Archive | —Leading a Congregation

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Coming Soon: The Knowing God Album

2023 marked the 50th anniversary of J.I. Packer’s classic book, Knowing God. What originated as a series of magazine articles has become a tool that God has used to shape, deepen, and ignite the theology of five decades of Christians, including me. Since I first read it in the late 70s, I’ve quoted and referred to it more times than I can count. Kevin DeYoung called it “easily one of the most influential books of the last half century.” So when my son, Devon, suggested that Sovereign Grace Music write and record an album of songs based on Packer’s book, it was a no-brainer. First, it would be an opportunity to highlight …

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What “O Come, All You Unfaithful” Doesn’t Mean

In 2020, I shared the story behind the Sovereign Grace Music song, “O Come, All You Unfaithful.” This past month, we posted a reel of the song on Instagram which has now been shared almost 40,000 times and viewed over a million times. We’ve been surprised, encouraged, and grateful for the response, and at times, troubled. Why troubled? Because when a song (or a portion of a song) reaches a wide audience quickly, the chances for misunderstanding and critique increase exponentially. And a few comments show that what some people are hearing isn’t what the song is saying. Of course, as a co-writer, I think the meaning of the song in its …

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A Father’s Day Pastoral Prayer

This past Sunday at my church I had the privilege of leading the church in our pastoral prayer. Before we planted Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville almost 9 years ago, I had never been a part of a church whose Sunday meeting included a pastoral prayer. It wasn’t long before we realized how much we had been missing. In his Lectures to My Students, the renowned pastor/preacher Charles Spurgeon said: It is my solemn conviction that the prayer is one of the most weighty, useful, and honourable parts of the service, and that it ought to be even more considered than the sermon…If I may have my choice, I will sooner yield up …

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Life Together: The Gathered Church Conference

Back in 2019, I led my 20th WorshipGod conference, The Glorious Christ. It was a fantastic time reveling in the works and worthiness of Jesus. We had originally planned the next WorshipGod conference for July of 2021, focused on our union with Christ. But COVID caused us to postpone that conference until July 27-30, 2022 (You can mark your calendar now!) As things began to open back up, we decided to partner with a few Sovereign Grace churches to host regional conferences. These are specifically designed to serve our pastors, musicians, and members. We’re calling them Life Together: The Gathered Church. Events are currently planned …

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We Have a Winner and Some Encouraging Scriptures

Last week I wrote down my thoughts related to reading through the 6-volume ESV Reader’s Bible a couple years ago. In a word, I loved it. I asked Justin Taylor, VP of Crossway, if they might be able to give away a set, and he generously made one available. So I asked people to post one of their favorite Scriptures in the comments and I would pick one at random. As the Lord would have it, the winner is CJ Finch, who left the verse: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might” (Mt. 22:37). If you entered but didn’t win, I have good news! You still use the Bible you currently own, and since Christmas …

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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

UPDATE Jan. 20, 2021: Please read this updated permissions statement from the Sovereign Grace Music blog. 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 …

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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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