Archive | Worship in the Church

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

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What’s Happening with Sovereign Grace Music

Things have been hopping around the Louisville office of Sovereign Grace Music. Here’s some of what we’ve been up to. Worship Matters Intensives and Video We recently finished our first Worship Matters intensive and will be recording the 12 part video series at the beginning of August. I’m praying churches will be able to use this in conjunction with my book, Worship Matters, to equip teams, pastors, musicians, and leaders. We’re also working on scheduling more intensives this coming year. If you’d like to be added to a list for future intensives, let me know through the Contact tab above. Future Albums I recently finished listening …

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Our First Worship Matters Intensive

This past week I led my first Worship Matters Intensive in Louisville, KY, and the thought I came away with was, “Why didn’t we do this sooner?” Twenty guys, primarily from Sovereign Grace churches, came together from Wednesday night through Sunday lunch to be equipped to lead congregational worship more effectively. It was a pretty diverse group, ranging in age from 19 to 54, and coming from Australia, the Bahamas, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, New England, Texas, Tennessee, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and Kentucky. Only two were full time pastors. The rest served as volunteers. We met for twelve 90 minute sessions, …

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Singing Songs from Questionable Sources

I had already been working on this post when I received this email from Ethan: “For the past year, I’ve struggled with the idea of playing ‘good’ songs (obviously room for defining some terms there…) from questionable ministries. In playing their songs, am I advocating for their entire ministry? In playing their songs, am I necessarily pushing my people towards their church (i.e., when the CCLI info pops up at the end of the song)?” I took a stab at this question eight years ago when I wrote “Does it Matter Who Writes the Songs we Sing?” Since then, I’ve been asked the question so frequently I’ve tried to refine my thinking on this topic. What …

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Songs and Thoughts from Together for the Gospel

The Together for the Gospel conference, held Apr. 12-14 in Louisville, KY, is an every-other-year feast of insightful Bible teaching, passionate singing, and rich fellowship. It’s the fruit of a friendship between Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, Al Mohler, and my good friend and senior pastor, C.J. Mahaney. That fruit has blossomed to encourage thousands of pastors faithfully serving their local churches. I had the joy of leading the music again this year. It’s a unique experience. A guy at a piano joined by ten thousand voices singing theologically rich, gospel-centered hymns, old and new. We’ve produced two albums from previous T4G conferences …

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Why a Synthesizer Isn’t the Holy Spirit

In recent decades ambient sounds have become omnipresent in church gatherings. Meetings start with a synth swell and every song after that is connected to the next with musical glue. Synth pads play softly behind prayer, Scripture readings, song intros, communion, and in some cases, the preaching. If you don’t have someone who can produce the necessary sounds, no worries. “Worship pads” in every key are available for purchase to smooth out the transitions. Which raises the question: what’s going on? Music and God’s Presence We often see a connection between music and the Holy Spirit’s activity in Scripture. Long before he was …

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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 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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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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