Archive | —Leading a Congregation

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Does Worship Need the Church?

Recently at the Together for the Gospel conference in Louisville, KY, I had the joy and privilege of accompanying 12k+ attendees as they worshiped God in song. The sight and sound of praising God together with over 10,000 other believers is pretty overwhelming. But we can experience something similar with a smaller crowd. We’re often deeply affected by the singing at a conference, retreat, or worship event. So much so that gathering with your church on Sunday feels like a major letdown. Why doesn’t the worship in song we experience at an event translate to Sunday morning? Should we expect it to? Can local churches learn from worship …

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From the Archives: Will the Sunday After Easter be a Letdown?

Many pastors, music leaders, and production personnel are breathing a deep sigh of relief after this past weekend. After all the planning, strategizing, prayer, preparation, and practice, the Easter weekend service(s) finally happened. Everything (for the most part) came together and people were well served. The music was moving, the preaching powerful, and the effect exhilarating. And throughout the world, thousands of people were baptized and saved for the glory of God. But you may be starting to wonder what you’re going to do next Sunday. Maybe you’re even asking yourself, “How do I keep this coming Sunday from being a major letdown?” …

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Pastoring Through Song at the Shepherd’s Conference

In yesterday’s post, I shared some thoughts on planning and leading songs at a conference. In this post, I describe what that actually looked like at the recent Shepherd’s Conference. I’ve included the Scriptures I used (except for ones I didn’t write down), and why I chose each song and passage. The numbers are from the Hymns of Grace hymnal. This post might seem a little tedious, but planning and leading songs is often about the details. If you end up leading songs at a conference in the future, I pray my thoughts will help you maximize that time for the good of God’s people and the glory of Christ. WEDNESDAY, MARCH 7 Session 1: John …

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Thoughts on Choosing and Leading Songs at Conferences

I recently had the privilege of leading the worship in song for a number of sessions at The Shepherd’s Conference. Hosted by John MacArthur and Grace Community Church, this conference has been equipping and serving pastors for decades. While there are some similarities to choosing and leading songs for my church, I think about conferences differently. Conferences are made up of people from various churches, most of whom don’t know each other. We’re only together for a few days and there are multiple teachings to take in and digest (at least at the conferences I’m at). I thought it might be helpful to share some of the principles that guide …

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As I See It – Reflections at 63

This past Sunday I turned 63. I’ve reached that age when the question I get most frequently is some form of, “So, what have you learned after all these years?” Eight years ago, when I was an ancient 55, I shared nine things God had been showing me. Five years later, when I was even older, I posted  more “lessons learned.” I haven’t stopped learning. But this year, I thought I’d share some of the encouraging and not so encouraging trends I’m seeing in the church when it comes to music. By “trends” I mean what many churches today either think or practice. These observations obviously don’t apply to every church. My hope is that they’ll …

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To Use or Lose the Music Stands: Is That the Question?

In the past few years, a number of voices have emerged encouraging church musicians to lose their music stands.  I don’t think anyone is saying it’s a matter “of first importance” to put the music stands away. But people have said if you really want to serve your church, you won’t use them. Reasons to Strike the Stands Here are some of the most common reasons people give for losing the stands. In many churches, a separation already exists due to a stage. Removing the stands removes the visible barrier. Musicians and vocalists tend to stare at their stands. When you remove them, musicians look up, look out, and are more engaged. …

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Prayers of the Saints (Live) – Our New Album

Sovereign Grace Music released our last band album, Sooner Count the Stars, two years ago. I’m happy to announce that after reviewing 170 songs, we finally have another: Prayers of the Saints (Live). It took a while, but I think it was more than worth the wait. Worship albums are as common these days as a new mattress store (come to Louisville and you’ll know what I mean). I receive an email informing me of a new album almost once a week. That’s about 50 albums, each with at least 12 songs, which adds up to 600 new songs a year. And that’s just scratching the surface of the albums being recorded.  So why produce another one? First, …

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Worshiping a Limitless God with Limited Resources

Last month, prior to having the joy of participating in the Getty Sing! conference in Nashville, I chatted with Sol Fenne at a lunch sponsored by 20Schemes. Sol is a church planter, musician, and songwriter who has a passion to see the gospel transform lives in the poorest housing projects of Scotland. One of Sol’s passions is to discover how the gospel enthusiasm and musical excellence from the Sing! Conference could be applied in the contexts of Scotland’s poorest schemes, or housing projects. So he sent me a follow-up email asking if I’d be willing to write a blog post addressing this question: How we can encourage our 8-chord guitarists …

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Reflections from WorshipGod17: Human and Holy

It’s been over a week, but I’m still enjoying the rich time we had at WorshipGod17 MidWest. The conference was called Human and Holy: Exploring Healthy Tensions in Our Gathered Worship. We looked at the inherent tensions that surface when the human encounters the Holy: orthodox and on fire, rootedness and relevance, structure and spontaneity, event and every day, already and not yet. There are always a few things that stand out to me after a conference. Here’s this year’s list. Life, Not Production Because this year’s conference fell in the midst of a few other events (live recording, a trip to Mexico, our daughter’s wedding), it felt less …

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The Paradox of the Worship Selfie

Some time last year a friend who leads the music in his church texted me to express a concern. Social media has been on my mind lately. It seems it’s a great tool and a great danger. It can quickly become the “street corner” in Matthew 6. I wonder if the constant postings of ourselves, with great lighting and stuff may end up being more about us. Some people say “everyone does it,” but I’m wrestling with it as I see young guys in our church family doing it a lot. I want to make sure my motives are pure if I feel led to have an honest discussion with them. My friend’s humility in approaching this issue was commendable. Social media …

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Human and Holy: Healthy Tensions of our Gathered Worship

In just under two months (July 27-29) we’ll be gathering in Louisville, KY for our second regional WorshipGod conference! The first was held in Pennsylvania this past March. We’re calling the Louisville conference: Human and Holy: Healthy Tensions of our Gathered Worship. If you’ve ever planned the music or meetings at your church, you’re probably familiar with the category of “healthy tensions.” Or at least, tension. Conversations about worship can be polarizing. We choose sides and attack each other rather than seeking out biblical solutions and priorities. Should our meetings be reverent or celebratory? Do we want our musicians …

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Reflections on the 2017 Shepherds’ Conference

Last April a friend of mine at Grace Community Church texted me to say John MacArthur was going to invite me to lead the music for some of the main sessions at the 2017 Shepherds’ Conference. I thought he was kidding. There are a few reasons why this particular invite was unexpected. For one, I’m a pastor with Sovereign Grace Churches. John has at various times made clear in his preaching that we have a few theological differences. Also, the music at Grace Community Church, where John has served as the pastor for more than four decades, is primarily hymns led by highly skilled choirs, orchestras, and an organ. On a typical Sunday morning …

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A New Song – Reformation Hymn

As you’re probably aware, 2017 marks the 500 year anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the door of a church building in Wittenberg, Germany. While not seeking to separate from the Roman Catholic church, he called for substantive and specific changes in her practices and theology. Luther was joined by many other Reformers whose teachings were eventually summarized in what we call the Five Solas, “sola” being a Latin word meaning “alone” or “only.” Sola Scriptura: Scripture alone Solus Christus: Christ alone Sola Fide: faith alone Sola Gratia: grace alone Soli Deo Gloria: glory to God alone These phrases carry …

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Upcoming Worship Matters Intensives

This past summer I led the first Sovereign Grace Music Worship Matters Intensive in Louisville. I spent 5 days with 18 guys working through the contents of my book, Worship Matters. Not surprisingly, we got into lively discussion and interaction on a number of levels and topics. In addition every guy got to run lyric projection and experience “Lead and Review,” which is just what the name implies. It was a fantastic time. While the first Intensive focused on Sovereign Grace worship leaders, we’ve received a number of requests to open it up. So that’s what we’re doing. I have two more Intensives coming up, both in Louisville. The dates …

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Together for the Gospel Live III Now Available

For over four decades I’ve been leading congregational worship with bands. My generation saw drums infiltrate church sanctuaries despite the protests of many older saints. It was a hard fought battle with many casualties along the way. In my mind, we didn’t do it because it was hip, or a way of attracting crowds, or an attempt to impress people.  And we didn’t want to water down our theology. Our lives had been turned upside down by the good news of the gospel and we wanted to celebrate that reality using musical styles and accompaniment that made emotional sense. Drums, bass guitars, acoustics, electric guitars, and synthesizers gave …

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