Worship Leaders – The Christian Musician Summit Reflections

This past weekend I had the privilege of joining 3000 or so folks at the Christian Musician Summit – Improving Skill, Inspiring Talent, held at Overlake Christian Church in Redmond, Washington, near Seattle. My good friend Pat Sczebel, joined me from Vancouver, BC, where he serves as a pastor in Crossway Community Church.

I marveled again at how diverse the body of Christ is. Ages ranged from 15 to 75, and I talked to people from every kind of denomination, meeting format, church size, and musical preference. Over two days people could attend 9 of 170 seminars that were offered, three main sessions, and two evening concerts.

It was a massive undertaking, but came off exceptionally well, especially considering the fact that the event was organized by two musicians, Matt Kees and Bruce Adolph. One of them (and from their comments, I’d guess Matt) must have a significant administrative gift. I was able to catch up briefly with a number of friends (Paul Baloche and band, Kathryn Scott, Tom Kraeuter, and Steve Merkel), and also met Brenton Brown (humble, gifted, great songwriter), Carl Cartee (guitarist, worship leader, songwriter), Ed Kerr (formerly of Harvest), Rita Baloche, and Chris Tomlin (who has actually heard of Sovereign Grace Ministries, to my surprise).

It was an encouraging conference. The depth in song lyrics is increasing, and those who taught, played, and sang were characterized by humility. How different from the world! This wasn’t a “worship conference” per se, but I think that a majority of folks who attended have something to do with corporate worship in their church. I was privileged to teach four seminars and the last main session.

Here are a few reflections from the conference.

The music wars are far from over.

Of the seminars I led, The Role of Music in Worship was the largest. When I asked how many people had experienced tension in their church over music almost every hand went up. While many churches have wholeheartedly embraced contemporary music in their services, a large number are still making the transition. But changing to a contemporary style may create more problems if we don’t have a biblical understanding of how music functions in worshiping God. Music is a tool to help us deepen the relationships we enjoy through the Gospel with God and each other. It should enable the word of Christ to dwell in us richly, express our unity, and enable varied expressions of praise to God (Col. 3:12-17). We’ll continue to battle over music unless we understand its role, and see it as an important but secondary issue in our worship of God.

Worship artists aren’t the only music leadership model for the local church.
God has undoubtedly gifted certain people to write, sing, and play songs to edify the church. Millions of Christians have benefited from their diligence and faithfulness. We should thank God for them and pray that He continues to use them for his glory. However, most of the churches at the conference will never have a leader as gifted as Matt Redman, a band as talented as Paul Baloche’s, or songwriters as skilled as Brenton Brown. Also, contemporary music is only one piece of the music spectrum. It has strengths and weaknesses like all genres. When the only songs we sing were written or arranged in the last ten years, we have effectively cut off the voice of the church for the past three hundred years or more. We can do more to make sure that smaller churches don’t labor under a false idea of what worship music should sound like, and that larger churches model the diverse musical resources available to us for worshiping our Savior.

While we all know that worship is our lives, we still think of it as our music.
It’s hard to shake the idea that we’re “really” worshiping when we sing, or that certain leaders “bring us into God’s presence.” I would love to see more teaching on how the songs we sing can affect and reflect the lives we live for God’s glory. It would also be good to hear more about how the atoning work of Christ is the only means by which we enter the Father’s presence (Heb. 10:19-22).

That being said, the conference was billed as an event to improve skill and inspire talent, and by that standard, it delivered as promised. It was a privilege to be there. Thanks, Matt and Bruce, for your vision to see Christian musicians equipped for the glory of God. May more local churches be inspired to do the same.

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-1 Responses to Worship Leaders – The Christian Musician Summit Reflections

  1. Loud Alto November 15, 2006 at 7:37 AM #

    Bob, I know you’re wildly busy; but I just want to thank you for squeezing in a blog entry now and then. It is always a blessing to read “Worship Matters.”

  2. Geoff Allen November 15, 2006 at 11:13 AM #

    I also was privileged to be able to attend the Christian Musician Summit. I think you nailed it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  3. Scott Plumley November 15, 2006 at 2:28 PM #

    Bob – I was able to attend one of you sessions @ the Summit and was deeply moved. I have been wrestling with some of the things you discussed and it was good to get affirmation that I am not alone in this. Your blog will become a regular read for me – Thank You! Scott

  4. Matthew Freeman November 15, 2006 at 6:24 PM #

    Good afternoon Mr. Kauflin (your an elder to me so I insist on the “Mr.”),

    I had a comment and a question.
    First, although I do not prefer the sound and style of the “Savior” album, I am very encouraged by the efforts the Lord has inspired you to take on by being faithful to solid Christ-centered lyrics that seem to be, ironically, lost in contemporary Christmas albums.

    Now my question: How do I go about teaching worship through music to high school students that seem to be very ho-hum about the time we spend singing? Does there need to be more connection to what is being taught that night in the Word? Less “content-heavy” songs maybe more repetitive (simple to catch on)?

  5. Julie November 16, 2006 at 9:35 AM #

    Thank you, Bob and Sovereign Grace, for the beautiful, God-centered songs on the Savior album. The freshness of the musical settings is causing me to examine and celebrate my Savior’s incarnation in new ways.

  6. Samuel November 17, 2006 at 9:47 AM #

    This is the first time I have visited your blog. I enjoyed reading what you had to say about worship. Thanks.

  7. Rob Denning December 12, 2006 at 11:26 PM #

    Hi Bob-

    In your session “Choosing Songs Wisely” at CMS, you spoke about songs’ “singability,” that a song ought to be learnable in one meeting. You also suggested running songs through a rating system from “shouldn’t use” to “should use in congregational worship.”

    I’m wondering where you would place the song “I Come By the Blood” form Songs for the Cross-Centered Life. In my opinion, the lyric is unusually powerful. When singing with the recording or my own accompaniment, it moves me to joy and amazement.

    It seems, however, that the chord progression, harmonies, and vocal range of the song make it a bit difficult in the congregational setting. I’ve introduced it twice (with a number of weeks in between) here in our local church – once it was too low and fast, on a later Sunday we slowed it down and raised the key a step and it was more comfortable.

    This song doesn’t seem like one that is learnable in one sitting, but I recall during your talk your suggestion that some songs are so rich with meaning and teaching that they’re worth re-teaching until folks’ familiarty level rises. I think this one ought to be learned by all generations. What do you and others out there think?

    By the way, the whole record (Cross-Centered Life) has quickly become one of my personal favorites. Perhaps this is due to the centrality of the Gospel message.


    Rob Denning
    Lacey, WA

  8. Bob Kauflin December 13, 2006 at 11:49 AM #


    Thanks for asking about “I Come by the Blood.”

    Yes, I think it’s a song worth teaching because of the content. We’ve been singing it for years and have been blessed by the specific reminder that we “dare not trust” in our own righteousness, and that “our every hope rests on what Christ has done.”

    I think the key of G works (that’s what we do it in), but A would work as well. I know it’s easy to do the song too fast, which lessens its impact.

    Thanks for your encouraging words regarding the Cross Centered Life CD.

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