Archive | —Leading a Congregation

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Christ Will Be My Hideaway

One of the unexpected benefits of the COVID-19 crisis has been the vast amount of music being produced. Previously untapped creativity is showing up in live streams from living rooms, video montages, and new songs. Who knows what songs might never have been written apart from being forced to isolate? In mid-March, my good friend from the UK, Tim Chester, sent me some lyrics he had written, taken from Psalm 91. To be more specific, he subtitled it: “A song for the coronavirus outbreak based on Psalm 91.” I’ve collaborated with Tim before (Come Praise and Glorify, Reformation Song), and love writing with him. He’s committed setting God’s …

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Feel Free to Live Stream our Songs

When the COVID-19 crisis caused governments to mandate that churches not gather, Sovereign Grace Music wanted to make it easy for people to live stream our music online to encourage their members. While the current situation doesn’t allow for the saints gathering as we’re told to do in Scripture (Heb. 10:25), we’re grateful that Christ-exalting communication over the Internet can be a means of grace that makes us long to be able to meet together again (Ps. 122:1)! Recently, Sovereign Grace Music posted on social media that we would allow churches to stream our songs, live or recorded, for their services, but many people didn’t see …

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Songs to Sing in a Pandemic

Songs to Sing in a Pandemic

I originally posted this on my church’s blog, but wanted to share it here as well. In his excellent article, “Anxiety, Waiting and the Coronavirus,” Alasdair Groves reminds us of the unique kind of trial the current worldwide pandemic presents to us. We’re tempted to experience a “particular strain of anxiety that comes when we are waiting for a threat that is gliding toward us, its fin visible above the surface.”  In other words, we know something bad is coming. We just don’t know what or when.  To be sure, many are already experiencing the effects of the virus. Financial disaster. Loss of income. Loss of …

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Why Jesus Doesn’t Want Our PR

An online Forbes article says the aim of a public relations (PR) firm is “promoting clients and making them seem as successful, honest, important, exciting or relevant as possible.” The keyword in that definition is seem. If you work for a PR company, it really doesn’t matter whether or not your clients are actually “successful, honest, important, or exciting.” Your job is just to make other people think they are. When it comes to leading songs that direct our thoughts and affections to Jesus on Sunday mornings, our task couldn’t be more different. We don’t have to make stuff up about Jesus or pretend he’s something he’s not. God wants …

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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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