Archive | —Leading a Congregation

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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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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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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 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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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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Thoughts on a Call to Worship

For most of the thirty three years I’ve been involved with Sovereign Grace churches we’ve had a fairly free and simple liturgy. Singing, welcome/announcements/offering, sermon, ministry time. While simple liturgies have some advantages, there are good reasons to consider including liturgical elements that have been used in church gatherings for centuries. One of those is the call to worship. I remember being less inclined to use a call to worship after reading Harold Best’s thoughts years ago in his insightful book, Music Through the Eyes of Faith: There can only be one call to worship, and this comes at conversion, when in complete …

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Do I Lead To Impress or To Serve?

One of the things I’ve enjoyed about moving to Louisville two years ago and helping to plant Sovereign Grace Church is the opportunity to train interns from Southern Seminary and Boyce College. I meet weekly with a group from each school to talk theology, focus on heart issues, and work on music and leadership skills. They also serve on Sundays and help out with Sovereign Grace Music. Young musicians and leaders are often overly self-conscious and nervous. While confidence comes with experience, we don’t want to overcome self by becoming more assured in ourselves. So one of  my goals for the interns is that they get to the place where …

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