Every time I lead the singing at a conference it’s a learning experience. This year’s NEXT conference was no different. In this post I want to share some of the thinking behind the songs we sang.
NEXT is a conference geared towards younger singles and married couples, so the majority of people who attend are probably between 17 and 30. This was the 11th year of the conference and was similar to past years. There were six morning and evening sessions, starting Friday night, with an afternoon session added on Saturday. I co-led with three separate bands: the Na Band (three times), Zelos (twice), and Generation Letter (once). Saturday afternoon was an acoustic band, made up of players from the different bands.
We tried to come up with a close to final songlist for the conference before it started. Part of reasons was we were using a string section and a choir for two different sessions. So here are some of the things I considered when choosing the songs:
Conference theme – Grounding our lives in the authority of God’s Word
The message topics – This probably is the most significant factor in determining where to put songs.
New songs we wanted to teach – These are songs that we want people to consider taking home with them because they’re so good. Usually no more than 3-5 a conference.
Songs the bands knew – Since each band has a limited repertoire I asked them to submit song they felt particularly good about leading.
Familiar songs – it’s occasionally helpful when people can sing a song they know by heart
Songs that bands had written – Some were new, some old.
Sovereign Grace songs – wanting to introduce non-Sovereign Grace folks (about 50% of the conference) to our music
Songs we wanted to present– We wanted to have a couple times when people were just listening, allowing the truth to sink in as they reflected on it.
Songs we had done in previous years – This provides continuity from year to year.
Time allotted for singing – It matters whether we have 28 or 45 minutes.
Songs Josh requested – Each year Josh Harris has a couple songs he’d like us to sing.
And here’s the conference song list I posted earlier, with comments:
FRIDAY PM – NA BAND
Jesus Paid it All – Stanfill chorus – focused us on the gospel
Holy Moment -familiar song, great opening statement to make, “As we come today we remind ourselves of what we do.”
Greater Than We Can Imagine – uptempo song about the glory of God, naming different attributes
How Great is Your Faithfulness (Redman/Myrin) – one of the songs we wanted to teach, communicated the conference theme well, planned to sing this three times during the conference
The Saving One (Starfield) – solid song about Jesus being our great Savior, probably new for some people
Completely Done (Baird/Baird/Gunderlock) – a Sovereign Grace song that celebrates the finished work of Christ
All I Have is Christ (Jordan Kauflin) – a popular song from last year, proclaiming the sufficiency of Christ
Message: Josh Harris – What Are You Built On?
The Saving One (Starfield) – emphasizing God’s power to save us
In Christ Alone (Getty/Townend) – very familiar song, conference theme, related to the message
SATURDAY AM – ZELOS
Be Praised (Michael Gungor) – uptempo song that declares God’s greatness, familiar from the previous two years
My Hope is Built (Shane & Shane) – request from Josh, conference theme
The Name Above All Names (Judah Groveman) – song by Zelos extolling the greatness of Jesus and his power to save
The Saving One – one more time
Before the Throne of God Above (Bancroft/Cook) – Familiar Sovereign Grace song that turns our eyes to our justification in Christ
Message: Mark Dever – Christ’s Work Accomplished and Applied
SATURDAY AFTERNOON – ACOUSTIC BAND
For the Cross (Redman) – familiar song, used in previous years, follow up to Dever’s message
Thank You for the Cross (Brenton Brown) – same as For the Cross
I Hear the Words of Love (Bonar/Gauntlett/Kauflin) – requested by Josh because we sang it at T4G, I reharmonized it and added a chorus. Expression of faith in the gospel.
The Prodigal (Baird/Baird) – a presentation song, with a video. I had the impression God wanted to speak to prodigals who had come to the conference.
Jesus Paid it All (Trad./Stanfill) – a reassuring follow up The Prodigal, also in line with Dever’s message
Message: Kevin DeYoung – Scripture
SATURDAY PM – ZELOS + STRINGS
His Name is Jesus (Trad./Groveman) – a Zelos song, and one we learned last year.
How Great is Your Faithfulness – repeat of the song we taught the first night
Scripture reading – we read various verses that referenced God’s Word
How Firm A Foundation (Trad.) – an updated arrangement
Mighty to Save (Morgan/Fielding) – familiar song that the band knew
By This We Know Love (Judah Groveman) – a Zelos song we taught last year, emphasizing God’s faithfulness through the cross
Speak, O Lord (Getty/Townend) – brilliant song asking God to speak to us through his Word
Message: CJ Mahaney – Sanctification
O Great God (B. Kauflin) – a Sovereign Grace song from the Valley of Vision, asking God to change our hearts
Refiner’s Fire (Doerksen) – very familiar and appropriate for the message
SUNDAY AM – GENERATION LETTER
Across the Great Divide (Mark Altrogge) – new arrangement of an old Sovereign Grace song, focused on Christ’s justifying work
King of Peace (Generation Letter/Cook) – a Generation Letter song that combined a number of themes from the conference
Jesus Messiah (Tomlin/Cash/Reeves/Carson) – a song the band knew and familiar to many
Grace Unmeasured (B. Kauflin) – a Sovereign Grace song that references grace that “gives me the pow’r to do what is right”
Only Jesus (Doug Plank) – Sovereign Grace song, “come change our hearts, conform our ways”
Message: D.A. Carson – God
Be Thou My Vision (Trad.) – familiar hymn that seemed the right follow up to a message on God
SUNDAY PM – NA BAND + CHOIR
Greater Than We Can Imagine – from the first night, emphasizing that God is greater than we can imagine
The Father’s Love (Joel Sczebel) – Sovereign Grace song that speaks to the Father’s love in sending his Son
How Great Thou Art (Trad.) – great follow up to Carson’s message
Here is Love (Trad./Redman) – we had a choir arrangement of this, and it reminded us how this great God demonstrated his love towards us
Revelation Song (Jennie Riddle) – soloist/choir song, drew people’s attention to the glory of God around the throne
All I Have is Christ – another reminder of our only and ultimate hope
Spontaneous song for those with disabilities – this came after a testimony from a young woman who had grown up with a disability
Message: Kevin DeYoung – The Church
O Church Arise (Getty Townend) – so grateful to God for Stuart Townend and the Getty’s who write songs like this
Revelation Song – just had to do it again…
MONDAY AM – NA BAND
Come Thou Fount (Trad./Alt. Kauflin) – always a great song to start with
God Over All (Devon Kauflin) – familiar Sovereign Grace song, theme of God’s greatness
King of Peace – repeated this from yesterday because it went so well
Spontaneous song for those battling condemnation or failure related to sexual sin – had been thinking for over a day that God wanted to minister to this group
How Great is Your Faithfulness – one more time at the last session
Completely Done – pointing our eyes to Christ’s work, rather than our own
Message: Jeff Purswell: The End Times
How Great Thou Art -“when Christ shall come with shouts of acclamation”
This is a great list of songs. Thanks for sharing.
One comment you made, the reality of which is reflected in your song choices, is interesting to me. You said:
“It’s occasionally helpful when people can sing a song they know by heart.”
I suppose it could be quite different planning for a conference than for corporate worship in the local church, but in the latter setting I have found it important to do very familiar songs much more than occasionally. In fact, the introduction of unfamiliar songs is the more occasional occurrence in that setting (at least for us).
I find that if people are bombarded with songs with which they aren’t familiar, they have a harder time engaging with the content of the songs, since much more energy goes to “keeping up” with the melody and rhythms.
So I guess my question is this: do you plan differently for a local church meeting than for a conference like Next?
Kyle, I did a post on the topic of doing familiar/unfamiliar songs a while back. You can access it here: http://bit.ly/bMXdzw. I talked to a guy the first night of Next who said he knew very few of the songs, yet it was one of the most powerful times of corporate worship he had experienced. He said it taught him something about how much more truth matters than familiarity. I tend to agree, although you don’t want your people struggling every week to try to figure out the tunes to the songs you’re singing. But I think we can overemphasize people’s “need” to sing songs they already know.
I talked to you at NEXT about string parts. You gave me your email and silly me forgot to write it down!
Here is my email: violingirl(at)gmail(dot)com
Thanks for this. I’m always fascinated to see the thought process behind choosing the songs.
Just had to say, “Be Thou My Vision” after D.A. Carson’s message was perfect. My soul was ready to explode while we sang that. Thanks for leading!!