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What We Did Last Sunday – Feb. 7, 2016

People have asked me for a while to occasionally post the order of a Sunday service at Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville, my home church. There’s no perfect liturgy, but it can be helpful to hear how others are seeking to lead meetings that are theologically informed, gospel-rich, and spiritually transforming. So here’s what we did in our gathering this past Sunday. The italicized words are transitional comments. CALL TO WORSHIP We typically play instrumental music for 1-2 minutes to draw people in, and then one of the pastors gives the call to worship.  This past Sunday I read from 1 Chronicles 29:11: “Yours, O Lord, is …

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What’s Ahead for Sovereign Grace Music in 2016

I know it’s already February, but people frequently ask me what’s coming up for Sovereign Grace Music in 2016. As always, Sovereign Grace Music will be providing Christ-exalting music and training for local churches from local churches. Here are some of the ways we’ll be doing that this year. Recording Projects We’re currently writing songs for a live album based on the Lord’s Prayer. The working title is Prayers of the Saints, but that could change. It’s exciting to see these songs of praise and petition take shape. We’ll be recording the album some time in early July, with an anticipated release date of October/November. We’re …

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What’s So Special About Singing on Sundays?

People sing. Everywhere. In their cars. In the shower. In choirs. At football games. At birthdays. At weddings and funerals. At rock concerts. In musicals and operas. When there’s sunshine. When it rains. When it’s stormy. In the morning, afternoon, and night. But when the church gathers on Sunday morning (or Saturday night, etc.), our earthly voices join the choirs of heaven and the singing is like no other. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been moved as I added my voice to the beautiful, engaging, powerful, awe-inspiring, robust singing of a congregation. But sometimes our sound is halting and weak. Out of tune and out of …

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A New Season for Sovereign Grace Music

Sovereign Grace Music  has been seeking to produce Christ-exalting songs and training for local churches, from local churches, for over 30 years now. We’ve been deeply encouraged and grateful that God has caused our songs to be sung throughout the world and translated into over 15 languages. All that has happened with a small staff and limited resources, by God’s grace. For a while now, Catapult Distribution has been distributing our digital music, Impact has been handling our fulfillment, and Integrity has been administrating our song catalog. Looking ahead, we wanted to consolidate and hopefully expand the reach of our resources. As …

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Who Would Have Dreamed?

Who would have dreamed or ever foreseen that we could hold God in our hands? That question comes from a song I wrote last year with my good friend, Jason Hansen, called “Who Would Have Dreamed?” for our album Prepare Him Room. We were trying to express the amazing miracle of the Incarnation. Theologian J.I. Packer says the Christmas event of Christ’s birth is where the “profoundest and most unfathomable depths of the Christian revelation lie. . . . Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as is this truth of the Incarnation.” Nothing in fiction is so fantastic. That means stories of Santa Claus, elves, Grinches, sugar plum fairies, and …

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Prepare Him Room Album Tour

“Tour” might be overstating it a bit, but I’m excited that we’re taking Prepare Him Room on the road for three nights in December. Some of the original vocalists and instrumentalists will be joining with local musicians for an event that will combine Scripture, prayer, and the songs from our Christmas CD, Prepare Him Room. Here are the dates: Dec. 10, Thursday, Cornerstone Church, Knoxville, TN, 7:30PM Dec. 16, Wednesday, Crossway Church, Lancaster, PA, 7PM Dec. 17, Thursday, Covenant Fellowship, Glen Mills, PA, 7:30PM We haven’t done anything like this before, but are excited about the opportunity to share these songs in a live setting. We’ll …

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Seven Myths of Contextualization

A wise missionary knows that preaching the gospel to a different culture requires contextualizing your message. The words we use don’t automatically translate to a new culture that lacks the associations and experiences we’re familiar with. We need to find new ways of communicating the old, old story, ways that can be understood, ways that “speak the language” of those we’re ministering to. But even on a local scale, we have to deal with contextualization. That’s because music and liturgy are a language. They can mean different things to different people. In the past few years, much has been written, advocated, and modeled to help us understand …

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The Story Behind He Who is Mighty

He Who is Mighty is one of my favorite songs from our Christmas album, Prepare Him Room. Every time I’ve led it, which I’ve done both during and beyond the Christmas season, the response has been immediate and enthusiastic. I asked Rebecca Elliott, one of the writers, to share a little of the story behind the song, which she co-wrote with Kate DeGraide. For he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. (Luke 1:49) The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. (Isaiah 9:2) Mary, Jesus’ mother, has always been a hero of mine, …

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How I’m Using the Songs from Our New Album

Sooner Count the Stars: Worshiping the Triune God is the latest offering from Sovereign Grace Music. On each album we record we try to strike the balance between creative production and accessibility. But at times it can still be difficult to tell what songs might work best for a congregation. So I want to save you some time here and explain the content of each song and how I’ve led or plan to lead them. 1. Sooner Count the Stars A joyful, mid-tempo, straight ahead song that seeks to capture the “unsearchableness” of God. While this song doesn’t address God as Father, Son, and Spirit, it helps us understand though we only know …

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Pre-Order The Ology for only $6

Our next kids album, The Ology: Ancient Truths Ever New, comes out this Monday, Oct. 19. But today through Sunday you can get it on Bandcamp for only $6 and download two songs right away. Here’s one of them: The Ology: Ancient Truths Ever New by Sovereign Grace Music The Ology is a companion to a book of the same name by my good friend Marty Machowski.  Marty’s storybook devotional seeks to teach kids important doctrines in a way that’s memorable, creative, fun, and understandable. We aimed for the same goal when a group of songwriters got together this past June to write songs for each chapter of Marty’s book. It was a great exercise …

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One Good Turn Doesn’t Always Deserve Another

A few years ago I attended the Sunday gathering of a church that primarily sang traditional hymns. The voices carried the songs and there were few, if any, instrumental breaks between verses. The congregation sang robustly and the sound was beautiful. But at the end of the meeting I was exhausted. Not only were the hymns in higher keys than I was used to, my voice never got to rest. I knew my experience was partly due to the inherent differences between singing hymns and contemporary songs.  But because there were no musical interludes, I also had less time to reflect on the truths we were singing. I was reminded that instrumental turns …

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What God Wants Pastors and Worship Leaders to Know

Recently I posted on What Pastors Wished Their Worship Leaders Knew and What Worship Leaders Wished Their Pastor Knew. Today I’d like to finish by suggesting a few things I think God wants both groups to know. These points certainly aren’t everything that can be said, but they might be helpful to keep in mind as we work together to serve our churches and bring glory to the Savior. 1. The church belongs to Jesus, not us. (Mt. 16:18) Rivalry and disunity contradicts what Jesus came to do – make us one (Jn. 17:11, 21-22; Phil. 2:1-2). If we think the other leader is taking away “our” time, the primary problem is the way we view …

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What Worship Leaders Wished Their Pastor Knew

Last Monday I wrote a post on What Pastors Wished Their Worship Leaders Knew. Today I want to suggest some things that worship leaders wished their pastor knew, or were at least aware of. A few introductory thoughts. If you’re a congregational worship leader (music minister, song leader, music guy, etc.) you should do whatever you can to express support, encouragement, and gratefulness for your pastor. Encouragement is oxygen to the soul, and “sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness” (Prov. 16:21). Also, posts like these won’t apply to every church situation. This is meant to be a conversation starter, not everything that …

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True Worshipers Arrives Today

Today Crossway is officially releasing my new book, True Worshipers. It’s been a long time coming. My first book, Worship Matters, was published in April 2008. It was supposed to be aimed at a general audience. But after reading my first draft, my pastor and friend C.J. Mahaney wisely observed that I was trying to address pastors, music leaders, musicians, church members, and non-Christians, all at the same time. To say it was scattered would be kind. So I narrowed my focus. I imagined sitting across the table from a 20 something individual who wanted to serve the church with his musical gifts but lacked theological training. Worship …

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What Pastors Wish Their Worship Leaders Knew

This past week I had the privilege of participating in the Cutting it Straight conference in Jacksonville, led by H.B. Charles, Jr. and hosted by Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church. H.B. started this conference, now in its second year, specifically to influence African American pastors to preach expositionally. I was invited to be part of the worship track. H.B., along with his music pastor, Joe Pace, hopes to see more black churches singing songs that are theologically rich and gospel-centered. Not gospel like “black gospel,” but gospel like “Jesus bore our sins on the cross to purchase our forgiveness” gospel. While our cultural …

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