Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Go, Tell It on the Mountain

Every year at Christmas time, we sing Christmas songs at church (I know, duh).  But I'll be honest with you, it's not my favorite thing to do.  Most of the Christmas songs that people know and love ("Jingle Bells", "Santa Claus is Coming to Town", "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer", etc...) are not songs that we sing in church.  And so that leaves us singing rearranged Christmas hymns that may or may not work with a praise band.  So, we do the best we can with songs like "Joy to the World", "Angels We Have Heard on High", and "Silent Night".  But I believe MPBC's favorite Christmas song might just be "Go, Tell It on the Mountain".  And the reason for this is that we do the weirdest, funniest, should-get-me-fired version of the song imaginable.

A few years ago, I got the bright idea of having some of our band members showcase their musical abilities at the end of each verse of the song by playing some kind of instrumental solo.  I believe that first year we were treated to the theme songs from "Charlie Brown" and "Bonanza" and a special percussion solo on the congas and bongos that sounded like "Wipeout".  For some unknown reason, the church seemed to like it.  And ever since, we have sung "Go, Tell It on the Mountain" the last Sunday before Christmas with 3 special instrumental solos.  Now, over the years, it has become less about what song they play and more about what instrument they are "attempting" to play.  So, we've gotten to experience instruments such as the ukulele, an auto harp (my favorite), a shofar horn, a jaw-harp, a recorder (like you had to play in elementary school) and many, many others. 

Well, this year's version might be the best yet.  We had a special tambourine solo (the tambourine even lights up), finger cymbals with "The Chicken Dance", and last, but not least, the electric guitar t-shirt (and yes, he is actually playing the t-shirt; it has an amp built into the shirt and when you press on the guitar, it makes sounds).  So, enjoy!

Worship Big!


Monday, December 22, 2014

What Was It Like?

Have you ever stopped to think about what it must have been like on the night that Jesus was born?  What were Mary and Joseph thinking?  Were they scared, excited, worried, and un-sure?  I am pretty certain that they were feeling all of the above.  I know that when my first child was born I sure was.  It was such an exciting time but yet I was so scared. 

In Luke 2 the Bible reads:
6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

One of my favorite songs is “O Holy Night”.  Many times when I sing this song, I try to close my eyes and envision what it might have looked like on that special night.  Were the stars shining?  Was it cold?  Were people around watching them?  So many things go through my mind. They knew the angel had told Mary that she would give birth to a son and that she was to call him Jesus, but don’t you think that they were thinking so much more?  I can only imagine that there must have been such an awesome feeling in the air.  What a calm and reverence there must have been.  

I want to challenge each and every one of us this Christmas to stop and think about what a Holy Night it truly was and how blessed we are.  Each and every day is a gift from God. 


Thursday, December 18, 2014


Hey everyone! With Christmas in just a few days, I thought I would do a blog involving Christmas! I love all Christmas music, but I really love Christmas carols. Especially the old ones. Their lyrics are so intricate and meaningful. I was riding in the car with my dad last week and we were talking about what I should blog about. We started talking about Christmas carols/hymns and two specific ones that are my favorites came to mind: O Come, O Come Emmanuel and O Holy Night. O Come, O Come Emmanuel was written in 1861. O Holy Night was written in 1847. Both songs are pretty similar in what they are saying. There is a gloominess in the beginning and then there is rejoicing at the end. Here are the first few lines of both songs. See if you can point out the similarities:

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here

O holy night!
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear Savior's birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining

I think it is neat how the words to both songs are so alike. Both are talking about how desolate and meaningless the world is without Jesus and how we have no hope in our sin. Then Jesus comes and we see more similarities:

O Come, O Come Emmanuel says:
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O Holy Night says:
Till he appear'd and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!

When Jesus appeared everything changed. There was no hope until Jesus came and there is no hope in the human heart without Jesus. We can rejoice and be glad during Christmas and remember that because of Jesus there is hope. Music has a way of touching the heart like nothing else. You might have noticed that both of the songs say "rejoice" at the end and that is what Christmas is all about. We can rejoice that Jesus came to save us and give us life. I hope that you and your families have a wonderful Christmas rejoicing in Jesus' coming and knowing the He will come again! :)


Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Change of Pace

This coming Sunday, the 14th, we will be having what we call our "acoustic Sunday".  I especially look forward to these times because it's a nice change of pace for the team and it's something that happens twice per year at the most.  A normal Sunday worship set for us includes two electric guitars, piano, bass, keyboard, full drum kit and lots and lots of singers....and a choir. :)  Our acoustic Sundays are simplified down from this a great deal.  The acoustic sets usually include a couple of acoustic guitars, a djembe and a singer.  This particular Sunday, we will have one acoustic, a bass, a djembe and a singer, which is quite possibly the simplest the Praise Team has been in a long time.  

For me, there is excitement in the acoustic sets for several reasons.  One reason is that I have a great appreciation for acoustic music.  Even though I love playing lead electric for the team, acoustic versions of our songs creates a different vibe that's hard to explain, but it's interesting.  Even though there's no full drum kit, distorted electric guitars or 60 singers, the music somehow still get's very big and still moves dynamically.  It's a great thing to experience.  

The second reason I enjoy these sets is because of how tight the groove can be.  When there's only one acoustic guitar, one bass and a djembe, the music is much more solid. There's no huge solos to bother with, so you can just focus on having a tight groove.  

However, above these things, my absolute favorite thing about acoustic Sunday is the spiritual intimacy.   When we set up for acoustic Sunday, we will bring a few stools down the lower level of the stage and play just a few feet in front of the first row of seats.  We also don't use in-ear monitors and you can really hear the congregation singing along.  It's an entire different vibe when these things come together.  It's a different setting and feel for the congregation as well, so their involvement seems to be more energetic.  You could almost say that it creates a very laid-back setting, which I have found really allows God to move and work.  It's something that I always look forward to just to see how the Lord will work in the lives of the people and I'm honored to be a part of it.



Monday, December 1, 2014


It’s officially here!  The “have a holly jolly, rockin’ around, fa-la-la-la-la” time of year.   The time of year when we pull out our calendars and begin the tedious task of filling in every possible day with parties, dinners, family gatherings, shopping dates, trips. . . We will prep, wrap, write, clean, fret and stress about all the things that we think are necessary celebrate Christmas.  We will get so consumed in preparing for Christmas that the month will pass by and many of us will realize that we never prepared for Christmas.  It is the time of year that I realize that I am Martha.
But all He wants is for me to be Mary.  He wants me to be less consumed about preparing for the celebration and to be more about preparing for the Celebrated!  Mary had her priorities straight.  She walked away from her “to do” list to do the one thing that mattered.  She sat at the feet of Jesus. 
The praise team prepares for worship each week.  We prepare our notebooks, listen and practice music at home and then show up for rehearsal each week where we prepare for worship on Sunday morning.  I often wonder if I prepare my heart for worship as much as I prepare for worship.  Whether you are preparing your homes, the cards, shopping lists, the dinner menu, or the music for Sunday morning, spend time preparing your heart to worship the One who came as a baby in a manger.  Be like Mary and sit at the feet of Jesus. 

As we enter into this Holy season, my prayer for each of you (and myself) is that when the month becomes so busy, you will listen for His voice.  “… only a few things are necessary, really only one, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken from her.”  (Luke 10:42) Let every heart prepare Him room. 


Monday, November 24, 2014

Get to the Table

     With this being the week of Thanksgiving, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about this particular holiday.  So, in short, my blog will not be about music or worship.  So, if that’s what you are looking for you can stop now.  According to Webster’s dictionary, Thanksgiving Day is “A national holiday set apart for giving thanks to God, celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States, and on the second Monday of October in Canada”.   To begin with I didn’t even know that Canada celebrated Thanksgiving on a different day, who knew?  O Well I have learned something for the day.  Thanksgiving, a day to give thanks to God, shouldn’t that be every day?  I am so blessed that I don’t know where to begin, but I often fail to give God the thanks for the things in my life.  Every day we wake up we are blessed and we should thank God for the opportunity to live another day.  Colossians 3:17 says “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the father through him.” No matter what we do every day it is because God allows us to do it, so give Him thanks! 
     What are you thankful for and do we really realize how much we are blessed by God.  As Americans we are spoiled and often confuse our wants with our needs.  The majority of us have our needs met, we have warm homes, plenty of food and the list goes on and on.  The problem is that society tells us that we should have what we want.  So, now Thanksgiving is becoming a time not to be with family but yet another day to begin the frenzy of shopping for Christmas.  Can’t we just slow down!  Thinking back on my childhood, the stores were not even open on Sunday’s much less Thanksgiving Day.  Thanksgiving Day used to be a day where families gathered together to enjoy each other and reflect on how blessed they were.  I remember my Grandfather “Pop” loved to eat, not just at Thanksgiving but every day, he really enjoyed good food and being with family.  Anytime my Grandmother “Grammy” would have a meal ready he would yell out “Get to the table”, that meant that it was time to eat and he was going to eat with our without you because he was hungry.  Those are great memories and I love to “Get to the table” myself.   Pop also loved the Lord and another great memory that I have of him is seeing him read the Bible.  Reading the Bible was not as easy as eating for him though, because Pop struggled in his ability to read.  But that didn’t stop him because he was still “hungry” and he was going to fill that desire to be filled.  Pop knew how to slow down and spend time on the important things.  During this Thanksgiving week ask yourself the question: am I hungry?  Not hungry for physical food but for spiritual food, it’s time that we all “Get to the table”.   I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving! 


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Greater Still

A couple of weeks ago, Justin's blog post was about our new
Praise Team CD "Greater Still".  Well, I'm happy to say that it is currently off being printed and duplicated and will hopefully be here and available by Sunday, December 14th.  I thought with this week's post I would give everyone a little bit of a sneak peak (or listen as it were) to the project.  So, the link below is a medley of some of the songs.  I hope you like it!

"Greater Still Medley"
Worship Big!


Monday, November 10, 2014

Music & Emotions

    "Beautiful music is the art of the prophets that can calm the agitations of the soul, it is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us." - Martin Luther

    I don't know about you, but music "feeds my soul" quite often.  No matter what my emotions are at the time, I can almost guarantee that I can find a song to tell you how I am feeling.  When I was in high school, music got me through some tough, dark times.  I distinctly remember times that the only way I could make it through was listening to songs from K-love or 106.9.  Though I sadly admit during these hard times in my life I should been reading scripture and praying more than I was, music was my outlet.  It was my comfort during these times because talking about my problems was not something that I did.  Now, I'm obviously not here only because of music, because I eventually got to the point where I thought, "What's the use?  No one needs me."  God and His perfect placement of music in my life was my saving grace.  

    By this time, I had already been singing since the 1st grade, where I won the award of "best singer" in my class :)  It was a great accomplishment for me at the time.  (Don't judge)  My experiences in high school only grew my passion for music and even more specifically, singing.  During these trying times, I chose to use my gifts for His glory alone; and have been doing so ever since.  I say all that to say this: God gives people specific gifts, so don't be afraid to share those gifts with others.  God orchestrates and ordains things in our lives that we can't begin to fathom.  You never know when your gifts are meant to be a blessing to other people.

Blessings to all,


Monday, November 3, 2014

Never Let Go of Your Talents

I often get asked, “How long have you been playing guitar?” Truth is, I’m not sure exactly. It all started when my sister got the first guitar in the house. It was a junior sized Oscar Schmidt (by Washburn) acoustic guitar.  I don’t think I really even wanted to play guitar, I just got curious as to how it worked. Lauren, my sister, showed me the tabs of guitar chords and I just started playing around with it. It wasn’t long before I started learning more chords and I found myself enjoying taking the time to learn new techniques. I was currently playing the trumpet in middle school, so I had a good understanding of time and tempo of music, so I already knew how to keep time.  Counting back to sometime around that moment, I believe this to be around 11+ years ago, but I wouldn’t say I’ve been playing that long, since I wasn’t always playing guitar throughout that time period.

After learning that I really enjoyed playing guitar, I got my first guitar, a Fender Squier electric guitar. I started learning songs by ear and picked up some electric guitar techniques. I began playing in our youth band at church and became comfortable with playing rhythm guitar.  I grew fond of the Les Paul body style of guitars, so for Christmas one year I received an Epiphone Les Paul. I played with that guitar for a while, until we no longer had the youth band at church, and it wasn’t long until I stopped playing guitar for a good while.

Maybe a year or so later, we began attending Mt. Pleasant. I don’t remember what the occasion was, but my dad began talking with Brad and mentioned that I played guitar, and it wasn’t long before I found myself auditioning to be on the Praise Team. It was at that time I noticed how much of the guitar information I had learned, was lost in all the time I spent not playing. There were many times that I found myself having to re-learn things that I had previously known, even some chords and where they were on the fretboard. When I think about this today, I’m not sure I would even be playing guitar had my dad not said anything.

So, I say all of this to say, never let go of the talents you have. Find something that God will allow you to use those talents for his glory. Don’t let them go to waste, keep them active.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Taking Music Outside the Walls of the Church

    A few years ago, our worship pastor decided he wanted to record a live album of our praise team of some cover songs we do, but mainly songs the members of the group wrote and arranged themselves.  By this point, the praise team had been doing concerts at the church a couple of times per year and even at our local Chick-fil-a parking lot on one occasion.  Our lead guitar player at the time was huge into recording and was experimenting with his own material.  He was gracious enough to take on the task of recording this album.  At that time, I had only been a part of the team for about 6-8 months and was serving as the rhythm guitar player, so all of this was new to me.  After the concert, he took the recordings and made a great album that did well here and that our members enjoyed.  Here is the cover:

    The subject of music and recording it is something that I have always been passionate about.  I started playing guitar when I was 7, so this coming year will have been 15 years with an instrument.  I have always known that music is what I wanted to be a part of.  Something that I have discovered while being at MPBC is that if God is blessing you as a singer and/or musician, and He is also blessing your congregation with music, then get it outside the walls of your church.  If something blesses people in your church, then it will likely bless others as well.  The best way we can do that is to record albums.

   Since our first album, I have been fortunate enough here at MPBC to have taken on a pretty interesting role.  Early this year, our worship pastor came to me about recording a studio version of a new album, containing new songs and new sounds.  Since this is going to be a "studio version", it means that every vocal and every instrument will be recorded in a studio-like setting, with one track being laid down at a time to be able to add effects or tweak as needed.  Doing it this way provides the best possible quality of sound, something like you would hear on an album coming from Nashville.  For the DAW, (Digital Audio Workstation) I am using a program called Cubase 5.  This is a software that is used by a lot of audio engineers, along with Pro Tools.  Below is a picture of the Cubase interface with one of my completed projects for the album. 

    This particular song has a total of about 20 tracks, which is actually less than others on the album. Some songs like "Victor's Crown", will have 30 plus tracks. One of the cool things about doing a studio version is that I get to use sounds that we don't normally use on stage.  For example, on the song "God, You Are My God", I use several different types of synthesizers to create a spacey sound for the intro.  Also, we have an intro for the album that creates a cinematic feel, much like a music piece in a movie that's leading up to a big event, which is something we don't get to do on stage.

    To be able to do something like this is an amazing opportunity that I think will lead into bigger things for our worship team and our church.  This particular album's release is set for early December, so I'll give you more information when the time comes.  I can't give out too many details at the moment :)  In the meantime, here is a preview of what the album cover will look like:



Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Where Do We Find More Musicians?

As someone who has been working in churches for well more than a decade, I can tell you that one of the most difficult and frustrating aspects of worship ministry is finding musicians.  You never have enough.  Never.  And all it takes is for one person to get sick, or have to travel for work, or go on maternity leave to completely mess up your plans.  So, the ultimate goal is to have depth within your stable of musicians.  Having multiple drummers, guitar players, keyboard players, etc... is ideal, but it's also extremely difficult to attain.  Why, because good musicians are few and far between.  And here in Wilkes County, they seem to be even more rare.  

When I first got to MPBC, I assumed that since this was an area known for blue grass music that there would be a plethora of musicians to choose from.  I was wrong.  It was me and our church pianist.  That's it.  Now since then, we've added a lot of really talented musicians, but it never seems to be enough.  And to be honest, I think it's been a few years since we've added an instrumentalist who had just recently joined the church.  In this area of North Carolina, if you can play an instrument, there is a very good chance that you are already playing in a praise band in a church.  So, we don't get a lot of musicians joining the church wanting to get involved.  We do get a few singers, but almost never an instrumentalist.  So, the question becomes, where do we get more musicians?

Well, here's my answer.  We train them.  I don't know if another drummer, guitar player, or keyboard player will ever come along.  So, instead of waiting on them, I've decided to train people who are already here to do it.  And so, I give lessons.  And when I give lessons, I tell my students that my ultimate goal in them learning an instrument, is that one day they will get good enough to play with the praise band.   I've been doing this for a couple of years and I'm just now beginning to see the fruits of my labors.

A couple of months ago we had 2 young ladies audition for the band and they both made it.  One plays acoustic guitar and the other one plays piano.  What's neat is that I taught our new acoustic guitar player how to play  She has been taking lessons from me for a couple of years and has gotten really good.  I've also worked with the other young lady who plays piano on how to play certain songs with the band.  She has been taking piano lessons for a while (but it is more of a classical style), so I have been trying to help her get used to how songs are played within the current Praise and Worship style we use at church. 

What's great is that this past Sunday, I didn't have to play the piano or acoustic guitar.  I just got to sing.  I couldn't tell you the last time that happened.  And hopefully, as we train more and more people, there will be more instances where I just get to sing.  Maybe there will even be a day where I don't have to be the back-up drummer anymore (I am currently teaching someone to play drums-I know, scary!).

Worship Big!


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Unified Worship

With this week's blog post, I would like to talk about a very controversial topic within the realm of church music:  Styles of Worship.  That's because music and worship styles have caused many problems in churches over the past 20-30 years.  Some churches have even split over what style of worship to use (which seems ridiculous to me).  But at the same point in time, I do believe that your style of worship is important.  I mean, if you were to ask someone to visit your church, what's one of the first questions they would ask?  That's right.  What style of music do you have?  Is it contemporary, traditional, or blended?  Now, here at MPBC, many people would say that our style of worship is contemporary.  We have a praise team, a praise band with drums and electric guitars, a worship choir, lights, screens, etc...  Others might say that it is a little bit blended because of the songs that we do (every once in a while we do a traditional hymn and a number of our "contemporary" songs are actually rearranged hymns).  I am fairly certain that no one considers us to be traditional.  But I don't consider us to be any of these.  My goal when planning worship services isn't to be contemporary, traditional, or blended.  My goal is for us to be UNIFIED.

Here's what I mean by that:  regardless of what song we sing, what instruments are played, or who is leading it, I want us all to worship.  I want everyone, young and old, to participate and to worship.  That's because worship isn't about styles or musical preferences.  Worship is about acknowledging that someone (God) is greater than we are.  And it shouldn't matter what type of music we use because I hope that we can all acknowledge that God is greater than us.  

I have known of churches and even worked at churches where song selection and song type was very regimented and governed by people and leadership within the church.  For example:  at every service, there were to be two hymns sung with piano and organ and 2 praise songs accompanied by acoustic guitar and keyboard.  This was what they decided a "blended" service should look like.  The goal was to have a little bit of everything so that everyone was happy.  But what typically happens in a service like this?  Instead of it making everyone happy, it makes everyone mad.  Instead of being grateful for the songs and style they like, people like to complain about the songs and style that they don't like.   

That's what is so great about Unified worship.  My goal is not to use a certain number of hymns or praise songs.  My goal is to lead people in worship of Jesus.  That's it.  And so, when planning our corporate worship times I don't worry about what type of songs we do.  They can be praise songs or hymns.  What I concern myself with, is will these songs help lead people to Jesus?  Can these songs be sung in Spirit and in Truth?  Can people come to church at MPBC and through the music and worship experience and have an encounter with Jesus?  Because that's the ultimate goal.  It's not about hymns or praise songs or guitars or organs.  True worship is about Jesus.  

So, maybe at some point in the future, when someone asks you what type of music your church has, your answer won't be contemporary, traditional, or blended.  Maybe one day we can even get past calling it Unified.  Maybe one day, your answer will simply be "We just worship Jesus".

Worship Big!


Monday, October 6, 2014

Being vs. Doing

It is an honest struggle in the world of worship leading to want to "Do Worship" instead of "Being a Worshiper."  I know this is a struggle that I often face.

God doesn't just want us to lead worship on Sunday or Wednesday. He wants us to BE worshipers. That is why He created us.

God desires our hearts and He wants us to live a life that worships Him every day, not just when we walk up on the stage or when we are in the spotlight. The most perfectly performed song is NO replacement for the barren heart.

We must always think about our goal as a worship leader. Are we building God's kingdom or our kingdom? Do we want the attention for God or for ourselves? Are we worried about our outward appearances or inward ones?

Jesus was pretty hard on those who were trying to impress people but whose hearts were empty.

In Matthew 23:5-8 He said, "Their (Pharisees) lives are perpetual fashion shows, embroidered prayer shawls one day and flowery prayers the next. They love to sit at the head table at church dinners , basking in the most prominent positions, preening in the radiance of public flattery, receiving honorary degrees, and getting called 'Doctor' or 'Reverend.' Don't let people put you on a pedestal like that." (MSG)

Those are really hard words for anyone who is more concerned about appearances than the heart. 

BEING a worshiper starts when we are alone. That time which we spend loving and serving God when no one is watching is what prepares us for the "leading worship" times.

Having a spirit of love and unity is crucial in order to bring others into the time of worship along with us. God can't use an unclean heart to lead others in worship or anything else.

Being a worshiper starts long before we lead worship in the church setting. It is much more that doing worship. It is BEING a servant, a worshiper of the Living God, 24/7.

Here is a question that I ask myself sometimes, "If my thoughts were being shown on the screen during the worship set instead of the song lyrics, would I be okay with that?" Geez! I hope so! That idea is scary for sure. At least it is for me. God sees what is in our hearts. He knows what is there. He is who we need to impress.

In John 4:23 Jesus says, "Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks."

Let's "BE" and not just" DO!"