6.16.2018

What I've Read Recently


The last couple of years I have increased my reading, which always helps my personal growth. I've plowed through several books, so I thought I'd share some highlights and recommendations. I've put them into a few categories.

You can click on the book covers to view on Amazon.



SPIRITUAL GROWTH

Matt Chandler is my favorite go-to podcast preacher. This book was somewhat of an exposition of Philippians with a lot of application. This was a timely read for me as it challenged me to truly center my joy in Christ alone. Chandler says, "Through highs and lows, better and worse, richer and poorer, sickness and health, you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you, when Christ becomes your all." 


An unforgiving heart is destructive to others and to ourself, and we've all dealt with harboring hurt at some point in our lives. Horrobin hammers the idea that forgiveness is the key to freedom. Here's a couple quotes that hit home: “It is impossible to ask God to forgive those who have hurt us without first forgiving them from the heart ourselves.” – “If we choose not to forgive those who have hurt us, we put ourselves under their control.”


This was a super clear and simple explanation about the origin and context of the Bible. If you are brand new to the faith or you would like grow in your knowledge of the scriptures, I would highly recommend this. There were some cool nuggets that I learned. It's one thing to read the Bible, but learning more about the Bible and it's origin will help your understanding of it, which will enlighten your spiritual journey.



WORSHIP MINISTRY

Worship by the Book is a very appropriate title. This is a highly educational read, but also inspirational to me as a worship leader. I definitely grew in my understanding of corporate worship, particularly reformed worship. This quote stuck with me: "When there are a number of worshipers present, there is a participation in worship which is more intense than is the individual passion of any one of them when he is by himself."


I was thrilled to finally dig into this book last year...and when I say "dig"...I mean it. This is a bonafide text book for worship leaders. Eventually, I will dig back into it, because this book will probably need another ready to comprehend more fully. I would easily put this in the "must-read" category for worship leaders. Hicks says, "As a church lover, the worship pastor favors music that encourages participation of the many over performance of the few."


A worship leader needs to constantly grow in his/her understanding of the theology of worship. A couple of years ago, I went to a workshop taught by Mike Cosper. I gleaned a lot from it, so I decided to read his book. This might be one of the best books I've ever read on this topic. It's an extremely well-rounded, big picture of personal and corporate worship. I learned from it and just thoroughly enjoyed my journey through it. Cosper asks, "Are we looking for explosive, instantaneous impact or gradual, steady life change? Is it a concert hall or a banquet?"




GENERAL MINISTRY


The practicality you read in the title is a great description of the book. It definitely tends toward some old school and outdated thinking, but the timeless principles are still found here. I even used it as a tool on one occasion. If you take the timeless principles and contextualize it to your present ministry, it can be a helpful tool.

In a day and age of mega everything, this book steps on the toes of the corporate mentality that is becoming prominent in the American church culture. Certainly a very opinionated perspective, but it resonated with me. Here's a couple of quotes: "If the glory of God is our focus, we would spend more time in prayer and less time studying the latest methodologies." – "The church is not a business; its pastors and leaders are not CEOs. The gospel is not a commodity that can be bought and sold, no matter how you want to package, market, or sell it."

1.21.2018

Songs of Heaven and Earth


I'm a Corey Voss fan. He's a great, young worship leader and songwriter. I've introduced his songs to my church, including "Praise the King", which is easily a favorite in my congregation. This week, he's releasing his first full-length album under Integrity Music called Songs of Heaven and Earth. On this album Corey continues to write songs for the church to sing. Along with "Praise the King", the songs that stand out to me are "Lift Oh Gates", "God Who Moves the Mountains", "As it is in Heaven" and "Don't Ever Let Me Go".

Corey's influence is also broadening to the CCM world with Selah recording "I Got Saved" and Jaci Velazquez recording "God Who Moves the Mountains". It's always great to see someone who has a heart for the Lord use their gifts to serve His Church. Corey seems to have that heart and he certainly has an amazing gift when it comes to helping us sing songs together.

Another reason I love this album, is Corey's voice. He has a distinct quality as an artist, but still has a voice that is easy to sing along with. That's a great attribute for any worship leader.

Whether for personal worship or corporate worship, this release will serve you well.




Download it on iTunes here

1.12.2018

Song Rotation That Helps Your Church


Every Sunday morning I have the incredible privilege to ask my church to do what Psalm 69:30 says. I ask them to praise God with a song. Before I do that, I have the responsibility of choosing what songs we sing. This is a weekly responsibility, but if I'm thinking of the bigger picture, it's a yearly responsibility. It's more than a set of songs. It's a rotation of songs that we learn, internalize and eventually sing with enthusiasm in efforts to offer praise to the Lord.

A healthy song rotation will benefit and help your church fully engage in worship during the music portion of our services. There's many opinions and philosophies regarding song rotations. I decided to flesh out my approach and found that my rotation is made up of three types of songs: Past, Present and Future.

1. PAST SONGS – These are songs that we know and have been singing for some time. Another way to describe these is simply "old songs." When I think of past songs, I think of songs like "How Great Thou Art," "How Great is our God" and "Great I Am," to new name a few GREAT songs. These days, it takes less time for songs to end up in this category. If a song has been out one year or more, it seems to be considered old, which is obviously ridiculous, but that's another topic. "10,000 Reasons" is a song that I would consider a past song for my church. It's not new anymore, therefore it's at risk of getting tired. I know my church connects with it. If I want to keep it in rotation, I need to use it less and less. That way when I do choose to use it, the reaction will be, "Oh yeah! I almost forgot about this one. It's good to sing it again." If I keep it in rotation too much, people will inevitably get sick of it or it could become more ritual instead of spiritual. Bruce Springsteen said, "A good song takes on more meaning as the years pass by." There's value in not forgetting past songs, but it's also key not to kill them. Be aware. Discern the temperature of a song and use it appropriately. That will help it's sustainability.

2. PRESENT SONGS – These are songs that are currently impacting your church, which is evidenced by the engagement that the majority of your people have with them. I typically view these as songs that I've introduced in the scope of a year. These could be reflective of the season of life your church is in or the trials, tribulations and triumphs they're experiencing. Present songs are the soundtrack of your church and the current journey that you're traveling on together. The beauty of present songs is that your church will ultimately choose them. Your church will let you know by their engagement, their singing and their worship. They become anthems and heart cries. Many of the people who walk into our gatherings week after week have things stirring in them, but they don't have the words to express them. These lyrics give them the ability to articulate their thoughts, feelings and praise to the Lord. They are songs that are moving your congregation in the present and they are truly a "present" or gift to the church. Recognize which ones they are and keep them threaded in your rotation. You will get tired of them way sooner than your church will. The good news is – it's not about you.

3. FUTURE SONGS – These are songs that we don't know yet, but will potentially be a fresh offering for our church to express. Psalm 96, 98 and 149 start with a challenge to sing a new song to the Lord. Churches who never teach new worship songs are disregarding a very clear directive in scripture. For most of my upbringing, I watched the traditional churches I attended fight tooth and nail against new songs. The other extreme that has surfaced in recent years is the worship leader who teaches too many new songs. To keep it plain and simple, if your church does not eventually know your new songs, then you're introducing them too often. As a worship arts person, it's tempting to keep bringing new tunes to your church, because it's stimulating your own creative juices. Give them a chance to learn and sing a new song, by giving them a healthy diet. I teach a max of 1 to 2 songs a month. Your church may need less. Also be prayerful and careful of which songs you choose to teach. Paul Baloche has 3 great questions to ask yourself: 1. Is it biblical? 2. Can people relate to this? 3. Will my congregation sing this? Every worship leader will attempt new songs that are a "swing and a miss." That's part of your growth journey. Learn from your mistakes and teach songs that will bless your church.

A healthy balance of past, present and future songs have been great ingredients for me as I plan and prepare worship services on a weekly basis. Intentionality with song rotation has helped and inspired my church to engage, sing and worship together on Sunday and individually throughout the week. Be intentional with your rotation, because songs are powerful in the life of your church.

8.20.2017

New Music You Need to Hear

There's a few new releases that I'm excited about and I think you'll appreciate these titles and artists.


Songs of Heaven and Earth (Vol. 1) EP – Corey Voss

I'm a Corey Voss fan. He's a great, young worship leader and songwriter. I've introduced his songs to my church, including "Praise the King", which easily a favorite in my congregation. In July he release a new EP called Songs of Heaven and Earth (Vol. 1). Corey continues to write songs for the church to sing on this project. All 5 of these new tunes are accessible for the local church to sing. I especially like "Canyons" & "Don't Ever Let Me Go". The song "God Who Moves the Mountains" will probably be a song you'll hear in more and more churches, as I'm considering for mine as well.  click here to download on iTunes






Alisa Turner – EP
Here's a name you'll want to remember, because I believe you may hear her on the radio soon. Alisa Turner is a new artist with Integrity and has an amazing story, which you click here to watch. I met Alisa last Fall and I appreciate her heart and sincerity. I genuinely hope to hear her song "My Prayer For You" on Christian radio soon. I think it will bless a lot of listeners. Along with that, there's some amazing songs for corporate and personal worship.  click here to download on iTunes







The Low and Behold EP – Brothers McClurg
This release is one of the most unique projects you'll hear in Christian music. I've been aware of Brothers McClurg since their album Alive a few years ago. Since then, they've gone a different musical direction. Pulling from their roots, they're tapping into a folk, gospel style that showcases their rich harmonies and soulful writing. My favorites are "Praise My Maker" and "Waymaker". You'll definitely want to check this out.  click here to download on iTunes