessing it would be to have my boys writing, recording, and leading worship with me one day.

More reporting on the actual sessions still to come…

Though I did indeed miss my lovely wife and family, I am in a bit of conference withdrawal!

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…

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…

As it won’t be long before this blog moves over to SaintLewisMusic.com (in development), I thought I’d do a quick overview of some of the more popular, and more important blogs I’ve posted here over the past couple of years. Dig around, comment, link, and just have an all-around great time. Unquestionably, my number one blog has consistently been the text of a sermon I preached last year at our Youth Group, Inside Out. It’s called A GOD WORTHY OF WORSHIP, which has now been shortened into an article called WORTHY, featured at TheWorshipCommunity.com. More recently, I have added to this ‘series’ of worship sermons; WORSHIP [IS NOT ABOUT SINGING] part 1, & WORSHIP [IS ALL ABOUT SINGING] part 2.

My second most popular post here is related to the first – another message to Inside Out. It’s called THE MEANING OF LIFE, and is a teaching on our created-in-the-image-of-God-ness. Yes, that’s a word – I just said it, so it has to be!

Next in line were a few posts that are also some of my personal favorites. MISSING THE MARK addresses how one’s spiritual gifts can change the way in which they fulfill certain ministry responsibilities, in particular how one event re-shaped how I think of my own. LOOKING FOR POTENTIAL is a reminder to keep an open eye for certain signs of giftedness within your circles of ministry, and to encourage those gifts. Lastly, a few posts which, though they are not yet in the ‘top 5′ as far as popularity goes, mean a great deal to me. A FEW LESSONS LEARNED is a collection of things I’ve learned about leading worship over the past few years. DOING WHAT I WAS MADE TO DO is my reflection on a nearly perfect day. Lastly, ON BEING A WORSHIP CRITIC touches upon the temptation to trash those who don’t do it the way we do. In short, we should avoid that temptation. In long…well, you should read the blog! I also did a series on Apologetics as Worship, which began with UNBELIEF: ROADBLOCK TO TRUE WORSHIP. I address the faux CHRISTIAN VS. SECULAR MUSIC distinction, a phrase I find heartbreaking (THAT’S NOT WORSHIP), and EXCELLENCE & CREATIVITY.  Some more recent favorites include WELCOMED INTO HIS JOY, FINDING YOUR VOICE, and THE MAN BORN BLIND: GOD, EVIL & SUFFERING, which seems a very appropriate read, given recent events.

If you’ve missed any of those, be encouraged to play catch up, and jump in on the discussions – comments are still open. Let’s sharpen one another.

So be it!

In all seriousness, it’ s been a strange week. Though I never knew her personally (I had seen her before, but I don’t believe we’d ever met), we had a number of friends in common, and as it has many others, her music moved me deeply. Having followed her battle against cancer this past year or so, it really hit me hard yesterday to learn of the loss of Katie Reider. Apparently, there were many others her life and music touched as well, for it was the highest number of blog readers I’ve had since I started publishing my thoughts online several years ago (on Xanga – does anyone use Xanga anymore?). My prayers go out to her closest friends and family.

On the other side of the coin, I guess you’d call yesterday “bittersweet” – the source of my new-found “fame” (though I hope, in fact, that it expresses God’s fame): I’m excited to announce that my article “WORTHY” is being featured at TheWorshipCommunity.com, an new online Worship ‘magazine’ which facilitates discussion and community among worship leaders & worship musicians who are “in the trenches”, as some have said – those who are leading their congregations in worship in churches around the world every Sunday. I’ve made some wonderful connections, and new friends, during the time that TWC was merely an online forum, and I’m excited to see it grow, and take the obvious next step into a full-blown online publication. I’m also honored to have the featured article this week. Please swing by, read it, and be encouraged to comment!

Lastly, it was a good evening because I can see the release of Saint Lewis’ “Songs from the Hope Farm” e.p. immediately on the horizon. Very late last night my wife & I were putting the finishing touches on one of her originals, and it just excites me to see this small sampler (all of these songs – albeit more professionally mixed versions – will also be featured on our full-length c.d. expected early next year) of original worship material come together, and I’ve been really blessed by the positive feedback we’ve received on many of our songs these past few months. A very limited edition printing of the e.p. will be ready very soon, but until then please stop by our website-in-the-making: Saint Lewis Music.

May God’s blessings be evident, & His Spirit be near…

What can I say?  I’ve been busy, and many of my favorite worship bloggers have gone post happy, and most of it contains GREAT content!

For instance, Milestone Worship brought us an excellent series called THE REDEMPTIVE WORK OF WORSHIP PART 1, PART 2, & PART 3, as well as another thought provoking addition to the SONGWRITING FOR WORSHIP series.

I am an Offering brought us a 2 parter on worship production that I found interesting; THE IMPORTANCE OF A PRODUCER, & PRODUCING FOR THE LOCAL CHURCH.  They also added another post in the PRACTICAL MUSIC THEORY series, which I’ve found very helpful in the past few months.  Lastly, they recently reviewed a book which I am currently reading, and encourage you all to pick up as well: WORSHIP GOD.

Rich Kirkpatrick just added two more to his Worship Mythbusters series, which I read faithfully; THE ROLE OF THE WORSHIP LEADER, & EXPRESSIVENESS IN WORSHIP VERSES LEGALISM.  Both of these really challenged me.

Adrian Warnock posted some interesting content from a multi-part interview with Phatfish’s Nathan Fellingham; THE THEOLOGY OF WORSHIP SONGS, & WRITING SONGS FOR WORSHIP.

And lastly (I warned you that there was a LOT, didn’t I?!), a whole slew of other excellent blogs and resources I’ve come across since my last ‘blog-love’ post:
BETRAYING GOD IN WORSHIP
FREE SOFTWARE FOR SONGWRITERS
A FEW THOUGHTS FOR THE WORSHIP LEADER
MUSICAL QUALITY IN WORSHIP SETTINGS
and an ONLINE SONGWRITING COURSE FROM VINEYARD UK.

That’s about it for now.  I hope these encourage, challenge, and build you up!

So be it!

Now, to be entirely honest and fair, I must mention that neither Matt Redman nor Eoghan Heaslip (my two  favorite songwriters) have released new c.d.’s yet this year, so the playing field is pretty much wide open.  However, if I were pressured to pick my favorite CD of new music produced for use as corporate worship so far this year, it would be Sovereign Grace Music‘s COME WEARY SAINTS, hands down.

After their powerful 2006 release, VALLEY OF VISION (from which I used no less than 4 songs in various corporate venues), I had truly resolved that they could surely do no better.  Apparently I was wrong.

It’s not that the production hits me square between the eyes – in fact, there are even a few moments where a synth sound strikes me as a bit ‘cheesy’.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good sounding c.d., but I would have done things differently in several places, given my personal tastes.  And it’s not so much that the performances stand out, though everyone on the disc performs to the top of their ability, and I’m more than happy to hear Jonathan Baird of West Coast Revival take the lead more often here.  It’s not the edgiest worship release of the year, nor the catchiest (though, there are a few tunes that indeed have the hooks), nor the loudest, or even the hippest.

What sets Come Weary Saints apart is the lyrics.  And oh, what lyrics!  Here’s the deal, this is an entire worship c.d. written to a very good and sovereign God from various depths and experiences of brokenness and pain.  How does that settle with you?  The lyrics are doctrinally precise, yet still felt rather than thought – which is an accomplishment, indeed!  Some songs are cries of the heart – psalm-like it their honesty – and others are songs of rejoicing, even from the depths near despair, where trusting God is the only option left.  Even as I write this tears are welling up in my eyes – my mind grabbing themes which have given me much comfort in the passing months since I first listened to this disc.

Sure, not every song will connect with every listener.  The musical styles are varied, and there are one or two that I still have not connected with.  That said, this is not only an important c.d. for 2008, but in my book, an essential one.  Please pick it up, for your own sake.

For a good cross-section of what’s in store, check out the following samples on iTunes:
Hide Away in the Love of Jesus
Every Day
Through the Precious Blood
Healing in Your Wings

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and GO ON TO MATURITY, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits.

Hebrews 5:12-6:3

The mature practice discernment. Notice; they don’t merely HAVE it – they put it into practice, and this discernment is sharpened by being continually put to good use. The discernment spoken of here is no spiritual gift, but simply something every mature believer, by encountering and knowing and growing up into Christ-like-ness, should have. And what does discernment in practice look like? Godly wisdom – nothing less. What is Godly wisdom? Applying the truth that we discover by “rightly handling the Word”.

It’s easy to let other’s consciences guide us, as seems to be the practice for far too many Evangelical Christians, which results in us, when trying to be ‘Biblical’ on secondary matters, teaching as truth – as law – things that the Scriptures are not actually clear on. Though many think they’re doing other believers a service, too often this acts as an ‘adding to the Gospel’, and usually results in ultimately enslaving genuine believers to the law – emphasizing law over grace, a grave error for believers, which ultimately leads to death, rather than eternal life.

We need to each approach the Word to discern for ourselves how God wants us to apply His Word, and be careful to not bind other believer’s by our own consciences on secondary matters. As each of us matures, we will discern how God is leading.

Finding your Voice…

June 25, 2008

I can sing.  I’ve always been able to sing.  I know it sounds cocky, but I’m just saying – I can’t remember a time when I’ve heard a song I liked and not been able to pick out most every part.  My mom has a beautiful voice – she used to walk the house while cleaning up in the late Summer afternoon singing “The wind they call Muriah” – my dad sang along to the oldies on long vacations, and late nights driving home from playing cards at our cousins nearly every weekend.  Even my grandmother, I discovered after she died, used to play autoharp in her family’s mountain bluegrass band growing up.  It’s in my blood, and though I have worked on it (any muscle needs to be exercised, ya know?), it’s came fairly naturally to me.

I’m very close to someone, however, for whom it has not been so easy.  Imagine your biggest dream being to sing – sometimes your ONLY dream – yet the voice just wasn’t there, and being reminded of it at every turn?  Whenever you sing, those present afterward compliment everyone on stage but you.  Some aren’t even so kind, commenting that so-n-so “sings so much better than you do“, and you wonder if they even have a clue.  So take every opportunity to improve yourself, but it comes in slow, small increments.  You take lessons, and you learn more about your inner life – your heart – than you do about how to command your voice to do what you hear inside your head.  Then one day, you give up – you pray: “God, teach me to sing.”  And not immediately, but almost immediately, something ‘cracks’ when you are worshiping – volume swells up, and faith rises up in you saying “SING!”  It’s a voice you only barely recognize, and though not yet polished, it’s the voice you’ve always heard in your heart – raw, and in need of ‘shaping’, but it’s the voice, none-the-less:  YOUR VOICE.

It’s been a beautiful story for me to see beginning to unfold, but it goes one step further to convince me of something I’ve always known deep in my soul.  EVERYONE CAN SING.  God made us for it, and though your voice may not win on American Idol, you have one – it’s strong, it changes a room when you open it, it says things that were made only for your mouth, expressing ideas that can come only from your heart.  God gave you that voice – it is especially for you: IT IS YOURS.

Never give up – USE IT.  I’ve absolutely no doubt about it: that is what you must do!

amen.

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and GO ON TO MATURITY, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits.

Hebrews 5:12-6:3

Since the one still needing milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, the mature believer should be the opposite. What does it mean to be “skilled in the word”? As 2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” To “rightly handle” the word is to be “skilled in the word”: treating God’s revealed Word with reverence, and respect, and interpreting and applying to one’s life (AND the life of others) with care and even fear, given how important it is to apply and understand them correctly (see 2 Peter 3:16). One does this by knowing and understanding the Word in context – historical & literary – so we truly understand what the original authors, inspired by the Holy Spirit, intended to say. In ‘big words’, we call this “exegesis” – in day to day language it simply means, we should be willing to understand what God is actually saying in His Word, and careful not to read our own ideas into it. As we mature in Christ, this should become more and more natural to us.

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and GO ON TO MATURITY, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits.

Hebrews 5:12-6:3

I see my calling as not only that of a ‘worship leader’, but rather a ‘worship discipler’.  In fact, I think the call of every believer is to ‘make disciples’, but it’s a hard road for many because we don’t understand what we’re working towards.  This current series of blogs will examine the 3 primary goals which amount to Maturity in Christ: Character, Attitude, & Lifestyle.  I hope you stick with me for the long-haul, and be encouraged to discuss!

There is a time by which a believer is no longer in need of discipleship, but should be given responsibility to disciple others – a time where he or she is no longer a student, but a teacher. This does not mean we/they stop learning, just as an adult does not stop eating food when he or she is no longer a child. If any of us stopped eating we would die, but an adult does – under normal circumstances – no longer need to be spoon fed like a child. He is equipped to feed himself. Biblically, we should each grow up to feed ourselves – to “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). This doesn’t mean we’re encouraged to separate ourselves from fellowship with other believers (Hebrews 10:25), but only that there is a point at which we should no longer need the spiritual attention of a newborn – when we should then be giving, rather than merely receiving. We need to seek Biblical relationships which can encourage this growth to happen – to put ourselves in situations and environments where we can become self-feeders.

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…

I have been reading though Bob Kauflin‘s excellent book, WORSHIP MATTERS: LEADING OTHERS TO ENCOUNTER THE GREATNESS OF GOD, and though I don’t have the book on hand immediately to quote from directly, one idea in particular has hung with me for weeks now and I simply have to share it.

Worship is an invitation to enter into the joy that the Trinity has experienced from eternity past.

It’s Edwards-ian in it’s depth and profundity, meaning that I may never entirely understand the concept, but it rings true on so many levels: it’s as though an idea comes at my feeble mind in so many directions at once that I can’t possibly see it from enough angles to wrap myself around it.

It all goes back to the Biblical truth that God did not create us out of loneliness or want, but out of an overflow of joy. God needs nothing, particularly relationally, as God is a perfect community – an unbroken fellowship – three who are actually one. When we are converted, we are adopted as His child through Jesus, and filled with God’s Spirit, and likewise when we LIVE worship, we are living in our Creator’s presence, through our Savior’s work, drawn in by the indwelling Counselor within, and we are stepping in the midst of that perfect eternal relationship – participating in the fellowship between Father, Son, & Spirit – which overflowed into the creation itself, and from which our own life-story flows. And even our bit in this grand story is all about Him, as I’ve written in my song ‘All in All‘; “You made me – sustained me. You saved and showed mercy to me. You called me, and sent me, but all in all it’s been all about You.

And that’s the wonder of it all: we benefit from the love God has for God – we find eternal security because the Father loves the Son, and the Son eternally stands to intercede for us – because we are filled with the good deposit of the Holy Spirit, and God can never be ‘against’ God. We can experience deep joy walking a life of worship, because when we do we – albeit in some limited, imperfect sense – feel the love a perfect eternal Father has for His Son (whom we are ‘in’) and His Spirit (whom is ‘in’ us).

Lord, let me grow deeper in that eternal joy!

So be it!

So I don’t forget to let you know, my talented bro-n-law has released a c.d. The official release is this Friday. It should really be incredible, and better yet, it’s free. On top of that, my band is opening, and debuting some brand new material. Doors open at 7:30 PM. We do hope to see you there!

Do you ever feel overwhelmed because of doubt?  Not so much doubt OF ‘the faith’, but LACKING faith and/or trust in God?  Tonight I am aware of my numbing doubts, and repent.  God is good – no, GREAT – and He has our – no, MY – best in mind.  A picture in one’s heart of God’s greatness – His sovereignty & power – does us little good if our heart’s forget that those are tempered with, and shaped by, His goodness and loving-kindness towards us: towards ME.  That is my temptation: not so much to doubt in my mind that He IS, but to doubt in my heart that He is GOOD.  So tonight I lay before him, taking thoughts captive, pushing hard the oars of my heart – directing my eyes towards things for which to be THANKFUL, and stepping back to see what bits of the big picture He has allowed me.  And worship… in Spirit & Truth.

so be it…

So, it turns out the rumor is true. One of the world’s greatest communicators of the Gospel (if you have any doubts, just watch this dvd some day) and the most successful (ie – his songs are more widely sung than any one else living) contemporary worship singer/songwriter planting a church together. It seems, having read about Austin Stone Community Church, that they are looking at this as an opportunity for them to refocus as a church, as having Chris Tomlin as their worship pastor, who helped to plant the church years before, may have been a distraction at times (I personally have a hard time imagining having such a high profile staff-person), given the immense success he’s undergone in the past few years. Though I haven’t yet read any comments yet, I imagine that North Point Community Church is blessing this step by Giglio, as well, given their emphasis on planting new churches and campuses around the country, and his long-term friendship with Andy Stanley, North Point’s pastor.

How odd to think of planting a church that would be immediately ‘successful’, at least as far as numbers are concerned (let’s just say that the first tithe should cover the pastors salary, which is unusual in church planting). It seems like a blessing, in some sense, but in another would have immense drawbacks. For instance, most of the folks who would flood to a church plant such as this would be primarily coming from either name recognition and the sheer ‘talent’ of those planting the church – that does not assure a very ‘spiritually mature’ core congregation, and discipleship may be a chore. There will probably be a good deal of ‘flux’ for a while – people who come, must like we experienced the first couple weeks that our new building was open, just to see what’s up – to experience the ‘new thing’.

God knows I love both Louie & Chris, their gifts, and how God has used them. I think we all need to be in prayer for them, their former churches, and all this move will affect – that God blesses all involved, that the Gospel will be center, that God will be glorified, and even more people will meet Jesus as a result of this move.

So be it. Amen…

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 »

“That’s not worship” or “They are not really worshipers” – there are few phrases which can come from someone’s mouth that sinks my heart deeper. Not that it might not be true: it is possible that there are people in any worship gathering whose heart is not turned towards God – in fact, given the nature of the flesh, there may be many of them. It may even, though I hate to think it, be whole congregations where few if any of the people gathered are worshiping the God of the Bible, as people tend towards worshiping a god of their imagination, instead of the God of revelation.

But how would you really know? Sure, there are outward signs, I guess – Biblical guidelines for what worship should look like, but those are broad and varied, and the Biblical descriptions no where say that it explains every aspect of what worship can or should look like. On top of that, there are Biblical examples of folks who may have done everything our accepted form of worship might expect to seem a ‘genuine worshiper’, yet their hearts were far from God – the worship was false.

I wrote a blog some time back on another aspect entirely of being a ‘worship critic’, but while thinking on this one I remembered one situation in particular that still stands out to me though it happened over 10 years ago. At the time I was attending a fairly conservative reformed church, and our corporate worship consisted of hymns played on piano, and singing – any song less that 150 years old there would be considered ‘that new one’ (and I only partially jest). I remember one occasion when a Pentecostal friend of mine visited on Sunday, and by the end of the service he was in tears. He said, “I’d never felt such a deep sense of the Spirit during worship before!” We sand songs like ‘And can it be’, ‘On Christ the Solid Rock’, ‘Be Thou my Vision’ (and those were the ‘rockers’!), off pitch and accompanied by a tiny upright – and there weren’t more than 100 of us in the room, and the Holy Spirit ruined that man in our midst.

You see, worship is about the heart, and it’s hard to discern the deep things of people’s hearts. Some of my deepest times of worship I seem outwardly expressionless, and sometimes when I’m totally ‘into it’, I’m actually TRYING to move my heart towards God, and my expression is pure will – not heart. That’s just to say, be very careful when judging other’s worship. It’s likely a far better project to judge the intention of our own hearts instead of the hearts of others.

amen…

If you want to keep up, please first read the INTRO, PART 1, & PART 2.

Even if you aren’t yet convinced that the Gospels are entirely trustworthy, the core of Jesus’ life can still be show reliable. Several historical facts must be accounted for by any attempted explanation of the origins of Christianity and, unless a person refuses to be open to the possibility of a God, the traditional Biblical understanding of Jesus’ life fits the ‘data’ well.

First, what took place which led a substantial number of the first century Jews to believe on Jesus as the Jewish Messiah in spite of the fact that he fulfilled very few of the Old Testament prophecies they expected the messiah to fulfill? Since none of us are first century Jews, this require a bit of background in order to recognize it’s full significance.

Prior to being, essentially, ‘enslaved’ by the Roman Empire, Jewish Rabbi’s expected not one messiah, but two; the first, “Messiah, son of Joseph”, was the suffering servant messiah prophesied of in Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12, who would suffer and die for his people; the second, “Messiah, son of David”, was the warrior-king of Isaiah 11:1-10, who would raise the Messiah Son of Joseph from the dead, and re-establish the Kingdom of God, and thus everlasting peace and justice, with His people, Israel. If you’d like more information concerning Jewish Messianic hope, please check out Arnold Fruchtenbaum and N. T. Wright‘s work on the subject. Anyway, due to the Roman occupation of Jerusalem beginning in A.D. 63, the Jews began to focus their primary attention of the second, Davidic Messiah (the warrior/king who would free them), and had largely forgotten the former. The Jews had had quite enough of captivity and desired a deliverer who would “…raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel…”, who would “…assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth.” Israel wanted vindication, and awaited a messiah who would “vanquish the oppressors of God’s people.” Honestly, who sees their need for a suffering & dying messiah when one’s already under oppression? They wanted ‘saved’, and to them that meant that they wanted to be freed from Rome! Heres one that’ll shock many Christians; several came claiming to be this very messiah prior to, and even some after, Jesus. We have written records that mention, if not document the movements of several of these; Athronges, Simeon ben Kosiba (also Bar Kockbar), Simon ben Giora, John of Gischala, Theudas, Jesus ben Ananias, Judas the Galilean, his son (or grandson), Menahem (the leader of the Sicarii), and Eleazar ben Simon. {see Theissen and Merz} The basic story in each case is the same; a prophet would gather a band of revolutionaries, which would proclaim him king, then stage a revolt against Roman rule. In every recorded case this revolt was subsequently crushed by Roman armies and ended with the crucifixion of their so-called “messiah” (and often the crucifixion of anyone the could catch who was involved with the movement), thus ending the revolt. {Wright, “the Original Jesus”, pg.68-70} Like Numbers 24:18 states, “…his enemy will be conquered, but Israel will grow strong”, the Davidic Messiah will be a conqueror. Combined with Deuteronomy 21:23, “…anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse,” one can see that, from the perspective of a first century Jew, not only is a dead messiah no messiah at all, but a crucified messiah is a false prophet and under God’s curse. So, when a movement’s leader was crucified, the survivors knew that he was false messiah and either disbanded, or found another messiah to lead the next revolt, eventually to the same end. Why was this not the case with Jesus and his movement?

To begin with, Jesus’ self-understanding was seemingly more in line with the priestly role of the suffering servant in Isaiah 53, the Messiah son of Joseph, than the Davidic Messiah of Isaiah 11, which is most likely why Jesus’ is often portrayed in the Gospels as having a “messianic secret.” Though his actions were often symbolic and overtly messianic in nature, verbally Jesus seemed to keep his identity, for the most part, secret until it was too late for people to misunderstand his goals and still force a violent revolution upon him. For instance, in Matthew 16:13-20 (see also Mark 8:27-30, & Luke 9:18-21) Jesus and the disciples are gathered in Caesarea Philippi (the known hiding place of several other messianic-led revolutionary groups, consequently), and Jesus asks the disciples their opinions concerning his identity. Peter responds, “You are the Christ…“, and the first part of Jesus’ response is of the sort one would expect from a 2000-year-old religious tract; “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah (Peter)…” What comes next though, for the modern Christian, is often quite shocking; “Then he (Jesus) warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ (or Messiah).” Only in light of what the 1st century Jews hoped for does this make sense; Jesus accepted the role of the Jewish Messiah, but not in the sense that even his own disciples completely understood, and, in some cases (Judas Iscariot, most likely), even hoped for. In fact, Jesus almost always tells people to remain quiet in predominantly Jewish cities, most likely due to misunderstood messianic expectations, and only told individuals to spread the news concerning his miracles in the predominantly Gentile cities, where, since they had NO clear messianic expectations, he knew he wouldn’t be misunderstood. Peter himself showed threads of the Davidic hope when he rebuked Jesus for predicting his death (again – a dead messiah was no messiah at all!), and pulled a sword and attacked those who came to arrest Jesus, cutting the ear off of one of the High Priest’s servants. Eventually Jesus did verbalize his messianic claims publicly, but, to his disciple’s confusion and distress, not until he was in chains before Pontius Pilate and about to be sent to his death. Jesus’ words as recorded in Matthew 27:11; “Yes, it is as you say.” Quickly, his disciples disbanded. Believing their messiah to have been proven a fraud, and, having wasted possibly as much as three years of their lives, they go into hiding for fear that they too might be killed. But, unlike other messianic movements before (and after) them, Christianity continued, and in spite of immense persecution, and within four Centuries Christianity was the official religion of Rome. What can account for this?

History shows that the tomb in which Christ was laid was discovered empty, which is the foundation from which the early church argues for Jesus miraculous physical resurrection from the dead. On the Sunday after Jesus’ Crucifixion some of his women followers went to his tomb in hopes of anointing his body, but on arrival they discovered it empty. “Well,” one might say, “the early Christians just made this up to validate their developing religion!” For a few fairly simple reasons the empty tomb is not quite so easy to dismiss.

First, one would suppose that if the early Christians had been so quick to make up stories to justify their beliefs that they’d make them a bit more credible. If the authors of the Gospels we have in our Bibles were so inclined to play fast and loose with the evidence, why would they undermine their argument by having the empty tomb discovered by women if it were not true? You see, In first century Palestine women were not only considered second-class citizens, but, as William Lane Craig states in REASONABLE FAITH, “If a man committed a crime and was observed in the very act by some women, he could not be convicted on the basis of their testimony, since their testimony was regarded as so worthless that it could not even be admitted into court.” [Craig RF pg.276] That women were generally regarded as untrustworthy and not considered reliable witnesses would also likely explain why the church’s earliest creeds, particularly the one quoted by Paul in chapter 15 of his letter to the church in Corinth, mentions by name only the Apostle Peter and Jesus’ brother James. [Craig, Assessing the…pg52] If the story were fabricated by the early church one would not expect women to be the first to discover the empty tomb, for that would undermine the story’s intent: to convince people that Jesus was the Christ. The fact that it is reported that women discovered an empty tomb is unquestionable. That Jesus’ tomb was empty is also attested to the fact that we see no evidence of the veneration of his burial site, an ancient Jewish custom, except that of the women when they shockingly discover that Jesus wasnt there. [Wright.Original Jesus…pg.70] Though some have argued that people in general had merely forgotten where Jesus had been laid, given Jewish culture at the time of Christ this just seems unlikely. Even if one distrusts the Gospels’ story of Jesus’ burial by Joseph of Arimathia, in spite of other ancient evidence to the contraire [The Historical Jesus – Theissen & Merz pg.500], one still must understand the degree of veneration the Jews had for their dead, especially those who had great followings and died heroically. In chapter 6 of Jesus Under Fire, Craig explains; “During Jesus’ time there was an extraordinary interest in the graves of Jewish martyrs and holy men, and these were scrupulously cared for and honored. This suggests that the grave of Jesus would have also been noted.” [Jesus Under Fire, Craig pg.148] Combined with the observation that the burial story is judged by many scholars to be from a fairly early source, that Jesus was buried in a known tomb by Joseph of Arimathea, or that at the least it is quite likely that many people knew the location of that tomb, is well attested. With that in mind, it must be mentioned that the Jewish or Roman authorities only had to produce the body of Jesus to stop the early church in it’s tracks — they didn’t, and couldn’t. In fact, they argued that the disciples had stolen the body, which at least implies that they knew of the tomb’s whereabouts and validates that that very tomb no longer contained the body of Jesus.

This raises a valid question, though; was it possible that Jesus’ body was stolen? First, if we allow the Gospels any credit historically, let us note that they record that a Roman guard (a group of men) were posted to keep watch over the tomb of Jesus, to make sure nothing of the sort happened. Also, since they would’ve been killed for not doing their jobs, it’s unlikely they could be snuck-by, or even bribed.

Secondly, though, let us ask ourselves – what had anyone of them to gain by the act? The disciples, or any Jews for that matter, had no expectation of an individual resurrection occurring outside the context of the general resurrection, and the sect known as the Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead, period. The Jews that did expect a resurrection, expected it to take place as a part of the ushering in of the kingdom in the end-times by the Davidic Messiah, and in THAT resurrection ALL who had ever died would be physically reassembled into new bodies in which they would live out the rest of eternity. An individual resurrection, even of the messiah, apart from the general resurrection was an unheard-of idea, and not a likely one to have been thought up by what would otherwise be just another band of revolutionaries mourning, what to them now would seem, another dead, God-judged, false messiah. Also, as William Lane Craig argues that it the theory that the disciples stole the body of Jesus is morally implausible, for the disciples seem to be generally moral individuals (not the type who would steal a body from a grave with the sole intent of deceiving others). It seems psychologically implausible, for the disciples were broken — they had given up on Christ, and were in fear for their own lives (not likely to pull off such a conspiracy), and lastly, the disciples sincerity is rarely doubted for they were all willing to die (and all but one did) for this messiah whom they claimed was raised from the dead. For these reasons, very few modern scholars argue that the disciples had stolen the body of Jesus. It is simply not believable.

Lastly, what could cause devout mono-theists, such as the Jews, to worship a man? Now, rather than go too in-depth with this, Im just going to skim the surface. The Romans took over Jerusalem in 63 B.C., and commanded that all who were under them worship their king. However, the Jewish people refused to worship anything but God, so they were killed in hordes. Finally, however, the Romans realized that at this rate they would have no one to RULE over if this practice continued so they made an exception but ONLY for the Jewish people no others. So, the determination of the Jews to not worship anything but God was so extreme as to exempt them from worshiping the Roman Emperor! Fast forward to a letter written by Pliny the Younger before 111 A.D. in it he refers to Christians chanting to Christ as if to a God. This may seem insignificant to some, but to a religion steeped in tradition, under conditions where, in order to retain their identity they would be forced to stand strong for their faith, it seems unlikely that, apart from a significant miracle of God, a people who would die rather than worship a man, were worshiping a man.

What could account for these three things?

  • 1.) What single event could account for a significant group of devout Jews, seemingly ignoring an important declaration of Old Testament law that anyone who is hung from a tree is cursed of God, continuing to uphold Jesus as the Messiah even after his crucifixion?
  • 2.) What could account for a significant group of devout Jews who were longing for a Kingly messiah to change their deep-set beliefs in who the Messiah was to be – a dead man?
  • 3.) What could make a significant group of devout Jews seemingly turn from their monotheism and worship a MAN?

The resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection attests to the truth of who Jesus was and what he did on the cross. It’s the only way I can make sense of it, and it brings me back to this person, Jesus, again and again.

And, as a result of seeing that there is good reason to trust in Christ, then there is also good reason to trust Christ’s word, and trust in the God who is revealed through Him. It takes a mind convinced that Christ is real, and that God showed his goodness & grace to us through Christ, to worship God whole-heartedly – with our whole heart, mind, soul, & strength. Trust in Christ, and trust in God, His father, and trust in His Holy Spirit, and WORSHIP with your whole life.

Amen…

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!

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 »

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.

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?!

Why music?

March 28, 2008

“…virtually all external expressions of worship ‘can be of no further use, than as they have some tendency to affect our own hearts, or the hearts of others.’ Consider, for example, the singing of praises to God, which seem to be ‘appointed wholly to excite and express religious affections. No other reason can be assigned, why we should express ourselves to God in verse, rather than prose, and do it with music, but only that such is our nature and frame, that these things have a tendency to move our affections.'”Jonathan Edwards, modernized by Sam Storms, from the book SIGNS OF THE SPIRIT: an interpretation of Jonathan Edward’s RELIGIOUS AFFECTIONS.

Man, what a GREAT last couple weeks for blogging!

First, Sovereign Grace Music has announced their newest c.d., COME WEARY SAINTS.  They’ve put complete audio online to sample, and though it’s quite a bit darker than most of their material (the theme of the c.d. relates to God being sovereign in our adversity), I am particularly excited about the new songs “Every Day” & “You have always been Faithful”.

Milestone Worship has added two more installments in their Songwriting for Worship series: Reci-Tativ & Aria, & The Singability Quotient.

In a similar vein, I was excited to find an entire teaching series on Worship Songwriting from the IWarSchool.  There’s definitely some good stuff there.

Rich Kirkpatrick dispels the common myth that “Worship with hymns is more theologically rich than with modern music” as part of his excellent WORSHIP MYTHBUSTERS series.

Speaking of hymns, Tim Challies reviewed a number of great new resources for those worship leaders looking for a fresh take on hymnody.

And lastly – entirely off the subject of music/corporate worship (though the author of this blog is an EXCELLENT songwriter, himself) – Stephen Altrogge posted a very convicting blog called WHAT ARE WE REALLY TALKING ABOUT? – it’s all about calling sin ‘sin’, and not candy coating it and making it sound acceptable.  Good stuff.

Amen.

Having been raised an Atheist, I understand the power of unbelief – it can act as a religion unto itself, and can be as much a world-view shaping belief system as the most controlling cult. Now, as a Christian, and a worship leader, I have recently recognized one of the hindrances to passionate, full-personed (heart, mind, soul, & strength) worship: unbelief. All too often our personal faith is based merely on experience, and though our personal experiences can supplement a deep, intellectual wrestling with facts to find the truth, even the Bible is FULL of individuals who had radical experiences of God, who later – sometimes quickly – turned from that very God whom they experienced. To truly worship God, we must KNOW HIM (experience) with our Heart, KNOW ABOUT HIM (apologetics/theology/doctrine) with our Minds, HAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM ON A SPIRITUAL LEVEL (it is not enough just to have a spiritual experience once, and to like the IDEA of God – we must have a soul-level on-going spiritual relationship with Him), and actively WALK WITH HIM (walking out what we know is true). We must love the One we know about in an on-going relationship that results in living differently – that is loving God with your heart, mind, soul, and strength. And we can only do this if our mind is on board, which is why there are such a thing as ‘apologetics’.

I once told a former house-mate of mine that I was speaking at an apologetics conference – he said that he was very sorry. Maybe that’s you – but seriously, since I’m going to start this on-going series on apologetics I feel it only right that I should AT LEAST touch upon what apologetics are and why we should even bother, before attempting to DO apologetics. William Lane Craig, author of Reasonable Faith, defines apologetics as “that branch of Christian theology which seeks to provide a rational justification of the truth claims of the Christian faith.” So, for the uninitiated among us, “apologetics” is basically a “Case for Christ” – giving a “Reason for God”. Apologetics makes us ask the question, “How can I rationally defend my faith?” Though there are many passages we could look at concerning this, I’d like to glance quickly at just a few verses that I believe should encourage every one of us to recognize the importance of a having a good, personal apologetic, not primarily for the sake of sharing your faith, but MAINLY in order to make you a better worshiper.

2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Notice that at first this verse seems to encourage argument, which seems to be in conflict with much of the wisdom of the Old Testament Proverbs – after a closer look I believe the second half of this verse clarifies it’s intended meaning – the arguments and pretensions that we are to demolish are ‘thoughts’ – ideas that take root in our minds, planted there by life in this fallen world. This verse encourages us to develop our critical thinking skills, so we can grapple with the ideas we encounter, and sift them like wheat – literally demolishing anything that acts to hinder our faith. This is truly what it means to “love the Lord with all of your mind” – giving all your thoughts to Him, and seeing which stand true — studying that we might know the truth, and seeking to think more “Christian-ly” about the world in which we live.

Secondly, let’s look at a handful of passages from Luke’s sequel; the book of Acts 17:2, 17, 18:4, 19 say as follows; “Paul…reasoned with them from the Scriptures”, “…he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day…”, “Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks”, and lastly, “He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews.” In every one of these verses, Paul is recorded as not giving just a simplistic Gospel message followed by an alter-call. Instead Paul put great time and effort into REASONING with non-believers. In Athens, in fact, he even uses a local “alter to an unknown god” to make a case for the truth of the Christian God. Another significant thing to note, however, is the centrality of the Bible to good apologetics; Paul didn’t just use fancy philosophy to convince people of the truth of Christ, but “he reasoned from the Scriptures.” It is important to remember that, even in apologetics, the Scriptures are central to what we do – if it is indeed true that “the word does not return void”, then we’d be foolish to begin elsewhere. Often, one of the things that leads us to doubt is that we are not in the Scriptures regularly, and when we are there, we do it merely as a chore – not expecting to meet God within its pages.

If God requires of us as believers to love Him with all of our “heart, mind, soul, and strength”, we should recognize the true Gospel appeals to the whole person AS A PERSON – not as merely a ‘sales pitch’, which is what has too often occurred. Though the Scriptures require of us to “always be prepared to give an answer” (1 Peter 3:15)our intent is not to merely win arguments – even with our own doubts – it is to lead ourselves and others to further see the greatness (and TRUTH) of God, so we can better worship Him, and be better ‘worship leaders’ (in the broadest sense of the word) to a world that grows continually more skeptical by the minute.

Thinking back to not only my own walk, but looking around at the spiritual walks of so many others, I think of the fire that so many of us had when we first met Jesus, which grows dim as personal tragedy and heartbreak hit, and we let ourselves grow skeptical. How can I expect to be used of God to set a room of worshipers aflame with passion for Him, if I, myself, am not on fire for Him? For that reason – both for my own soul, for other worship leaders with whom I have contact, and for the sake of those I am blessed to lead, I am going to begin a weekly blog entitled “Unbelief: roadblock to true worship”, which I hope to publish every Tuesday. I hope that in the process of your mind growing more convinced, that our hearts with grow more passionate, our spiritual lives will flourish, and that the reality of Christ will be undeniable in our lives – which IS worship lived out.

I hope you will go on this journey with me.

So be it.

Musical Flashbacks

March 11, 2008

So, I was eating with my family at Outback this past weekend, when I suddenly noticed a powerfully catching riff quickly above me coming from the speakers – I quickly excused myself from the table and moved around the room until I could better hear it. I was not wrong! It was “It’s a shame about Ray” by the Lemonheads – a song I used to have in regular rotation on one of my 3 different college radio shows back in the early 90s! As soon as we got home I went on an iTunes surfing fest from my early college days, and was engulfed by so many original, and fabulous melodies that I just had to share them, especially in light of my recent blog on Excellence & Creativity in Worship. Read the rest of this entry »

Wow.

March 3, 2008

Wow.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Given how many ‘secular’ (I don’t actually BELIEVE in a Christian/Secular distinction, but I sometimes use it for the sake of simplicity) artists I talk about here, you may wonder why I mention them so often on a ‘Worship Blog’. Two words:

1. EXCELLENCE

2. CREATIVITY

God is great. He deserves our best – the ‘first fruit’. That is worship: giving God our best. Worship music – and all music made by Christians, which should be an act of bringing glory to God – should be original, inspiring, and – at least in some sense – cutting edge. This is one of the reasons I have been so convicted as of late to write new songs for worship, and to develop my craft as a writer: God deserves it.

God is also the creator, which is to say, He is the most creative being in the universe. We’re created in His image. Jesus is restoring us to that perfect image of God – our creator God: the creative God. Though there has been great headway made in this are the past few years, it should be the NORM, not the exception, that Christian be leading the pack in making music that is both excellent & creative, rather than creating more mediocre rip-offs of musical genres that are long passe to the culture at large.

Believe it or not, I listen to about 90% music that would be considered ‘Christian’ (as in, the artists either profess faith, and/or are on a ‘Christian label’ – whatever that means, and/or sing songs with messages primarily about Christian things – don’t fool yourself into thinking that all 3 of those must be in place in order for an artist to be labeled ‘Christian’ for marketing purposes, though), most of which is what would be called ‘worship music.’ Artists like Matt Redman, Eoghan Heaslip, Steve Jones, Jeremy Riddle, & the Sovereign Grace team encourage and inspire me: their songs are fresh, Biblical, challenging, and frankly I NEED that – I need to drink from that well. But they have their influences, and I only receive those musical influences distilled – watered-down – when I step into the stream at it’s end. I find it FAR more helpful, and far more challenging for me as a musician and a writer, to wander up-stream to it’s sources.

For instance, if you want to be the next Delirious stop sitting in your room trying to play “My Glorious”, and don’t even bother thinking you’re cutting edge by learning a U2 song – pick up My Bloody Valentine‘s LOVELESS (yes, those are GUITARS). Learn “Only Shallow” or “Loomer”, which inspired U2 to make their classic “Achtung Baby”, which then inspired 1,000s of clones in both Christian and Secular markets, even many ‘worship artists’. Besides, if you can work your effects and manipulate your guitar to sound like My Bloody Valentine, you will have no problems pulling off tunes that could tie Delirious in knots if you worked at it.

Similarly, if you want to explore the dreamier side of Brit-pop as a songwriter or musician, you may want to pick up “Serene Velocity” – an anthology by Stereolab, even though you’ll understand less than half the words (much of it is in France), and what little you’ll understand will primarily be political pro-socialism garbage. Yes, ahh – the music: a blend of Hip-Hop, Funk, Jazz, Chamber Pop, 50’s Lounge, Vintage Electronica, and ‘Krautrock’ – I THINK it fits somewhere in the ‘Rock’ category, but that’s debatable. I personally discovered a few of their early EPs as I was discovering the whole 4AD & Shoegazer music scenes in the 90s, and they had a long-term influence on my use of counter-melody and syncopation in many of my own songs. Here’s a good, balanced compilation of their tunes from the beginning until now. It might not be your cup of tea, but if you’re looking to expand your palette, here’s a good place to start.

And please, let’s not be derivative – good music should open our mind to the almost endless possibilities we have as songwriters and musicians…push yourselves. Remember: He deserves our BEST.

Friday Blog Love

February 15, 2008

There have been so many good blogs and new resources published this week that I can hardly keep up!

First, Mark Altrogge over at The Blazing Center posted Hope for the Sin-Stained Worshiper. Though I’m sure no worship leaders that read this blog have EVER got into a fight with their wife on the way to church (at least I NEVER do that – um, right honey?), you may still benefit from this.

Jared Wilson at Gospel-Driven Church gives a helpful critique of the idea that ‘God shows up’ in the musical aspect of a worship service in a blog worth thinking considering: Call & Response.

Jordan at Worship Trench shares some helpful thoughts that are very relevant if you are, like us, in the process of moving into a new facility, and find your congregation in the midst of great change. Check out Walking the Tightrope for his thoughts.

Lastly, we’ve really been emphasizing, among our student leaders in particular, the importance of daily Bible study and quiet time – growing really familiar with God through his self-revelation in the Word. With that in mind, it is very important to consider what translation we are using and why. In light of that, I present Tim Challies’ The Beauty of a Good Translation and Adrian Warnock’s The ESV: a Bible translation for Everyone? Both give good reason why I choose the ESV over all the other options.

Have a blessed weekend!

Amen.

So, I’m apparently finding it hard to keep up.

A couple of the Saint Lewis band-members had been nagging me to check out a few new worship artists, saying that they were ‘over Hillsong United’, and were now listening to Planetshakers and Generation Unleashed.  I didn’t think anything of the comment until today I stumbled across both bands on iTunes and thought I’d give them a listen.  WHOAH!  How’d I miss this?

Honestly, I’ve not yet listened all the way through, nor have I inspected their lyrics (I don’t introduce new material that is unScriptural or terribly unbalanced, no matter how good it sounds), however my interest is most definitely peaked.

Here are both bands latest available releases from iTunes.

From what little I’ve heard, I think I like Generation Unleashed better than Planetshakers, but that could easily change.

So, have any of you heard (or heard of) these folks?  What do you know?  What do you think of them?  Why have you been holding out on me?  Please comment this one…

thanks

I’ve known about IHOP (International House of Prayer, KC) since they were about a year old. I discovered them around the same time that God so kindly reminded me that He was NOT a duality, but a Trinity (Hello Holy Spirit!), thanks, in part, to my friend Don Williams‘ book The Person & Work of the Holy Spirit. In fact, one of my ‘living heros’, Sam Storms, is connected to their ministry in many ways since the beginning.  I didn’t listen to any IHOP music until Misty Edwards debut, Eternity, was released in ’03. Since then a number of my friends have gone to IHOP for various periods of time, I’ve explored a lot of their music, alleviated a few of my more serious doctrinal concerns (which, I found also were quite justified in their early days), and found that Mike Bickle’s view of the end-times is quite interesting and attractive, even to a ‘partial-preterist‘-leaning fellow like myself.

Well, though IHOP related artists have released some very powerful c.d.s in the past few years (see the fore-mentioned Misty Edwards, Jason Upton, or Isa Couvertier), much of which I LOVE for times of personal worship, most IHOP material is simply not practical for even the most adventurous contemporary congregation. That being said, I think IHOP may be moving in the right direction with their newest release, IMMERSED.

Heather, our Youth Vocal Coordinator, who – I believe – I may have introduced to Misty Edwards’ music myself a number of years back, has done a great job at keeping me up-to-date on all-things IHOP. This week to dropped into my hands a few samples from IMMERSED and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing – it was CLEARLY IHOP, yet with corporate worship potential! My absolute favorite was “Stir up the Flame”, but another stand-out was “Shine on Us”. The songs are singable, melodic, & Scripture-based, and the music is captivating. Thank you Heather – now I need to buy the whole disc!

Be encouraged to follow the above links to explore this new release, which should also be available on iTunes soon. I think it’ll be worth it if you do.

Yesterday was one of those ‘highlights’ for me – a day where, from morning till sundown, I felt as though my every step was perfect.

In the morning I went to church and led the Rush Hour (Jr. High Youth Group) band, including a brand new guitarist who had never played with us before (apart from a rehearsal), and it was GREAT. Not only was the worship time intimate – the youth in the room seemed engaged, and during the quiet moments I could hear voices from every corner of the room, but the band sounded great, especially the new guitarist. I love leading worship, but even more-so, I love seeing young musicians ‘get it’, both spiritually and musically. It just lights me up to see a kid step up and DO IT, and do it well, even! It was a good morning.

After church, I spent the afternoon in the studio with my wife singing background vocals for my brother-n-law’s forthcoming c.d. (for whom my wife is the booking agent, so if you’d like him to play somewhere LET ME KNOW). He’s working under the name McKendree Augustas, and the new tunes are sweet. I’m excited to hear the final product, which should be mixed later this week.

Finally, in the evening, I got to open for David Herndon at his c.d. release party. Given the nature of the songs he was playing that night, I decided to be ‘Set on Edge‘ for the evening, instead of ‘Saint Lewis‘. I usually rely upon a group of excellent musicians, but instead focused on spicing up my acoustic parts a bit and did it solo. I not only felt very good about the performance (there was a great audience there – I’d guess 300+ showed), got many compliments, and sold a few cds, but also got in a number of great conversations, and for me those conversations/relationships is what good music really comes down to: a conversation between me, the listener, and God.

Yesterday was one more day that makes me consider doing some really crazy things to enable every day to be like that. The thought of one day leading others in worship, training musicians and worship leaders and seeing them step into their own, writing songs that move people’s hearts and the heart of God, playing live, and recording – well, that just sounds like Heaven on Earth to me and leaves my head spinning.

Yesterday was a good day. 😉

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 »

This past Sunday was such an encouragement to me. After a hard week at both jobs, I just didn’t know how Sunday morning would go. I felt beat down, tired, and discouraged on all fronts, so what’s the next obvious thing to do?: WORSHIP GOD! How true that is! One thing that did strike me as a real blessing was how God led me in choosing the songs before I even knew what David was preaching on. It didn’t dawn on me until I sat through David’s sermon on Sunday morning how perfect the songs were – every one tied into and emphasized the overall message that morning. Such a blessing! Thank you, Holy Spirit! Read the rest of this entry »

I take great joy in tracking down new worship songs, as it provides for me new opportunities – fresh words – to worship God with privately, and sometimes new tunes to guide our youth upon a path towards seeing God more fully. Here are a few of my more exciting discoveries over the past few months: Read the rest of this entry »

So, here’s the proof. I know I’ve been SAYING that Saint Lewis is recording a c.d. for ages now, but TODAY I HAVE PROOF. Please visit SAINT LEWIS’s myspace page and listen to song #2, a VERY ROUGH, and quite unfinished demo of my original song “You Came Running”. The only thing that we’ll be keeping from this version are some of the acoustic guitars and the drums, but it’s enough to get a sense of the song’s vibe. The vocals, electric, bass, and etc are all ‘scratch’ tracks, but the band will be coming over this next week and putting the finishing touches on this song, and others. So, here I stand – baring it all it it’s rawest form. I pray this song, even as it now is, blesses you. Thanks for listening.

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 »

I don’t know HOW I missed this, but Kingdom Rain, a loosely affiliated extension of the Vineyard Church’s ministry, has an excellent online resource for worship leaders called WORSHIP FIT FOR A KING. There are a good number of helpful articles there written by various worship leaders and songwriters. Bookmark this one, and return to it often!

Our pastor, David Yarborough, hit a home-run today with his blog PLEASE JESUS. A little hint: it’s all about a bumper sticker that I almost purchased myself once when I was in college.

Our Worship Director here at St. Simons Community Church, Fred McKinnon, posted a humorous poke at our Youth Pastor, Jon Blankenship. Jon apparently worked with Fred on re-recording “I will Survive” for our KidJam ministry…as a sheep. You will most likely die laughing at this, so prepare yourself: go ahead and call 911 BEFORE listening.

Heather, wife of the fore-mentioned Youth Pastor, and our ‘Vocal Coordinator’ at INSIDE OUT, posted this excellent blog about Biblical humility she titled Broken Things, which is closely related to my last Worship Textfessional. Very challenging, and worth a read.

If I don’t post again soon, I pray you have a great weekend!

“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 »

Sovereign Grace Fellowship pastor Rick Gamache recently preached a powerful, Piper-esque sermon entitled WORSHIP GOD!: WHOM DOES GOD WORSHIP? It’s a good foundation for a ‘theology of worship’. Recommended.

Like Hymns?

December 11, 2007

For those of you who love remade hymns, few do it like the folks at Indelible Grace.  Well, they have a new cd coming out that you may want to check out:

INDELIBLE GRACE V: Wake thy Slumbering Children

Since the year is coming to a close, here are some of my favorites for 2007:

Read the rest of this entry »

I recently was chosen to review a Christmas c.d., but I’ll have to be honest with you: I’m not a really big fan of Christmas music. There are a few artists/albums which I enjoy, such as Over the Rhine’s Snow Angels, Jars of Clay’s Christmas Songs, and Bruce Cockburn’s Christmas, but generally I find Christmas music either stale and overused, or just ridiculous and annoying. In light of those critiques, Savior: Celebrating the Mystery of God become Man – though not a spotless gem – is indeed a breath of fresh air, and has been spinning almost continually since I received it over a week ago. Read the rest of this entry »

And now introducing…

December 4, 2007

Samuel Tucker Haddon Lewis, born 4:59 A.M. on Sunday morning, December 2nd, 2007. Stretching out a full 21 inches long, and weighing in at 8 lbs 5 oz, he’s very healthy, peaceful, a great eater, and let’s just say that his plumbing works, and often.

In the Bible, names are important – they means something, often acting almost like a prophecy over the individual named. Like his older brother, Daniel Kenimer Augustus, Tucker has a big name, and God-willing, that name represents his calling.

“Samuel”, at first was chosen to honor a pastor/author/Bible teacher who’s balance between the ‘Word of God’ and the ‘Spirit of God’ I find ideal: C. Samuel Storms. Sam has authored many of my favorite books, and his teaching has sent me back to the Scriptures again and again. However, after I’d already decided on that name, God led me to begin re-reading the Biblical book of 1st Samuel, and I was given a 2nd reason to give him the name: “And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.” (1st Samuel 3:19) When Tucker speaks, I want his words to have purpose and impact people, and not be like so many of mine have been – fruitless, and without impact. In both of these ways I hope that Tucker is indeed a “Samuel”.

“Tucker”, my wife’s maiden name, and the last name of her Father as well – a man respected by many, who seeks to worship and serve God to the best of his ability, whom we respect and love deeply. I believe that re-using maiden names as a first name gives a person a sense of history – a constant reminder of those who have gone before him.

“Haddon”, the middle name of the incredible pastor-teacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, more commonly known as “C. H. Spurgeon” – “the prince of preachers”. In the mid-1800s, long before sounds systems or, for that matter, ‘mega-churches’, at the age of just 22, Spurgeon pastored a church which sometimes numbered over 10,000 a Sunday! To this day his influence is second to possibly only Jonathan Edwards, another of my long-dead heros.

And “Lewis” is his direct connection to me and my mess of a history – the good and bad which I hope God will use to both glorify Himself, and to teach others, like my young Tucker, of his goodness and faithfulness, in spite of our short-comings.

I thank God for this glorious weekend…welcome to the world, and my family, young Tucker!

Amen!

 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?

Kevin Twit, an RUF Campus Minister at Bellmont in Nashville, the leader of the Indelible Grace worship team (some of the members of which are also in Jars of Clay and Caedmon’s Call), and an ordained PCA Presbyterian minister, recently gave one of the most profound teachings I have ever heard on KNOWING GOD’S WILL. Though I think he misunderstands the modern-day gift of prophecy, as most PCA Presbyterians do (I speak as a former PCA-member, who holds much love for the denomination – I should also note that not all PCA-ers agree with him), the rest of the content of his teaching is absolutely incredible.

If you find yourself challenged by this, be sure to also check out Kevin Twit’s excellent WORSHIP SEMINARS

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 »

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…

Sadly I don’t have time for an in-depth review, but I do want to give a heads-up on two new ‘worship’ releases.

First, a disappointment: I’ve long been a fan of the Desperation Band from New Life Church. Songs like “I am Free”, “Amazed”, “Beauty of the Lord”, and “Rescue” have been some of my most oft-used, and favorite corporate worship songs these past few years, and I even enjoyed their last c.d., though I didn’t end up using anything from it in our services. 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. 😉

Lead me to Worship…

October 31, 2007

Just a few images that led me to see God’s greatness this A.M….enjoy Read the rest of this entry »

Matt Chandler at the Village Church preached “Sovereign Over All”.  THIS is a sermon that leads me want to passionately worship my God. It’s like a spiritual punch in the gut.  Very powerful!

It’s been a GREAT year for new music. Here are a few songs, newly available on iTunes, that I’m really digging right now. Read the rest of this entry »

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…

How did I miss THIS?

October 22, 2007

Check out this GREAT blog post from In the Clearing:

Whitmanesque Worship

I’ve been reading What Jesus demands of the World by John Piper off and on this year, which has brought to mind the late James Montgomerly Boice’s EXCELLENT book Christ’s Call to Discipleship, and the fact that – Biblically – being a Christian is NOT about THINKING of Jesus as God – though that’s all fine and dandy – but about following and trusting Jesus as LORD, which means King, Owner, Master or Boss. Proclaiming Jesus as Lord, while actually MEANING IT, is far more than just accenting to a verbally stated truth: that God is revealed in the human person of Jesus. Instead it is an actual acceptance of the mastery of Jesus over us, and living that out – THIS IS KINGDOM LIVING: submitting to Jesus’ lordship. And THIS is Worship.

Now, you can go on with your day, living like Jesus owns you.

my “kids”…

October 17, 2007

I’m very proud of my “kids”.

As many of you know, the ‘Inside Out Band’ – the Sr. High youth worship band I’ve been working with since May of ’03 – played alongside 4 other bands (not ‘youth bands’, mind you) at the Baby Boom benefit concert this past Friday night. Not only did we worship like only God was there, but we rocked HARD while we were at it. Don’t believe me? 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 »

Sojourn Community Church

Holy smokes, where in the WORLD did THIS Worship c.d. COME FROM? Read the rest of this entry »

Thank you so much for your prayers – I am feeling SIGNIFICANTLY better, though still mediocre at best. A little throat swelling/soreness, and really tired (in spite of sleeping straight from Monday through Thursday morning!), but better. I hope to be in top shape by Sunday A.M., since I’m playing acoustic and leading 2 songs for Church in the Park that morning!

In other news, and great news it is Read the rest of this entry »

Do yourself a favor and check out Bob Kauflin’s very insightful blog over at Worship Matters:

WHEN FEET WANT TO BE HANDS 

I wish I had written this…

September 24, 2007

I do wish that I had written this, not because I agree with every word (though he makes a few good points), but because I’ve passed through this phase and understand where this man is coming from. I think it’s important to keep in mind that there are a great number of folks that feel this way (particularly many men) within our congregations, and we need to keep in mind that this is a segment of the folks we are ministering to as well. So, here you go ‘worship leaders’: I am not in love with Jesus by John Stackhouse.

p.s. – you need to read through the responses as well.

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!

Today I heard Jennifer Nettles’ newest song on the radio while driving in to work. At first I didn’t recognize her voice (she’s the lead vocalist of Sugarland), but was immediately taken with the song. When I heard her name, however, a huge grin came across my face. You see, I remember when Jennifer was one of ‘us’ – not a ‘rock star’, but a struggling musician in the dingy rock-clubs of Athens, GA. At the time I was new to town, and ‘the new guy’ at the Flagpole music journal. There was a c.d. that had just been released that was so terribly un-hip that no one at the Flagpole would touch it with a ten foot pole: Soul Miner’s Daughter “The Sacred & Profane”. The staff there encouraged me to tear it to bits, and sincerely – it was bad. However, in the midst of the average musicianship, mediocre songwriting, revolting sexual imagery, and poor production there was a shimmer of something beautiful: there were moments where the lead singer, Jennifer Nettles, showed a spark of life that suggested something more. Read the rest of this entry »

As Biblical worship is more than music, but is rather a full-life response to God’s revelation, it’s important for any believer – in order to worship God ‘in Spirit & Truth’ – to understand not only who God is, but who we are in relation to Him. That is why I’m sharing this teaching I shared last year at INSIDE OUT.

I once heard Dr. Richard Pratt tell the true story of a young woman who was cheating on her husband, and had left her husband and two children to live with her boyfriend. But soon, things had gone sour with her boyfriend too – he had thrown her out of his place – so alone in a hotel room, despairing the events that had led her to where she now was, she shot herself in the head with a .38 caliber pistol. The note she left on the nightstand simply stated, “Don’t cry for me – I’m not even human anymore.” Ironically, just two floors down in that very hotel was a New Age convention. The gunshot couldn’t even be heard above the din of the crowd, who were all chanting, “I am God! …I am God! …I am God!” Read the rest of this entry »

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 »