This past weekend I had the joy of hanging out with Mike Cosper and the gang from Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, KY. Mike is one of the pastors at the church and heads up Sojourn Music. He’ll be leading a band for one of the main sessions at WorshipGod11 and also co-leading a guitar workshop on “tone, gear, and playing together.”
It was a quick trip that included leading a songwriting workshop, dinner at an amazing Mexican restaurant with a bunch of the guys who lead the music for Sojourn (including Jamie Barnes and Brooks Ritter), attending one of the Sunday AM meetings, and leading the singing for the two evening meetings (5 and 7PM).
I came away inspired, challenged, encouraged, and freshly aware of the beauty and power of the gospel. Here are some of things I appreciated about my time with Mike and the church.
1. A commitment to the church.
Sojourn Music is deeply enmeshed in the local church. All the instrumentalists, vocalists, and songwriters you’ll hear on their 7 albums are or have been part of the church. They aren’t seeking to write the next big worship hit. Just seeking to be faithful to use music to proclaim the glorious news that Jesus has come to rescue us from God’s wrath and reconcile us to himself.
2. A commitment to the gospel.
A love for the centrality of Christ’s redeeming work comes through in everything Sojourn Music is connected to. The songs they write and sing, the church website, the structure of the meetings, the preaching, the books they read, and most importantly, in their lives and conversations.
3. A commitment to mentoring musicians and leaders.
The level of musicianship at the church and on their albums is pretty serious, both instrumentally and vocally. Some gifted musicians have joined the church along the way. But Mike and others have consciously taken time to invest in younger musicians in the areas of theology, musical skill, and character. That’s accomplished through scheduled meetings, hanging out, encouragement, honest feedback, and modeling what they want others to be.
4. A commitment to sound theology.
Sojourn guys aren’t apologetic about writing songs that are heavy on the doctrinal side. One of the more humbling moments came when someone in the church said that a Sovereign Grace song I introduced was light on theology in comparison to what they usually sing. Ouch. But I loved what that statement represented in terms of the church’s values. (At the end of this post, you can download a song from their latest CD, The Water and the Blood.)
5. A commitment to rootedness and relevance.
The meetings at Sojourn Community Church loosely follow a liturgy that has been around for centuries. They include a call to worship, confession of sin, assurance of pardon, congregational readings, and the Lord’s Supper every Sunday. But it was all done in a way that was authentic, faith-filled, and understandable. The music is anything but “traditional” (combination of indie rock, americana, alternative, folk, blues, and a few other styles), but the lyrics are often taken from hymns that have been around for centuries.
6. A commitment to relationships.
It was obvious to me that the Sojourn folks love spending time together. Once a month after the last meeting on Sunday Mike and a group of leaders go out for dinner and conversation. They get involved in each other’s lives to encourage, empathize, and challenge. They’re not afraid to speak truth to each other and not ashamed of expressing their affection for each other either. Great combination.
I asked Mike to share a few thoughts on the state of music in the church and here’s his response.
Grateful that God is raising up leaders who take the gospel, the Scriptures, and music in the church seriously. And looking forward to Mike and his crew being with us at WorshipGod11.
Mike has graciously give me permission to give away the song he references in this video, Absent From Flesh, from their latest album The Water and the Blood. Enjoy.
My daughter gave me the CD The Water and the Blood for Mother’s Day, and I was just listening to it when I saw this post. Had to pause the song Absent From Flesh to watch the video!
I can second everything he said about the WorshipGod conferences – 2011 will be my fourth one. If you are involved in any way in the musical ministry of your church, you will be blessed, challenged and edified by attending. A great balance of doctrine and practice, theology and technique. I am so looking forward to it!
Bob (and/or Mike if you’re reading),
I couldn’t agree more about the need for our worship (including music) to prepare our people for death and, more immediately, to go through daily suffering righteously.
Our church has actually been observing the Christian Year for the past four years now, and what we have found is that the historic church has laid out a brilliant calendar for us that helps us cover the entire spectrum of psalmic emotion–from the pits to the heights–as we simply follow the story of Jesus through his birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and coming again.
As it pertains to suffering and death, we have two important seasons that help us lead worshipers into suffering and penitence. Advent, of course, is when we identify with the children of Israel who are in exile awaiting their coming Messiah–a perfect time for lament. And the Lenten season is all about preparing us to enter into the death of Christ, without which we cannot rise with him.
This year’s Lenten journey was particularly potent for myself and many of our worshipers. All the elements of worship, from our space to our music to our liturgy to a common devotional we encouraged every family to do together in their homes, led us to a true participation in the death of Christ. There were a handful of people who resisted the journey for this or that reason, but by and large, we as a church experienced the death and resurrection of Christ like many of us never had before.
Do you think Christian Year worship adequately prepares us for death and suffering?
Ryan, I definitely think observing the Christian year can help prepare people for death and suffering. While I wouldn’t make a categorical statement, I can say that it’s much more biblically and theologically based than what many churches today are using to guide their meetings.
Ever since I acquired 3 or so albums that Sojourn church has produced I cannot stop listening to them. Very grateful for their gospel-intense ministry through song.
I’m delighted to hear of the other great things happening at Sojourn as you described, Bob. I’d love to come to WorshipGod11…hopefully I can get off work!
One question (I am a member of a music team at Missio church in Syracuse, NY…a little background): What would be the top thing a member of a music team can do to foster a healthy, vibrant, community within that music
I was in attendance at the 7 p.m. service, and the worship through music just tore me up. Jordan’s song All I Have Is Christ, which I don’t think I had heard until we sang it a few months ago, but it is a favorite. I believe you introduced us to a song that you, Mark Altrogge and someone else had written. What was the name of that song? Thanks so much for being there, I was blessed.
Wayne, thanks for your encouraging words. The song was You Have Been Raised. You can get it here.
Bob, is there a place to listen to past speakers and sessions from the Worship God conferences?
Kevin, you can download all the messages from past conferences at the Sovereign Grace online store. Thanks for asking.
Well-put! These are the things that I love about the gang at Sojourn, too. One of the other things I’ve appreciated about Mike, in addition, is his ability to get out of the spotlight and equip other artists, songwriters, and leaders in his church. That’s had a remarkable “blossoming effect” in the music/worship/art ministry at Sojourn. It’s a model I’m still trying to figure out how to incorporate more and more in my own concept.
Thanks for the post.
Man, I really like that sound in “Absent From Flesh”. It fits perfectly with the hope we long for which is sung about in the song. Good stuff.
The lead singer has a little warren Barfield sound to him also.
Thanks for sharing!
Thanks for sharing the insight into who Sojourn are. I received a copy of The Water and The Blood to review, and I was blown away. It’s good to find out more about who they are as part of the church, not just as musicians. A seriously good album for any that haven’t heard it yet.