On God, Glory, Grace, and Grammys

As a professional musician for almost 40 years, I’m at least mildly interested in the Grammys each year. Who are the young artists that will be tomorrow’s legends? Where is music headed, if anywhere? What old artists are continuing to produce great music or making a comeback? Since this past Sunday, there’s been a disproportionate amount of online buzz about the show. I watched a part of it and was freshly grateful for a DVR with fast forward capabilities. In case you missed it, this year’s event included an overtly sensual duet between Beyoncé and Jay Z, a satanically influenced segment by Katy Perry, and a mass wedding for 30+ heterosexual …

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Oh, Oh, Ooh, Ooh, La, La, Whoa

  I’ve been thinking about the use of generic syllables in congregational singing for a while now. It’s not a new phenomenon. I remember singing, “Lai lai lai lai lai, lai lai lai lai lai lai,” as the last verse of the song in the 70s that was called “Then shall the virgin break forth into dance.” I think it was supposed to be the dance section. We sing, “Deck the halls with boughs of holly, fa la la la la, la la la la” and don’t think twice about it. And the Beatles did just fine with “ob-la-di, ob-la-da” and the epic ending to Hey Jude (Na Na Na Na na na Naaaaaaa). But recently an increasing number of modern worship songs feature …

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Why Should You Come to WorshipGod UK?

I’m looking forward to a number of WorshipGod events in 2014 that include the Dominican Republic (July 3-6 at La IBI), and Orange County, CA (July 16-19). But in about 6 weeks (5-8th March), we’ll be at the Forum in Bath, UK, for not only the first WorshipGod event in 2014, but our very first conference in the UK, with the theme, “Called to be Faithful.” I’m excited to be joined by some good friends from the UK including Stuart Townend, Mike Reeves, Nathan and Lou Fellingham, Philip Percival of EMU Music, and others. I’m also looking forward to bringing some friends from the States, including Jeff Purswell and Craig Cabaniss, two of my favorite …

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A New Look for Worship Matters

  If you’re reading this by email or an RSS feed you probably won’t notice that Worship Matters has a new look. It’s something I’ve been hoping to do for a few years now, but like many projects on my plate, they take a little longer than I expect. David Rojas has patiently helped me get this new theme up and I can’t say enough about what a joy it’s been to work with him. David was born in Jerusalem, the sixth in a family of fourteen children. Although a computer technician by trade, his heart’s desire is to serve the Lord in missions to unreached people groups. He currently resides in the State of Virginia and works as a …

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What Kind of Songs Should You Lead in 2014?

I’ve read a number of posts and articles about how to determine what’s best for your congregation to sing. Kevin DeYoung did a two part series a couple years ago here and here that was excellent. As the new year began three thoughts came to me about the kinds of songs we should be leading in our churches or ministries. This isn’t meant to be comprehensive, but it might serve as the bare minimum for how we choose our songs. 1. Choose songs people CAN sing. This should be obvious. But important things often are – obvious and neglected. In one sense people can sing just about anything. I’ve been in concert setting where crowds are belting …

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Seven Reasons I’m Looking Forward to WorshipGod UK, 5-8 March

WorshipGod UK is two months away and I can’t wait. The conference will be held at the Bath Forum in Bath, UK, 5-8 March. We’ll start Wednesday evening and go through Saturday noon. In a previous post, I highlighted how the conference came to be, largely as a result of conversations with my good friend, Nathan Smith, pastor of Grace Church Bristol. Here are reasons why I’m personally looking forward to the conference. 1. Encouraging and spending extended time with those serving in corporate worship in the UK. I’ve had many opportunities to chat with folks in the UK about how music in the church is going. As in many countries, there are highs …

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From the Archives: Sentimentalizing, Sanitizing, and Spiritualizing Christmas

  It’s difficult, if not impossible, to overstate the significance of the Incarnation. Writers, philosophers, poets, and composers through the centuries have searched in vain for words that adequately capture the wonder, mystery, beauty, and power of Jesus as Emmanuel, God with us. The miracle and meaning of the Incarnation can be so difficult to grasp that we can give up and start to view Christmas in ways that leave us impoverished and unimpressed with the real story. Even in the church our songs and reflections about about Christmas can fail to leave people gasping in amazement or humbled in awe that God would come to dwell …

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Music vs. Truth Experiences – A Testimony

A few months ago I was talking with Jonathan Jackson, a member of Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville who has also led worship in song on a few Sundays this past year. He was telling me how he was noticing a difference in how he approached leading and that the songs we sang were a large part of that. I asked him to write up a few thoughts about what he had been experiencing. He wrote: As a church culture I believe we have strayed away from singing songs that we deem “wordy” or “too deep” and have settled for songs that have one or two basic ideas about who God is or what He has done for us. We go for an experience that is much closer …

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Exposing Perfectionism

This semester I met with a group of interns on Friday afternoons (when I was around). Along with developing some musical skills we read selected chapters from Unceasing Worship by Harold Best. If you haven’t read it and you’re a Christian involved in congregational worship or the arts, I’d strongly encourage you to get a copy. At our last meeting someone referenced this quote from chapter 11: “Authentic worship is not perfect worship. It stands in continual need of examination, repentance, increased depth and humility as well as outpouring meekness and humility.” That led to an extended conversation on the topic of perfectionism. Most Christian …

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All Sovereign Grace Albums on Bandcamp $5 Today!

In the spirit of CyberMonday, we’re selling all our digital albums on Bandcamp today for only $5. That’s right. 5 bucks. That means you can get Grace Has Come (Deluxe Edition), From Age to Age, The Gathering, El Dios Que Adoramos, Together for the Gospel Live II, Risen, Valley of Vision, Sons & Daughters, Upward, Psalms, King of Grace, and more all for only $5. That includes accompaniment trax too. It’s also a great time to get any one of our three kids albums, Awesome God, To Be Like Jesus, and Walking with the Wise. And don’t forget out Christmas album, Savior! If you think someone else might like Christ-exalting, theologically …

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What’s a Young Worship Leader to Do?

Recently, I had the privilege of leading the music at the Conviction to Lead conference, put on by Cornerstone Church of Knoxville. It was a regional men’s conference for the Sovereign Grace Churches in the mid-South. It was a great time of encouragement, equipping, fellowship, and laughter. Topics included The Leader and Conviction, Learning, Vocation, Planning, Parenting, the Home, the Word, and the Church. Messages can be downloaded here. On Friday afternoon I met with about 40 guys for lunch followed by Q&A on topics related to music and worship. One question had to do with what my counsel would be to a worship leader who was just starting …

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Come Join us for WorshipGod UK!

I’m excited to let our European friends know that Sovereign Grace Music will be hosting our first WorshipGod UK conference 5th-8th March, 2014, in Bath, England. The theme is Called to be Faithful. WorshipGod UK is designed to encourage and equip pastors, musicians, vocalists, songwriters, tech personnel, those involved in planning or leading congregational worship, and anyone who wants to grow in their understanding and practice of biblical worship. The lineup of speakers and musicians includes Mike Reeves, Jeff Purswell, Tim Chester, Craig Cabaniss, Donald Whitney, Stuart Townend, Nathan and Lou Fellingham, Philip Percival, and more. The …

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One Day Gathering Event in Indianapolis

On Saturday, Dec. 7, I’m heading to The Chapel in Indianapolis, IN for The Gathering Midwest. The event will take place from 1-9 PM and I’ll be bringing a group of musicians primarily from my home church in Louisville, KY for a day of singing, teaching, food, and fellowship. We’ll start at 1 PM with corporate worship and a message called Gathering Around the Gospel. In the afternoon you’ll have the opportunity to attend two breakout sessions, designed to equip leaders, bands, and songwriters. After dinner, which will be provided, we’ll spend the evening celebrating the gospel in word and song. The idea for The Gathering comes from an album …

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Reflections on My Trip to the Philippines

In a previous post I shared the background to my recent trip to the Philippines. Here’s a follow up report. It’s long, I know, but this is the short version! The People Ten people ended up going on the trip. Representing Sovereign Grace Ministries were Steve Cook and myself, along with Jena Baumer, who is serving as an intern. We also brought the five guys in the Norton Hall band: my son Devon, Jonny Barahona, Jared Hoffman, Jacob Bozarth, and Jeff Dyke. It was a great opportunity to partner with the Division of Biblical Worship at Southern Seminary in gospel mission. The team also included Lynn Baird, a Sovereign Grace pastor who has been …

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It’s Your Grace – The Acoustic Sessions

A few weeks ago we posted the first song from “The Acoustic Sessions,” Our Only Hope is You. These are going to be stripped down versions of songs we’ve recorded on Sovereign Grace albums. We’re starting with songs from Grace Has Come, our latest release, but plan on going back to other albums and recording arrangements that are easier for a smaller church, or any church for that matter, to adapt. In this video, Devon, McKenzie, and Jonatan offer a simpler version of the song, It’s Your Grace. I wrote this song with Doug Plank, a good friend and a pastor at Crossway Church of Lancaster, PA. Right before he left for a two week trip …

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