In a previous post, I highlighted how the conference came to be, largely as a result of conversations with my good friend, Nathan Smith, pastor of Grace Church Bristol. Here are reasons why I’m personally looking forward to the conference.
1. Encouraging and spending extended time with those serving in corporate worship in the UK. I’ve had many opportunities to chat with folks in the UK about how music in the church is going. As in many countries, there are highs and lows. But one thing is consistent. The vast majority of churches do what they do with limited budgets, limited resources, and limited personnel. And if we’re honest about our own contributions, limited character! But God is not limited. The gospel isn’t limited. God’s Word is not tethered to our expectations. The power of the Holy Spirit knows no restrictions. So I’m excited about sharing what we’ve learned about tapping in to God’s lavish grace as well as learning from our brothers and sisters in the UK. Because whether your church is 50 or 5000, whether you’re in the Europe or America, or anywhere else, our purpose in gathering as Christians is the same – to magnify God’s glory in Christ in the power of the Spirit for the building up of his church.
2. Coming to the UK always feels like coming home. My wife, Julie, was born in Walton-on-Thames. Her parents waited for her to be born before coming to the States for her dad’s job with Vickers. For the past 15 years Julie and I have traveled back to her homeland every 5th anniversary to celebrate (although she did become an American citizen in the 80s). And besides, I’m sure I still carry a small degree of residual guilt for the U.S. rebelling against King George back in the 18th century.
3. Sharing some of my favorite preachers. I’ve been leading worship conferences since 1999 and WorshipGod conferences since 2006. Over that time different speakers have become regulars. Craig Cabaniss, pastor of a Sovereign Grace Church in Texas, is one of the most winsome preachers I’ve heard and his heart overflows with pastoral wisdom from Scripture. I’ve heard his message on “Faithful to Receive” twice now and can’t wait for my UK friends to benefit from it! Jeff Purswell, a dear friend and fellow pastor at Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville, is dean of the Sovereign Grace Pastors’ College and just one of the smartest guys I know. But his “smartness” in no way hinders his heart to pastor people and help them understand and love God through his Word. His main session will address being “Faithful to Proclaim” and he’s also teaching a breakout on God’s presence. I’ve invited Donald Whitney to teach breakouts at every WorshipGod conference and the effect is always the same. His seminars on Praying Through Scripture and Family Worship are consistently among the highest rated sessions. I still hear from people whose personal or family devotional times have been revolutionized after hearing Don’s messages.
4. Hearing from and hanging out with some of my UK friends. Stuart Townend has been a friend for years and I always anticipate any time I can connect with him. And I’ll get to hear him lead with his band on Thursday night at WorshipGod UK! I met Tim Chester and Mike Reeves at New Word Alive in 2011. I had the privilege of leading the music there and happened to be staying in a flat with Tim and his wife, Helen. We immediately hit it off and Tim and I even ended up writing a song together. I’ve read a few of many books and am always encouraged by his straightforward, humble, gospel-drenched, biblically rooted perspective. He’ll be leading a breakout on enjoying the Triune God, a too often neglected topic. Mike Reeves did a brief interview with me at NWA and I was immediately drawn to his joyous, overflowing love for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Everything I’ve learned about or read by him since then has only deepened my affection for him. He’ll be doing a main session on being “Faithful to Prepare,” addressing the importance of our meetings preparing people for suffering and death. He also has a breakout on why theology should matter to musicians! I’m also looking forward to seeing my good friends Nathan, Lou, and Luke Fellingham of Phatfish, as well as Philip Percival of EMU music, all of whom are going to be helping us out musically.
5. Offering a conference to build bridges. Whenever I’ve traveled outside the United States, a strong dichotomy seems to exist between churches that faithfully preach the Word but whose singing is rather dull, and churches whose singing is emotionally engaging but whose handling of the Word is more sketchy. Of course, that doesn’t describe every church, but it’s a situation I’ve seen and heard about often enough that it makes me ask the question: Why can’t we have both? Why can’t be be rooted in God’s authoritative, inerrant, sufficient Word and hear it faithfully exposited every week AND enjoy thoughtful, gospel-rich, engaged, passionate corporate singing? That’s what we seek to teach and model at WorshipGod conferences and I’m excited about the opportunity WorshipGod UK provides to join with many others in the UK who are seeking to do the same thing.
6. Sharing Sovereign Grace songs. 2014 marks 30 years that Sovereign Grace Music has been producing songs for the church. While I don’t think of us as having a high profile or even writing the best songs, I think God has given us some songs worth sharing with the body of Christ through the years. Songs like Before the Throne of God Above, All I Have is Christ, and Jesus, Thank You. I’m excited about sharing a few more like Grace and Peace firsthand at the conference. I’m also grateful that my son, Devon, will be helping me lead and share those songs.
7. Leading a pre-conference session for leaders. I’ve had different opportunities to teach/share when I’ve been in the UK, for which I’m really grateful. But prior to the conference, I’m leading a 3.5 hour session on Wednesday where I’ll be talking about some of the most important things I’ve learned about leading congregational song over the past 35 years. These kinds of sessions are always a highlight for me because we talk about real life issues in a smaller setting.
I could go on, but I’ll stop here. If you live in the UK or even in Europe, I hope you’ll consider joining us at WorshipGod UK. By God’s grace, we’re going to have a fantastic time, and I trust you’ll go home equipped, encouraged, and having encountered the living God.