Archive | —Leading a Congregation

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My Debt to Harold Best

Harold Best turned 88 this past Monday. I called him to wish him a happy birthday, but couldn’t get through. So I sent him an email thanking him once again for the ways God has used him to affect my thinking about music and worship. If you’re not familiar with Harold, let me introduce you. He was the dean of the Conservatory of Music at Wheaton College for 25 years and also served as president of the National Association of Schools of Music. He’s an organist, a composer, a mentor, a writer, and most of all, a friend. He is now retired and lives in Couer d’Alene, Idaho with his wife. Last year someone asked me how Harold Best had influenced …

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Behold Our God is Almost Here!

A few months ago I shared on this blog that Sovereign Grace Music was working on a gospel album with Joe Pace, Jr., and the Shiloh Church Choir. I’m happy to report that we’re releasing that album Friday, July 26. We’ve been working on getting charts ready for the release, but we might not hit the street date. As soon as they’re ready, we’ll be making lead sheets, guitar charts, piano scores, choir scores, and backing tracks available. When we started working on this project, I knew it was going to be a different kind of album. But I didn’t know how God was going to work in my heart. Here are three ways working on this album has …

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10 Reasons You Should Come to the WorshipGod19 Conference

Back in 2006, Sovereign Grace Music hosted our first WorshipGod conference in Maryland. Since then, we’ve led conferences in Kentucky, Texas, Florida, California, Pennsylvania, and the UK. By my count, this year will be our 20th. Each time we prepare for another one, I ask myself the same question: Do we really need another worship conference? Obviously, I think the answer is yes. Which is why we’ll be gathering in Louisville, KY, July 31-Aug. 3 for WorshipGod19 – The Glorious Christ: Music is great. Jesus is greater. There are a number of worship conferences you can choose from these days. They range from massive productions …

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A Corporate Confession on Grumbling

Photo by Ismael Paramo on Unsplash My church is currently 25 sermons into a series on Exodus. It’s been amazing. Each week we’ve been reminded what a mighty deliverer God is for his people. No situation, however dire, comes close to challenging his ability to rescue. Enslaved by the most powerful ruler in the world? No problem. Fearing the angel of death? Just put some blood on your doorpost. Trapped between an approaching army and a shoreline? Watch God work. Uncertain about what path to take? God’s got a cloud and a pillar of fire. Every step of the way God’s people saw that God was powerful, caring, and faithful. That is, …

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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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