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Does Worship Need the Church?

Recently at the Together for the Gospel conference in Louisville, KY, I had the joy and privilege of accompanying 12k+ attendees as they worshiped God in song. The sight and sound of praising God together with over 10,000 other believers is pretty overwhelming. But we can experience something similar with a smaller crowd. We’re often deeply affected by the singing at a conference, retreat, or worship event. So much so that gathering with your church on Sunday feels like a major letdown. Why doesn’t the worship in song we experience at an event translate to Sunday morning? Should we expect it to? Can local churches learn from worship …

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From the Archives: Will the Sunday After Easter be a Letdown?

Many pastors, music leaders, and production personnel are breathing a deep sigh of relief after this past weekend. After all the planning, strategizing, prayer, preparation, and practice, the Easter weekend service(s) finally happened. Everything (for the most part) came together and people were well served. The music was moving, the preaching powerful, and the effect exhilarating. And throughout the world, thousands of people were baptized and saved for the glory of God. But you may be starting to wonder what you’re going to do next Sunday. Maybe you’re even asking yourself, “How do I keep this coming Sunday from being a major letdown?” …

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Pastoring Through Song at the Shepherd’s Conference

In yesterday’s post, I shared some thoughts on planning and leading songs at a conference. In this post, I describe what that actually looked like at the recent Shepherd’s Conference. I’ve included the Scriptures I used (except for ones I didn’t write down), and why I chose each song and passage. The numbers are from the Hymns of Grace hymnal. This post might seem a little tedious, but planning and leading songs is often about the details. If you end up leading songs at a conference in the future, I pray my thoughts will help you maximize that time for the good of God’s people and the glory of Christ. WEDNESDAY, MARCH 7 Session 1: John …

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Thoughts on Choosing and Leading Songs at Conferences

I recently had the privilege of leading the worship in song for a number of sessions at The Shepherd’s Conference. Hosted by John MacArthur and Grace Community Church, this conference has been equipping and serving pastors for decades. While there are some similarities to choosing and leading songs for my church, I think about conferences differently. Conferences are made up of people from various churches, most of whom don’t know each other. We’re only together for a few days and there are multiple teachings to take in and digest (at least at the conferences I’m at). I thought it might be helpful to share some of the principles that guide …

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Registration for WorshipGod18 Now Open

  In a culture when Sunday “worship” is more produced, polished, and professional than ever, it’s helpful to remember what really matters to God when we meet. That’s the theme of our 15th WorshipGod conference this year, to be held July 25-28 at Grace Church in Frisco, TX: Extraordinary: The Weekly Worship of the Gathered Church.  Sunday mornings aren’t rock concerts. They aren’t pep rallies or World Cup finals. But every time the church gathers, all of heaven takes notice. Each and every Sunday we meet with saints Christ has redeemed and made one through his death on the cross. We join in with the hosts of heaven …

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As I See It – Reflections at 63

This past Sunday I turned 63. I’ve reached that age when the question I get most frequently is some form of, “So, what have you learned after all these years?” Eight years ago, when I was an ancient 55, I shared nine things God had been showing me. Five years later, when I was even older, I posted  more “lessons learned.” I haven’t stopped learning. But this year, I thought I’d share some of the encouraging and not so encouraging trends I’m seeing in the church when it comes to music. By “trends” I mean what many churches today either think or practice. These observations obviously don’t apply to every church. My hope is that they’ll …

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To Use or Lose the Music Stands: Is That the Question?

In the past few years, a number of voices have emerged encouraging church musicians to lose their music stands.  I don’t think anyone is saying it’s a matter “of first importance” to put the music stands away. But people have said if you really want to serve your church, you won’t use them. Reasons to Strike the Stands Here are some of the most common reasons people give for losing the stands. In many churches, a separation already exists due to a stage. Removing the stands removes the visible barrier. Musicians and vocalists tend to stare at their stands. When you remove them, musicians look up, look out, and are more engaged. …

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Prayers of the Saints (Live) – Our New Album

Sovereign Grace Music released our last band album, Sooner Count the Stars, two years ago. I’m happy to announce that after reviewing 170 songs, we finally have another: Prayers of the Saints (Live). It took a while, but I think it was more than worth the wait. Worship albums are as common these days as a new mattress store (come to Louisville and you’ll know what I mean). I receive an email informing me of a new album almost once a week. That’s about 50 albums, each with at least 12 songs, which adds up to 600 new songs a year. And that’s just scratching the surface of the albums being recorded.  So why produce another one? First, …

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Worshiping a Limitless God with Limited Resources

Last month, prior to having the joy of participating in the Getty Sing! conference in Nashville, I chatted with Sol Fenne at a lunch sponsored by 20Schemes. Sol is a church planter, musician, and songwriter who has a passion to see the gospel transform lives in the poorest housing projects of Scotland. One of Sol’s passions is to discover how the gospel enthusiasm and musical excellence from the Sing! Conference could be applied in the contexts of Scotland’s poorest schemes, or housing projects. So he sent me a follow-up email asking if I’d be willing to write a blog post addressing this question: How we can encourage our 8-chord guitarists …

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Another New Reformation Song

Back in February, I posted a song that Chris Anderson and I wrote for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. We called it “Reformation Hymn.” I wrote about it in this post and Chris tells the backstory of how the song was written here. Around the same time, Tim Chester, a friend from the UK, asked me if I’d be interested in putting music to some lyrics he was working on, also based on the 5 Solas of the Reformation: Sola Scriptura: Scripture alone Solus Christus: Christ alone Sola Fide: faith alone Sola Gratia: grace alone Soli Deo Gloria: glory to God alone I enjoyed writing Come Praise and Glorify with Tim a few years ago and …

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Worship Matters Is Now a Video Series

When I wrote Worship Matters in 2008, I wanted to pass on to younger leaders some of what I had learned from my mentors, study, and experiences of leading for three decades. My goal was to connect Scriptural commands and principles with what we actually do in our Sunday meetings. Through the years, musicians, pastors, teachers, and others have found my book helpful. But I’ve wondered if I could do anything to make the material more accessible. 32 chapters can take a while to plow through. I mean, we’re talking about musicians. That’s why I’m excited about the Worship Matters Video Intensive, made possible in large part with the help of …

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Is it Humility to Leave My Name Off a Song I Wrote?

Recently someone wrote me and asked: A young woman in our church has written a few songs that we have taught but she doesn’t want to let anyone know she wrote them. I think she feels she is being humble but I also see how it can encourage our church to know one of our young adults is doing this. Your thoughts? I appreciated the question. I also appreciated a songwriter is even thinking this way. Social media tempts us to believe it’s our duty to broadcast on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, or our blog that basically, we’re doing a bunch of cool stuff, saying some awesome things, or eating some incredible food. How refreshing for …

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Reflections from WorshipGod17: Human and Holy

It’s been over a week, but I’m still enjoying the rich time we had at WorshipGod17 MidWest. The conference was called Human and Holy: Exploring Healthy Tensions in Our Gathered Worship. We looked at the inherent tensions that surface when the human encounters the Holy: orthodox and on fire, rootedness and relevance, structure and spontaneity, event and every day, already and not yet. There are always a few things that stand out to me after a conference. Here’s this year’s list. Life, Not Production Because this year’s conference fell in the midst of a few other events (live recording, a trip to Mexico, our daughter’s wedding), it felt less …

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Prayer of the Saints Live Recording!

This coming Tuesday, July 25, Sovereign Grace Music will be recording our first live album in 6 years: “Prayers of the Saints.” If you happen to be in or near Louisville, we’d love to have you join us from 6-10pm that night! The event will take place at the Fegenbush campus of Highview Baptist Church. If you’d like to come, you need to reserve your spot, and you can do that here. “Prayers of the Saints” has been almost two years in the making. We took the title from a phrase in Revelation 8:3-4: And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the …

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The Paradox of the Worship Selfie

Some time last year a friend who leads the music in his church texted me to express a concern. Social media has been on my mind lately. It seems it’s a great tool and a great danger. It can quickly become the “street corner” in Matthew 6. I wonder if the constant postings of ourselves, with great lighting and stuff may end up being more about us. Some people say “everyone does it,” but I’m wrestling with it as I see young guys in our church family doing it a lot. I want to make sure my motives are pure if I feel led to have an honest discussion with them. My friend’s humility in approaching this issue was commendable. Social media …

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