Archive | Worship in the Church

Posts regarding the direct practice of worship in the context of the local church.

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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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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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Planning Sunday after an Unexpected Tragedy

Last Thursday at 10:06 AM, Brian Chesemore, a pastor at Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville, texted me and the other pastors. He informed us that one of our members, 42 year old Wade Stephenson, had been in a “very bad car accident” and was on his way to the hospital. An hour later Brian simply texted: “He’s with the Lord.” I wept uncontrollably. Wade was a gentle, grateful, generous, godly man, a musician and leader who was loved and respected by everyone who knew him. He left behind his dear wife Rebecca, three young daughters, and a soon to be born son. The tragic news spread quickly throughout our three year old church plant …

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How Exciting Should Our Sunday Meetings Be?

Not too long ago a friend who leads the music in his church mentioned to me that his pastor wanted their meetings to be more exciting. Webster’s says exciting means “causing great enthusiasm and eagerness.” Certainly, nothing should cause greater enthusiasm and eagerness than meeting with the church to recount what God has done to save us from his wrath through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. All our sins are forgiven! We have been adopted into God’s family! Jesus has triumphed over sin, death, and hell! We are new creations! We are part of God’s  unstoppable, unchangeable, unrelenting plan to have a people on earth who …

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A Call for Musically Gifted Pastors

In 2008, I suggested in Worship Matters that the title of “worship leader” needed to be defined to be helpful. So I defined it this way: A faithful worship leader magnifies the greatness of God in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit by skillfully combining God’s Word with music, thereby motivating the gathered church to proclaim the gospel, to cherish God’s presence, and to live for God’s glory. I still like that definition, but I’m less sure the term “worship leader” is serving us. It’s taken on a life of its own and continues to be associated with stardom, predominance, the spotlight, good looks, hipster-ness, and in some cases, …

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Who Turned the Lights Out?

A while back Brad sent me this question: We seem to be developing a debate at our church in regards to turning down the house lights to “set the mood” for better worship. What is your take on that? Later I received this from Jeremy: I was wondering if you could offer any commentary regarding the use of lights at any of the WorshipGod conferences. I have memories going back to the “Psalms” conference [in 2008]. In each of the conference settings, it has struck me that the lights in the house are left active during the music-worship time of gatherings. Is that intentional? Is that unintentional? Is it because no one is available to run a lights …

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New Song from Keith & Kristyn Getty (& Graham Kendrick)

Not too long ago I was in Nashville with Julie and we stopped by to see our friends, Keith and Kristyn Getty. While we were there Keith asked me if I wanted to hear a song they had been working on with Graham Kendrick. Of course, I said. He played “My Worth is Not in What I Own.” I immediately thought, I want to sing this song and I want other people to sing this song. Now we can. But you can hear it for yourself. Col. 3:16 says that songs are meant to teach and admonish us while enabling the word of Christ to dwell in us richly. This song definitely accomplishes both goals. Here are the words: My worth is not in what I own; …

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Reflections on Turning 60

I’ve had more than one conversation with a 20 or 30 something worship leader who was concerned about growing old. Will I have a job? Will people still want me to lead? Will I be out of touch? Last month I turned 60. I guess that puts me in the “old” category, although in my mind I still think I’m 28. I thought it might encourage a younger leader if I shared some of the things I’ve learned in 30 years of ministry that have shaped me, changed me, and given me faith for the future. Consider this a follow-up to the post I wrote five years ago on being a 55 year old worship leader. Five lessons learned 1. Direct your desires. God tells …

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