This past weekend I had the privilege of helping to lead the music at the New Attitude conference in Louisville, Kentucky. About 2300 single men and women gathered for four days to exalt God’s name in song, hear biblical teaching on God’s Word and the Gospel, and enjoy rich fellowship in community and family groups.
New Attitude was started a number of years ago by Joshua Harris, but is now led by Eric Simmons. Eric and Josh are both in their early 30’s and are seeking to impact younger generations through biblical, humble, Gospel-centered, and wise leadership. The three of us met a couple months ago to talk through what songs we’d like to sing and how we’d like them to be presented. Our goal was that the singing be more than a “conference high” musical experience. Here are some of results of our conversation.
1. Eric asked me to co-lead all the music with my 21 year old son, Devon. Devon led the rehearsals and meetings while I contributed verbal comments for each session as well as some spontaneous elements. A number of people commented how deeply it affected them to us leading together. It clearly communicated that even though this was a singles conference (primarily geared towards younger singles), worship is still multi-generational. It was a pure joy for me.
2. Eric also asked me to comment on what we were doing as we sang. We didn’t want to assume that everyone would know what we were supposed to be doing. So after the third song on the first night I reminded everyone that we had come to New Attitude to fight. "What we are doing right now is fighting to trust in Jesus Christ. We are fighting to believe in God and not in ourselves. We’re fighting for our hearts to find joy in what HE has done, not in what WE have done." The next morning we showed a video that combined pictures of creation with quotes from Job, and sang Laura Story’s, Indescribable, a song that exalts God’s wisdom, power, and beauty in creation. I then explained that while God’s eternal power and divine nature can be seen in the stars, they aren’t the only testimony God has given us of who he is. He has given us His Word, and ultimately His Son to reveal Himself to us. That’s why we don’t simply go out to a field to worship God. We sing songs that engage our minds with truth so that we understand His acts of creation and redemption more clearly. That in turn moves our hearts to love Him more.
The next morning I took time to explain how we worship God not only with our hearts and minds, but our bodies as well. He calls us to use our bodies to worship Him in all of life, not just when we sing, but that doesn’t mean we don’t use them when we sing. We are called to exalt God’s glory and greatness with our hands, feet, and voices. We then sang Matt Redman’s Dancing Generation and Martin Smith’s The Happy Song. We followed that with Grace Unmeasured (available as a free download to the right), a slower song that exults in God’s multi-faceted grace . The result was truth-inspired passion that expressed itself in lifted hands, jumping feet, grateful tears, and joyful faces.
3. We also used a variety of musical accompaniments at the conference. The main instrumentation was made up of keyboards, acoustic, electric guitar, bass, drums, and drum loops. However two sessions we added a string quartet. Another meeting we only used a piano, guitar, djembe, and bass. One session we added a 60 voice choir. We sang portions of songs and one complete song (How Deep the Father’s Love) completely a cappella. One evening we had a concert with Curtis Allen, aka "Voice," who shared his unique gift of theologically-driven rap. At one point Josh mentioned that our purpose was not to promote a particular “sound” of worship, but to utilize different styles to draw attention to the truths we were singing.
There’s more I could share, but this is already too long. All this to say, that I’m grateful to be serving men from the next generation who are committed to using music to exalt the greatness of God’s glory in Jesus Christ.