Thursday, July 19, 2018

The New Song

Picking out new songs is something that every worship leader is thinking about on a regular basis.  Believe it or not, it can be a pretty daunting task and there's a lot more thought that goes into it than you may realize.  

Every church is different.  Some churches introduce multiple new songs to their congregation every week.  Some churches introduce one new song every week.  For us, things are a little bit different.

The ultimate goal in everything that we do as a worship team is to lead people to a meeting place with Christ.  Our song selections are extremely important in that mission and we plan our worship sets around it. We also want our congregation to participate and enjoy the songs we do.  Here at MPBC, we really try to approach this task with utmost caution.  Why?  Because we give ourselves about 9 shots at this per year.   In my research I've found that is a bit less than other churches.  So, why are we only doing 9 new songs per year?  We introduce 1 new song per month.  With our church and team schedules, we allow 2 months during the summer that we aren't introducing a new song to the congregation, then beginning in December, we're in the thick of Christmas music.  So, that leaves us with 9 opportunities to pick out great songs for our church.  

With only 9 new songs per year, we have to be very intentional about what we're singing.  We want our people to sing.  We want them to be led to Jesus.  We don't want them to be inundated with new songs so often that all they can do is just listen because everything is so unfamiliar.  We want our congregation to really learn the songs we're doing so that they can participate when that song is in the rotation again.  We want the songs we do to mean something to our congregation.  We even want our original songs we write to model this.  We want songs to bless the family that is struggling to make it to church that morning.  We want songs to bless the person who is lonely.  We want songs that bless the broken.  So, we are very intentional when it comes to new songs.  We have found what songs our congregation responds to, so when it comes to picking out new music, we have to ask ourselves if it will truly bless our people and if it will speak to them.  Will they participate?  

Another reason we allow ourselves 9 songs per year is because we really want our band to become great at playing the song.  If we had new songs every week, that means the previous song we learned doesn't get played as much so we don't have the opportunity to really get good at the song.  We strive for excellence on our team and we want to honor the Lord in what we do, so we practice our craft and get good at it.  I feel that it's only responsible of us with what we have been given.  We spend time on the new songs we're learning.  We make sure we have all the stops.  We make sure instruments aren't playing on top of one another.  We make sure that guitar tones and piano sounds are correct and match the song.  We believe that every small detail builds the song.  

We also want to make sure these songs are sound.  We analyze each and every line of the song.  We want to make sure they will connect with our people.  Is it the most popular worship song in the country right now?  That's great!  If our people wouldn't sing it or enjoy it...guess what...we aren't doing it.  One of the things that I love about MPBC is that we know who we are, and we know who we aren't...plain and simple.  We embrace what works...here.

If you're a worship leader in your church and you posses the task in helping pick out new music, then I encourage you to do the same. Find what works. There are a lot of great songs out and I think they will just keep coming.  Figure out what works in your church and maybe what doesn't.  Be intentional about what you sing. Consider your people.  Don't feel like you have to do it because it's the biggest song out right now.  Embrace who you are and what Jesus wants you to be.

Peace,

Justin

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Would You Like to Dance?

Since the beginning of this blog, Brad has asked members of the praise team to write posts, encouraging us to write about the technical side of music, how God is using music in our lives, or even a blog post about one of our favorite songs.  So here it is, my long awaited blog post about one of my favorite songs, “Lord of the Dance”.  For those of you not familiar with this song, please do not automatically start thinking about Michael Flatley dancing around on the stage.  They are two different things with only a title for any type of connection.  

I first heard “Lord of the Dance” when I was in college and thought it had a great tune.  (It’s also the tune of the old Shaker hymn “Simple Gifts”).  However, I think the reason I like the song so much is because it tells a story from beginning to end.  From creation, to the calling of the disciples and the resurrection all poured into one song.  I’m just going to assume that most people have never heard the song (gasp!), so I’ve attached a link to the lyrics so you can see what I’m talking about.


I often take the opportunity to ask (beg) Brad to sing this song and he has promised me that he will sing it one day...at my funeral.  (For those of you who are still around when I am called home, hold him to this promise!)  It has become some sort of joke between us, which has expanded to a joke between me and most of the praise team and choir.  Laugh as they may, it doesn’t change my love of this song.  

A few weeks ago, we were attending services while visiting family in Georgia.  The pastor was preaching from Matthew 8 about Jesus calming the storm and spoke about the often overlooked portion of this scripture where it says Jesus got into the boat and His disciples followed him.  They didn’t ask questions, they just followed His lead.  

At the end of the service, the pastor shared a story about how much he liked to dance and he wanted to teach his daughter how to dance.  As he pointed out, Augusta is one of those towns where you can find resources to teach your kids anything, but he wanted to be the one to teach his daughter, so he rented a space and convinced a few other dads to bring their daughters and he taught them how to shag, foxtrot and waltz.  He said that he told his daughter, “I’ll lead. . . just follow me.”  And then he said it.  He said, “in the same way, Let Jesus be the Lord of the Dance”.  In other words, let Him lead, you just follow.  

I’ve thought about this song and the pastor’s words many times since that day.  How often do I truly let Jesus lead?  Am I allowing Him to lead as I follow in my actions, words, deeds and even (or especially) in my worship?  How often does He lead me to do something and I fail to follow?  Jesus can lead “wherever you may be” in your life if you will just let Him.  So tell me, would you like to dance?

Shelley

Thursday, July 5, 2018

No Longer Slaves

With this week's post I want to share with you the video for a song that many of you will already be familiar with.  The song is "No Longer Slaves" and the video is from Church on the Move (COTM).  The original version of the song is by Bethel Church and is very well known.  But recently, I came across COTM's version of it and I just can't stop listening to it.  


The Worship Pastor at COTM is Andy Chrisman.  For those of you who are a little bit older (like me) you'll recognize him as one of the members of the 1990/2000's group 4Him. They had 27 songs hit # 1 on Christian radio including "The Basics of Life", "Where There is Faith" and "For Future Generations". They were my
favorite Christian group when I was in college. In fact, the very first concert that my wife and I ever attended together
was a 4Him concert.  My oldest son's first concert was also a 4Him concert. They stopped singing together a number of years ago and moved onto other opportunities.  

Two of them are now Worship Pastors.  Andy is at COTM.  It's a massive church in Oklahoma.  Mark Harris is at
Gateway Church in Dallas, Texas.  It's one of the largest churches in the country and we actually do a number of Gateway songs here at MPBC.  It's pretty cool to see how God has continued to use them in ministry. 

Now, out of the 4 guys in 4Him, Andy Chrisman was by far my favorite.  In fact, he's probably my favorite singer of all-time.  When I get to heaven, I hope that God let's me sing like Andy.  So, when I stumbled upon him and his church doing this song, I was hooked. The video is below.  Enjoy!



Worship Big!

Brad  

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Worship Fails

As a worship leader, it is easy to get down on yourself or your team when you make mistakes or have a "bad" worship set.  It used to drive me crazy when I sang a wrong note or played a wrong chord on my guitar.  And if someone else on the team messed up then I would get really frustrated and upset.  But as I've gotten older I don't get upset like I used to.  If I have a bad Sunday musically, I know that another Sunday is just a week away and I can try to do better then.  And if someone on the team messes up, I remember that I've probably messed up even worse and I'm the "professional".  

Another thing that makes me feel a little bit better is watching videos from other churches.  Now, I'm not wishing any other worship team or leader to have issues, but sometimes it is a little bit reassuring to know that I'm not the only one to make mistakes.  

So, I would like to share a couple of worship "fails" that I found online.  As far as I know, no actual worship leaders or teams were harmed in the making of these videos.  So, enjoy!






So, just remember that when you have one of those Sundays where nothing goes right, it could be worse.  You could be one of these worship leaders/teams.  Or as I learned last week in Vacation Bible School, you could be like Lazarus.  Because he was dead😉.

Worship Big!

Brad

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Still

As believers, we are reminded how important it is in our lives to have quiet time with the LORD every day.  I am going to be honest, some days I fail at spending quality quiet time with the Lord. This is not something I’m proud of, but rather an area that I seek to develop more self-discipline. Yes, I try to read my Bible and pray every day, but I know I struggle sometimes with rushing through. Sometimes, I can make myself feel better knowing that I can put a check mark beside of Bible reading and prayer.  However, I’m sure Jesus doesn’t want our relationship with Him to simply be in a box that we can check off each day. I know He desires more of us than that.

 Unfortunately, in many areas of my life, I struggle with being in a hurry.  I hurry to get ready in the morning.  I hurry to work or encourage Sam to drive a bit faster to get us there. (We ride to work together most of the time.) Then when I arrive to work, I hurry to get the day rolling and quickly get our first patient back so that neither our doctors nor our patients have to wait for very long. After my job is completed, we rush to get home and figure out what we are going to eat for supper, and then work on some housework/yard work. By the time these things are finished, sometimes I am so tired I just want to plop down in front of the television with my jammies on and just vegetate for a while. 

At times, there are moments when I hear the Holy Spirit speak to my heart and say, “You haven’t spent any quiet time with me today.” Periodically, I will stop what I am doing right then and do my quiet time. On other occasions I will sense the Holy Spirit prodding me and somehow I will get distracted with something else. It seems like a million other things will come to mind that need to be done. Or when I pick up my Bible, my cat, Fuzzy who always prefers to sit on Sam, will decide to be extremely affectionate with me. She will jump up in my lap, and even climb on my Bible!  I truly believe Satan uses that cat to try to steer me away from reading the Bible sometimes😄. Then when I begin reading, I often get extremely heavy eyelids and doze off to sleep. When I wake up, I realize that it is time for bed. Another day comes and the cycle starts all over again.  Our lives are fairly routine. But I want time with the LORD to be anything but routine.  I want to experience His glory, worship Him in spirit and in truth and be ever aware of His presence. I want to stop being sucked into wasting time on useless things when I could be spending time with the King:  King Jesus. 

 A few nights ago, Sam was playing basketball at church, and I experienced the presence of the Lord so strongly. I had fixed some grilled chicken and quietly began to eat at the table.  I looked out the back door to see the most beautiful pink tinged clouds hovering in the big sky. Sunsets are one of my favorite things, so I grabbed my phone and went out the front door to capture a glimpse of the incredible beauty.  I
wasn’t finished with supper, so I took my plate out and sat in the driveway facing the breathtaking pink and gold sky.  As I sat there, I became overwhelmed with the beauty of God’s creation. I was in awe that the same God who made the shimmering sky and all of creation loves me, yes me, Carly Blevins in spite of all my failures.   He knows everything about me—every tear I’ve cried, even the number of hairs on my head. He knew me before I was born, He knew when I would become His child, and He has all of my days written in His book.  He knows when I will breathe my last and go to be with Him forever.  I don’t long to die necessarily, but sitting there I just longed to be with Jesus and to see Him face to face. The presence of God was so immense…my eyes welled up in joyful tears.  The words of a Kari Jobe song rang out so true “…when You walk in the room there’s nothing like it.”  

There really isn’t anything like it.   Do I experience this kind of thing every day? No, but when I do, it starts a fire in my soul and I just want more of Him.  I want to live my life in complete abandon of the things of this world and seek Jesus with my entire being.  I want to hang on His Word and time in prayer like my life depends on it; and truthfully, abundant life in Christ does depend on it. I want my life to be emptied of selfish gain and poured out into serving others and seeing souls come to know Jesus!

Lord, please help me learn to be still, to slow down enough to see you and hear from you each day. Even in my busyness, help me to always remember to put You first and be still and know that You are my God.

I will close with the lyrics to a favorite older song of mine called “Still” by Watermark. Watermark was made up of a husband and wife duo, Nathan and Christy Nockels. They have officially ended days as Watermark, but are still a strong married couple. Nathan is a songwriter and producer, and Christy is a songwriter and worship leader. These words speak to my heart:

The more I get alone
The more I see I need to get alone more
More
'Cause just when I think that I’m alone
Your Spirit calls out to me
And even silence has a song
And that’s when You come singing over me
Still
Let me be still
Let me be ok with the quiet in my heart
Oh, still, I want to be still
I’m so quick to move, instead of listening to You
Shut my mouth, crush my pride
Give me the tears of a broken life
Still

In Christ’s Love,

Carly

Thursday, May 31, 2018

I Have a Secret

A while back, a friend of mine on Facebook posted something like this:

The phrases “Going to the beach” and “Going to the beach with four kids” may sound a lot alike, but they are two totally different experiences!

I think I replied something to this effect:

You didn’t go on vacation…you went on a trip!  There is a significant difference between the two! 😊

For those of you with kids, you can probably agree wholeheartedly with these statements.  Remember going on vacation with a toddler?  Or maybe a baby?  I definitely remember!  While it has its exciting moments, it’s a lot of work.  I know for my family, the preparation started about a week before we left.  I know I would always make sure that the car was in decent shape: checking the A/C or heat, making sure the tires were good enough shape, changing the oil if needed, checking fluids and belts, checking for leaky hoses, and then cleaning the car with a wash, a vacuum, and possibly a wax.  Marci was always very busy in the days leading up to a trip with the kids.  She started washing clothes days in advance, and we would work together to get the house clean before we left. 

When we finally got to our destination, we would let our little ones play in the pool, the sand, or walk around the hotel room, amusement park, resort, etc.  Marci and I simply couldn’t spread out our towels on the beach and say to our kids, “Y’all have a good time! We will be over here napping and reading books while you play in the ocean!”  As a matter of fact, those first few years, it was rare that we even sat down!  We had to keep a close eye on them, especially around crowds or around water.  In addition to this, there were other things we were in charge of as well:

We still had to worry about getting the kids down for naps.  
There were still bath times and trips to the grocery store.  
There were still diapers and dishes.  
There was laundry.
There was still fussing.
There was still sleeplessness.
There was still, well, all of the things we had to do home…we were just in a different place!

There was so much to worry about…from finances, to safety, to food, to traveling, to gas, to car maintenance, etc., there was not a lot of time to rest and relax and just enjoy each moment.  On the flip side, what did the kids have to worry about?  Very little! Well they’re kids, so they shouldn’t have to.  It’s not their job to worry about anything.  Don’t get me wrong…there were moments that happened during these times that I’ll never forget that will stay with me for a lifetime.  However, looking back, I believe these trips were more for the kids than they were for me.  While I’m very thankful for these experiences, to be honest with you, I was happy to get home a lot of the time.  I think after some of these trips, I wanted to get back to work and get some rest!

So at this point you may be asking, so what’s this secret, and what does going on a trip with little kids have to do with playing worship music?  A lot, actually.

First, I must share my secret.  You ready? (I’m not sure I am!) Either way, here goes:  

When I’m playing music in front of the congregation, I’m usually not worshiping.  

Yes, you read that correctly – I’m not worshiping the vast majority of the time while I’m playing in front of the congregation.  This is not a dance around wording and semantics; this is blunt honesty.  

You see, when it comes to playing on the praise team, I have too much to worry while I’m playing (In case you are interested, this should give you a good idea of what all I have to concentrate on while I’m playing:  http://mpbcworship.blogspot.com/2014/06/my-music-stand.html).  When I’m playing the drums, I have about 30-40 other singers and musicians depending on me to play the right parts at the right time.  So, if the Spirit so moved me to step down from my drums and kneel at the altar, I would do it; however, my doing so would do a couple of things:

1.) It would draw unnecessary attention to myself, and 
2.) It would cause an absolute musical train wreck.  

While I’m not saying that there’s zero chance of this ever happening (I mean, the Holy Spirit can do whatever He wants to, right?), I believe that my primary purpose is to LEAD others in their worship, not to focus on MY worship.  Confused yet? Let me put it this way. Simply put, I believe my purposes of playing on the praise team are as follows:

A.) to provide the music for the congregation so that they may worship freely, 
B.) play skillfully as to not to be a distraction for the congregation and other musicians/singers who are leading, and 
C.) smile, make eye contact, and attempt to connect with the congregation so that they can be led to the feet of the throne.

So if I’m not worshiping the entire time, what am I doing and what’s the point of me even doing this?  Well, to be quite honest, my job is not to worship – my job is to provide an opportunity for the congregation to worship.  This the primary difference between being a worship LEADER and someone in the congregation.  To me, this parallels the idea of going on vacation with the kids.  While I may have a good time on the beach with my little kids, my purpose in going to the beach with them is not so they can watch me have a good time and get much-needed rest.  On the same note, I’m not in front of people so they can see me worship.  Does it happen sometimes?  Sure, but not very often because that’s not the purpose in my being there.  If I wanted to be in front of church for the sole purpose of people watching me worship, well, maybe I would be better off in the congregation.  

The way I see it, being on a worship team is a lot like being a parent taking kids on a trip somewhere.  There is an absolute ton of prep work that goes into it, and there are many things to think about the entire time you are there.  While you are on the trip, you may have a moment or two of relaxation (much like there are moments of worship while playing on a team), but being there is more about others than you.  When I show up on my weeks off of the worship team, it’s a great experience to walk in and enjoy our time of worship.  I’m free to do whatever I want.  I can sit and pray, stand and raise my hands, stand in silence with my eyes shut, etc.  The worship team’s job is to provide the environment for me when I’m in the congregation.  I don’t have to worry about anything, just like a kid whose parents have taken them on a trip.  In much the same way, the worship team “drives” the congregation to the destination, and everything is provided; all they have to do is simply worship and enjoy what’s going on around them, and it’s the worship team’s job to provide this each week.  Playing music and being a parent are both ministries that, at times, can provide worship and relaxation, but that’s not the point of either of these roles I play.

A couple of final thoughts.  First, I have felt like this for years.  This is nothing new for me, and for the longest time I thought something was wrong with me. There were so many instances where I thought I should “feel” something as I was playing, but it wasn’t there.  You know what? That’s ok.  Being a leader is all about leading others, not chasing feelings.  Second, I hope that this doesn’t come across as a “Woe is me, I can’t worship at church” sort of blog.  Believe me when I say that I do have my moments of worship, but they happen at different times as opposed to playing the drums at church.  My moments of worship happen more as I’m doing devotions in the quiet of my home before everyone else gets up.  They happen as I drive to work in the fall when the sun rises just above the mountains and the light hits all of the oranges, yellows, and browns.  They happen when my kids ask me to pray with them and for them.  They happen as I lie awake at night with worry and peace washes over.  They happen when I’m wrenching on my truck, and I’m able to fix whatever was wrong (There’s usually a bit of repentance that goes along with it!).  In addition to all of these, moments of worship happen as I’m in the congregation.  Maybe they don’t happen a lot as I’m actively playing, but that’s ok.

I stopped chasing a feeling a long time ago, and I’m much better for it.

Martin

Thursday, May 24, 2018

30,000 Foot View

One thing I enjoy about playing the drums is that I have a very good seat to see the “mood” in the entire Reach Center before and during our worship time. This mood can vary greatly from energetic to kinda ho hum, and sometimes both on the same Sunday. Sometimes, different sides of the room have a totally different feel at the same time.

There is one specific time every Sunday, however, that is full of smiles, greetings, laughter and just joy; that time being the “welcome those around you” time. Immediately after Dale or Brad or whoever says “now let’s take a minute and welcome those around you” the entire place just comes to life with all of the aforementioned actions. You see people leave their seats and go hug someone or laughter over something relevant only to those involved. People smile and shake hands. Others may be planning their evening together and some share encouragement to those broken by life (but you’d never know it due to the mask we must put on when we enter God’s House).

I truly enjoy watching this from the “30,000 ft view” because no one notices the drummer during this time, which is a perfect opportunity to observe the small details that would be overlooked easily. This fellowship is vitally important to having strength in Christ because, well, strength comes in numbers.

Example, I once heard a message preached about how lions and wolves hunt. You’ve seen the shows on Nat-Geo and
Animal Planet (you know with the British or Australian narrators) with these predators on the hunt and how they follow a similar strategy; which is to single out one from the pack and take it down. If the kill is not immediately effective they will chase, wound, fatigue, and just keep the prey away from the group. The lions and wolves rarely go after an alpha male or the matriarch female. The reason... strength comes with numbers.

The preacher then paralleled this to our faith by asking which person is more likely to become prey, the one who attends church regularly and is active within that church, or the one who is “kinda” there? He went into more depth than this with all kinds of principles, but I want to focus on this only. You see the ones who gather regularly are in the group, but those who are “kinda” there are falling away from the herd, and the further they get the more vulnerable they are to attack. This attack is not physical but spiritual.

So, the spiritual is where we need strength and being with other Christians is one way to find this strength. Just being with the masses is one thing, but finding a few solid friends in Christ takes it to a new level. This is why I enjoy the Welcome Time so much. Because I see people making acquaintances, and shoring up already strong foundations. People are refreshed and encouraged, even if it’s only 20 seconds. Then we hit the tracks and we're off into worship, as it reverts back to the “mood” that’s in the room (this mood is an odd thing sometimes which I could expand on further but we have not the time).

So, how bout this: the next time you get to “welcome those around you” you go and bear hug someone or just speak a kind word because you never know how close the predators may be.

I Say Go For It!

Derek