Monday, June 19, 2017

Just How Big He Is...

Do you ever just sit & wonder... "wow, our God is so big." After VBS this past week, I've been contemplating that quite a bit. We have the most awesome Father who created the galaxies, yet He still thought that there was room for me. For 5'2, all of 110lbs soaking wet, me. Just think about that for a second...

In Psalm 147, it says:

“He determines and counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by their names. Great is our Lord and of great power; His understanding is inexhaustible and boundless.”

‭‭This wasn't the memory verse for the week at VBS, but I made sure to teach it to my little ones. So as to remind them, that our God has numbered each and every star, as well as each hair on our heads. To tell them that, His knowledge passes all understanding, yet all He desires is to be close to us--for us to draw near to Him. 

And I think that's what I've been stuck at lately. That it is beyond any comprehension that the Maker of the entire universe asks nothing of me, but to be close to Him. He holds all this power, and all this knowledge, and asks nothing of me, but to walk in love with Him. How awesome is that. 

I hope each & every one of you have a blessed week! 

Savannah

Thursday, June 15, 2017

When Your Voice Is Loud, But Your Words Are Empty

When your voice is loud, but your words are empty.  Do you ever feel that way?  If you're human, you do.  Whether in your job, a relationship or any other area of life involving people,  you're going to feel that way at some point.   For Christians, that may be an all-too-familiar feeling that seems to come in seasons.  Do you ever feel like you pray, read and seek Jesus with all your heart and yet....nothing?  You may be seeking Him on how to handle a situation or praying for someone and their health or salvation, or it may just be a normal day and you just don't hear or feel anything.  You're not alone.  But, what if you're a worship leader in your church?  What if it's your week to sing or play and you aren't hearing from God about an issue that you need some help in.  You feel nothing.  You seem to be screaming at Him for an answer and you get complete silence.  What then?

I've been there.  It's a hard place to be in when you feel that God isn't hearing you and you're needing an extra dose of patience and understanding at that point in time.  You sing and play on a platform in your church, knowing that you still aren't hearing from Him.  It's quite a lonely feeling isn't it?  It drains you spiritually, mentally and sometimes even physically.  In my case, the thing that helped was beginning to learn the art of listening.  In some ways I can be terrible at listening.  I can hear, but I don't always listen.  Sometimes it's the fact that I think I'm not hearing from God, but in reality it's that God isn't speaking to me in a way that I feel like He should.  So, my prayer as of late has been for Him to help me be more aware and to do a little more listening and a lot less talking.  


I'm often drawn to think of Elijah.  What a relationship He had with God and what a longing he had to be with Him. God used Elijah to hold rain from the people for over 3 years because of their sin. I can imagine how Elijah was dis-liked.  Yet, he was faithful and preached all this time, but he heard nothing from God.  God just seemed to be inactive.  But, seemingly out of nowhere.....


                                          "After a long time, in the third year, the word of the LORD came to Elijah: “Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land."    1 Kings 18:1


That's an encouraging story for me.  The Lord took care of Elijah, giving exactly what he needed, exactly when he needed it.  The "when" can sometimes be the hard part. 


Recently, I was at a worship conference and was listening to Paul Baloche speak.  Someone asked him about continuing in worship while going through somewhat of a drought in your walk with God.  He gave a simple, yet perfect answer.  He said, "You're going to go through this, and sometimes you just have to put on your tool belt and go to work".  What a great answer to a seemingly complicated question.  At that moment, our jobs as worship leaders is about something far bigger than ourselves.  With the help of the Holy Spirit, we are creating a meeting between God and His congregation.  Seek Him even in the dark and in the silence.  I've also found encouragement in the fact that a teacher is always silent during a test.  God is doing something.


In these times of silence, no matter how painful, no matter the level of anticipation you have, know that you are in God's best interest.  When you read, pray and seek Him; listen.  Do a little less talking and a lot more listening.  Don't ignore the silence. Quiet your voice and lessen your words.  Sometimes God's biggest moves come after periods of silence.  Think about Elijah.  In the fullness of time, you will see His power displayed.


Peace,  


Justin




Thursday, June 8, 2017

Unfailing Everything

I’m going to make a confession… music is an extremely important part of my life. Naturally, I have genres and styles that I prefer, and I have favorite songs.  I love the music we do at MPBC.  It always has a way to move me whether I’m on stage playing it or not.  We just started doing a new song called “King of my Heart” and it’s my absolute favorite!  The musicality is fairly straightforward, and the choruses repeat the same phrase, but the message in the verses is what never fails to inspire.  In my limited experience as a songwriter, I’ve come to the conclusion that lyrics define a song and absolutely determine its power.  Without depth, a song is just sound that doesn’t actually move people.  I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: I crave music that means something!  Words are some of the most influential things in creation. But, there’s a certain paradox in words. They can be used to comfort or wound, to strengthen or discourage, as weapons or as shields.  Worship music uses words in a way that, to me, nothing else ever has or ever will.  In addition to the power of words, I think accompaniment enhances the emotion of certain points in a song.  What I love about the song “King of My Heart” is that it’s not only a balance of so many musical components; it ministers to people. The music never overpowers the lyrics, but it compliments them in such a beautiful way that the resounding message of the song is unmistakable. I think my favorite part of the song is the last bit of the second verse: 

“Let the King of my heart be the fire inside my veins
The echo of my days, oh He is my song”

These lyrics perfectly encase my life prayer. It’s literally my benediction to Jesus. I relate to those words on a spiritual level, and every time those words roll off of my tongue, I feel them with every ounce of my being. I think the reason music is so powerful in general is that it is so very relatable. When people can relate to something in some way, they open up their heart to it, and that’s how God moves. Whenever we play that song on a Sunday morning, I love seeing how people respond to it. It brings my heart inexplicable joy to see that something so dear to me (music) is something that God uses as a vessel to bear witness with hearts in the room. That’s another reason why I love the song so much. It’s approachable to a congregation because of it’s simplistic depth. (How’s that for an oxymoron?)  The words of this song are the heartcry of the body of Christ... the declaration of praise!  Like the song says, He will never ever let us down, because He is good! Every lyric in this song provides me with unspeakable comfort and perfectly describes my desire for Christ in my life. The verses that come to mind when I hear this song are from Psalm 47:5-7: 

“God has gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet. Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm.” 

He is our King, our everything and He’ll never let us down. So, may the message of unending love and unchanging grace forever fill our hearts and may Christ be the resounding echo of every single one of our days, because He is our unfailing everything!!

Keep smiling,

Maddie 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Found in You

With this week's post I wanted to introduce you to a song that we'll start teaching the church this upcoming Sunday.  It's called "Found in You" by Vertical Church Band.  It's a wonderful, fun, exciting, energetic, declaration that "All we want and all we need is found in You (Jesus)". Our Children's Choir actually sang this song a few weeks ago on a Wednesday night and had a lot of fun with it.  They had motions worked up for the chorus and bridge sections and really sang out the whole song.  

The video of Vertical Church Band doing the song is below. 

If everyone really likes it, maybe we can get some of the kids from the Children's Choir to teach us the motions😉.

Worship Big!

Brad


video



Tuesday, May 23, 2017

We Are Called "Team" for a Reason

I remember back when we were a small group and how in those days we each played and sang every single Sunday morning. Those are fond memories, but were often tiring times! Times have changed and with all the talent of a large church, there are many singers and musicians that can spread across multiple teams… in the end all being the “Praise Team.” Those early years of the team were when I was very young. But, I look back on the time I was invited to be involved and how the time we spent practicing and playing together meant even more to me BECAUSE I was the youngest person on the team at the time. I was so grateful that no one looked down on me because I was young, but allowed me to participate and help set an example. Each compliment and encouragement made me soar and reminded me that I may not have all the experience of older adults, but that this was just one place I could start getting the tools I needed to succeed. Now I see many young faces across multiple teams in our church and I am thankful that age doesn’t matter. As long as you can do what you are up there to do and do it well, while giving God all the glory, that’s what matters.

So whether you are a veteran at leading worship, or new to the whole experience, I pray that we all remember one word: TEAM. We are each a single piece working to make one large masterpiece. No one is greater than another, because when God looks down, He sees many pieces striving and thinking and focusing on all the parts of the music to make something beautiful all in His name. He doesn’t care about your resume or how many years you have worked. He doesn’t care about gray hairs or fine lines. He doesn’t mind if you are scared out of wits because those ear buds in your ears are so weird and it is all so new. He does care about your heart. Let’s make every effort to always encourage the members of the team and make it stronger as a whole so that our music is even more beautiful and glorifying to the King.  

Katy

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Is Jesus the Conductor of Our Worship?

A few years ago I watched a video sermon based off Louie Giglio’s ‘Stars and Whales’ (if you’ve never seen it before, here’s the link https://vimeo.com/54384759.)  I was in complete awe. I had no idea that the stars in the galaxies thousands of light-years away had an actual sound. That the sun or the earth spinning on its axis made a sound—the thought never crossed my mind. Isn’t it amazing to think that God, the creator of the universe, is the Conductor of the most magnanimous worship choir EVER?!? I was so overcome with emotion to hear the stars in the galaxy and whales in the ocean literally singing praises to their Creator.

As I watched and listened, I realized that I don’t always allow Jesus to be the Conductor of my worship and my heart. I want to do the leading, and I always end up feeling lost and frustrated. A conductor’s job is to lead and guide, to keep time, to ensure correct entries by members of the ensemble, and give instruction. Without the conductor, everything is going to go awry—because without their guidance and instruction, we cannot possibly give our best performance. Just like we need a conductor in music, we need to let Jesus be the Conductor of our worship and our hearts. A passage in Called to Worship by Vernon Whaley states: 

“Without a conductor, there is no hope for unified presentation, but rather, dissonance and rhythmic chaos—in short, a musical mess."

But in our worship, we must see Jesus as our Conductor, who came to this world to direct a magnificent symphony that puts us in harmony with God and each other. And if we let Him, Jesus will restore order out of chaos and transform our ugly discord into beautiful music for the glory, honor, and praise of the Most High God.”

That seems so simple, right? Let Jesus conduct and we live in perfect harmony. Obviously, Satan doesn’t like that, and tells us to take Jesus’ baton and lead our own lives…and it NEVER works. We get on our high horses; we become boastful, arrogant, and conceded. We say things we shouldn’t, we think things we shouldn’t, and we lose focus on what truly matters—Jesus. We take our eyes off Him and we stumble, or worse, we cause our brother to stumble.

Maybe today would be a good day to hand the baton back to Jesus. Let Him lead and guide and direct our hearts and our worship. After all, we were never qualified for the job in the first place!

Cheers,

Nicole 

Friday, May 12, 2017

Music Stands on Stage?

Should we allow music stands on stage?  This can definitely be a question with several answers but not necessarily a 100% correct answer.  As in any other decision making process, I'll lay out some pros and cons of music stands and maybe even a helpful alternative. 

First, let's look at the cons of having stands on stage...

1.  They're ugly.  That has to be the biggest complaint of a traditional style music stand.  You can try to put them off to the side, lower them some, but they're still just a black orb taking up space on stage and depending on how many you have, it can almost be distracting.

2.  A/V Teams.  For the same reason as number 1, I can only imagine that camera guys despise them.  They get in the way of desired shots and hide musicians instruments.  Also, lighting crews aren't always thinking about allowing light on the stage for a musician to be able to see their sheet music.  

3.  Musicianship.  This can be a large part of the argument, and a tricky one.  It's debatable that the use of a music stand can injure the musicianship of someone who plays an instrument.  Having the sheet music and/or chord charts can be relied upon too much and can lead to just playing through the songs and never REALLY learning them.

4.  Distraction.  This can go hand in hand with Musicianship.  If you're just playing along and following a chord chart and are focused on it, then are you able to do your part to engage the congregation in worship?  This entails personal practice, which I think our teams are good at and take that responsibility upon themselves.  When relied upon to get you through the song, having a chord chart on a music stand in front of you can be very distracting, especially with trying not to lose your place on the paper.

You may be able to think of more cons, but here are a few pros to having the music in front of you.

1.  Piece of Mind.  Having the music there as a reference and a slight reminder can be comforting.  We have 3 Sunday morning services and do a sound check before 1st service.  During soundcheck, we run through all the songs, just like service.  So on Sundays, the band does the same set 4 times.  Needless to say, things can begin to run together after some time.  As a keyboard player or bass player, knowing that you're such a foundation to the music, having the music readily available can be very comforting because at some point or another, you will blank for a moment.  It's just going to happen.

2.  Perspective.  I think it's really important that we put these things into perspective.  What's the point of what we do?  To lead people into the presence of Jesus.  If having the music can make you feel more relaxed knowing you do have that safety net, that's great!  You're more likely to engage people when you're comfortable.  The point is to worship.

If you're on the fence on whether to ditch music stands, you're not alone.  We stepped away from music stands a couple of years ago, but not completely.  For a long time, we would print off chord charts and make folders for each band position for the songs for that week.  One reason that we moved away from that was just the amount of work involved each Monday or Tuesday.  The other reason, you guessed it, visual.  There's no way around it, music stands are ugly.  Upon doing some research, we discovered something called OnSong.  OnSong is an iPad app that takes chord charts and puts them in an easy to read format that you can follow along with.  We even have ours set to auto-scroll so there's no pesky page turning between songs or the worry of losing our place.  They have a low light setting so there's never a worry of being able to see.  One of my favorite parts is that since it's ran on an iPad, you don't have the sheer bulk of a traditional music stand.  For us, this is the best of both worlds and our team really embraced it.  If you would like to know more about it, check out http://www.onsongapp.com/.

Peace,

Justin

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Grant Norsworthy

I'm really looking forward to this upcoming weekend. MPBC will be hosting Grant Norsworthy (speaker, musician, Australian-now based out of Nashville, TN), who will be leading a workshop for our worship team on Saturday and then speaking and leading the team on Sunday during our services.  Grant is a Dove Award Winning and Grammy Nominated musician who now has his own ministry, "More Than Music Mentor", in which he travels around the country helping churches and worship teams and also provides free resources through his website:  www.morethanmusicmentor.com.

I first met Grant about 4 years ago at a conference in Florida.  I was there for a Songwriting Workshop and he was my group leader.  He was easy to work with and really had a lot of good information and insight into songwriting.  I ran into him again last summer at another conference and took one of the classes he was teaching.  Once again I was impressed with his knowledge of worship and ideas and ways for improving how a worship team and a worship ministry functions.

After this second encounter with him, I started thinking about how he could help our team and ministry here at MPBC.  And so, we're bringing him in.

But, he's not just here for the worship team or worship ministry.  On Sunday, he'll be speaking to the entire church at all 3 morning services.  Here's a quote from his website that I think clearly sums up what you'll get to experience this Sunday as he shares:  

"Through an engaging blend of illustrations, storytelling, solid Bible teaching and songs, Grant Norsworthy possesses a rare ability to reshape sometimes-overwhelming concepts into deep-yet-simple thoughts that propel listeners to realization and action."

So, I hope that you'll make plans to be here.  I promise that you'll enjoy it and get something out of it.  

Worship Big!

Brad 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Create in Me a Heart of Genuine Worship

Worship…that word means different things to different people.

Ole Mr. Webster says that “Worship is the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity”.
And yes, I would agree worship can be an outward expression of our love for the Father. It should come to that! But the question lies…What do you personally consider worship?

I remember as a child watching a lady in our church raise her hands every time a certain song was played and she would just bawl. At that time, I was afraid of her (I was 4) she was different. (Granted she pinched my cheeks every time I got close, which could have been the reason for my fear). But it was an odd thing for me to see for some reason. In an entire church of “Christians” there was this one lady who would go all kinds of crazy at random moments. The truth I would grow to understand….she had a heart and desire to experience God in her own way, with no worries of another thinking she was insane. The rest of us could have used a bit of that reverence and accountability. 

Over the past few months, I have been experiencing a “shift” in my walk with the Father. And in a wonderful way. It’s no secret that I deal with medical issues and a new diagnosis caught me off guard. But in it all I felt peace, His presence, and I had overwhelming Joy! God was allowing me to have another opportunity to Praise and Worship Him through another struggle. You see, the struggle is only a tiny portion of the story (His Story). He ordained my days and allowed this not for my destruction but for His glory. I knew I was to make sure that he received what I was called to give. 

Sometimes, I think we as Christians ignore our calling.  While everyone has a different plan, we have the same purpose. We are called to serve, share, and glorify God for who He is.
While facing another little giant in my life I began to feel more conviction regarding what I allowed or ignored. When I truly sought Him, He gave me the clarity to see Him. (Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you-James 4:8).

I would get what I call “spirit checks” (discernment) more often in situations I might not have seen before. I began to funnel my actions/words more carefully knowing that I had failed miserably to do so lately. I asked God to provide me with a genuine heart of worship. 

It didn’t come immediately. I had to allow the hardened build up to be broken away. Feelings of resentment, frustration, and plain anger had seeped into the cracks and filled the void where my praise should have been. It is so easy to allow this to happen. It’s a very slow fade! 

As a member of our praise team I am fully aware that how I worship can affect those around me and I wanted to ensure I was genuine and not just being routine. Its sometimes easy to focus on the physical v/s the spiritual when you sing. In my case, sometimes my injuries make themselves known or the technical aspects of performing can be pushed in the forefront of my mind. To ensure that I didn’t allow the “stuff” to cloud my view of The Father, I begin my time in prayer. From the time I arrive, to the moment we step off the stage for the day, I am in constant conversation w/the Father. 

I don’t share this to say, “Look at me and what a good Christian I am”. I share this because I am a broken child of the King who needs correction on a daily basis!

I drag the weekly junk into church wit me on Sunday morning just like everyone else! We are all hit with difficulties (work, finances, health, and other people). It tears us down and we bring what’s left of us to church. In my case that’s not a lot left to give! 

I understood that my personal temperament (one who is a straight shooter/calls it like she sees it) would need to have a clean slate before I stood and sang. I would need to ensure that my focus wasn’t on the ones around me, the music, the struggles or even the people in front of me. That it was on the ONE who blessed me with the ability to sing. So…I pray. I pray that God would remove any ounce of “self” I have left in me, that he would remove my focus on the physical struggles and point me to Him. Since I began to do this I have experienced Him in a way I can’t describe. Worship became more personal than ever before and it was genuine and ALL for Him. 

You may not always see my hands being raised (sometimes physically its difficult).  While that is our typical expectation of outward praise, our inward approach to worship matters the most! When my heart is truly on the One who created me to serve, worship is being given! When your heart is completely engulfed in His presence something begins to change. Your outward expressions clearly show your intent. You begin to stand alone in His presence (no matter how many others are around).

You can worship in your mundane moments, your ugly moments and those of despair. Your heart can be healed in the most difficult of situations. You were bought for a price and are priceless in his sight! How awesome to know that we have such worth!

If you are finding yourself dragging the “junk” of the week/world around with you and feel that despair is the only form of emotion you can bring to the surface take heart in knowing that God is already fighting your battles. He’s already ahead of your situation.  He’s aware and in control. 
Casting Crowns perform a song called “Oh my Soul”. Its lyrics speak so clearly when times seem rough and worship seems impossible…


Oh, my soul
Oh, how you worry
Oh, how you're weary, from fearing you lost control
This was the one thing, you didn't see coming
And no one would blame you, though
If you cried in private
If you tried to hide it away, so no one knows
No one will see, if you stop believing

Oh, my soul
You are not alone
There's a place where fear has to face the God you know
One more day, He will make a way
Let Him show you how, you can lay this down
'Cause you're not alone

Here and now
You can be honest
I won't try to promise that someday it all works out
'Cause this is the valley
And even now, He is breathing on your dry bones
And there will be dancing
There will be beauty where beauty was ash and stone
This much I know

Oh, my soul
You are not alone
There's a place where fear has to face the God you know
One more day, He will make a way
Let Him show you how, you can lay this down

I'm not strong enough, I can't take anymore
(You can lay it down, you can lay it down)
And my shipwrecked faith will never get me to shore
(You can lay it down, you can lay it down)
Can He find me here
Can He keep me from going under

My sweet brother’s and sister’s in Christ. If you take anything away from today’s blog know that You are not alone. You are loved and created for a purpose. One that requires genuine and personal worship. Take today's struggle and give Him the glory! I will be right alongside of you doing the same.

Jessica

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Let It Be...

Have you ever just stopped everything you were doing to sit in awe of God? Just think: the God whose hands keep the planets from smashing together wants to hold our hand every day... wow.

I know many of you know the verse Psalm 46:10, "be still and know...". Well I like the beginning of that verse even better. In the AMPC version, it says "Let be and be still..."

So many times it is easy to "give" something to God, but we are still holding on to it. I know I've found myself doing that a lot lately. It is so hard to completely walk away, but sometimes that is what God is telling us to do.

I know, I get it. I've been clinging to my struggles for a while. But the moment I was finally able to say "God, I'm letting this be. I'm not only being still and waiting for You, but I'm letting this be." That was when I was able to truly open my heart to worship. When we hang on to these things it clouds our minds and the devil is allowed to steal our heart of worship. But when we let be... God can show us amazing things!

I encourage each of you to just let be! Be still and make yourself available to God. I promise He never disappoints!

~Blessings,

Savannah

Thursday, April 6, 2017

It's Okay

"It's okay".  That's a phrase I seem to use a lot around here on the first Wednesday night of each month.  See, on the first Wednesday night of each month, the praise team/band and worship choir lead in worship during our service.  On the other Wednesday nights throughout the month, we don't do anything.  Our goal is that the "First Wednesday Service" will be a special time of worship that people can look forward to throughout the month.  

So, that's the goal.  Unfortunately, we keep having issues during our First Wednesday Services.  For the most part they aren't major, just annoying.  Like last night, an innocent mistake was made and we lost our click track for one song (the band plays with it to help keep us all together).  And in the process to fix it, we had some loud "static" sounds come through the speakers.  Last month we struggled with some rhythm issues.  The month before that, I completely forgot the lyrics on a verse.  I just blanked on them.

Now, I'm sure there are some reasons that these issues continue to flare-up.  The biggest of which is probably our lack of a significant sound check on First Wednesday Nights.  On Sunday mornings we sound check for 25-30 minutes and run over each song in it's entirety.  On First Wednesday Nights we sound check for about 2 minutes and basically run over intros and transitions.  Unfortunately, that's all the time we have.  

And when there is an issue, everyone comes up to me afterward all upset.  Sometimes they are apologizing for their part in the issue.  Sometimes they are just upset that things didn't go as well as we hoped for.  But here's what I tell everyone:  it's okay.  Don't get me wrong.  I HATE it when things don't go well.  Part of my job is putting people in positions where they can succeed and do well.  And on First Wednesdays, that's hard.  

But ultimately, whether or not our worship is "successful" is not determined by how smoothly everything goes or our lack of issues.  Our worship is determined by the condition of our hearts and the sincerity of our praise.  And if those 2 things are right, then even the biggest issues won't hinder our worship.

So, we'll keep working towards getting all of these issues handled, but until we do, if you show up one First Wednesday Night and things don't go perfectly:

It's okay.

Worship Big!

Brad


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Concert Highlights

This past Sunday morning our worship team had the honor of doing a worship concert for all 3 morning services.  It was a tremendous time of worship and I truly believe that people experienced Jesus and the hope that He has called us to (Ephesians 1:18).  I want to thank everyone who participated (the Praise Team/Band, the Worship Choir, and all of the A/V Team).  Everyone did an OUTSTANDING job!

To watch the entire concert go to:  http://subsplash.com/mpbc/v/d7fmjlx

Or to see some highlights from the concert, click on the video below:


video

Worship Big!

Brad

Thursday, March 23, 2017

What Rehearsals Have Been Missing

It's really easy to go into a weekly rehearsal with blinders on.  In my situation, I'll do something different each week and sometimes even play 2 or 3 different instruments as well as sing in a single night of rehearsals. And I'm not even the only team member who does this. I can't necessarily speak for anyone else, but I'm often just looking to get through the night on Wednesdays come rehearsal time.  However, there was recently an element added to our rehearsals that's beginning to open me up to something else.  Worship within rehearsal.

It seems like a simple thought, doesn't it?  Worship while you rehearse.  But, when your night of rehearsals and practices are jam-packed full of teams of people, instruments, singing and transitions, sometimes it gets easy to push worship to the side.  That's the ugly truth.  Rehearsals should be about more.  I've talked about this before regarding personal practice and preparation time, but this should also carry over to our rehearsals.

Pastor Brad recently started changing the way we do choir practices and I think it works great and people respond really well.  We'll open up by working on parts for new songs as normal, but then we'll go into a group prayer time, then into an acoustic worship set of the songs for the upcoming Sunday.  Do you know what I appreciate most about this time?  The fact that people worship.  We aren't in front of a congregation, under lights or on a stage but people still worship.  That's what I would love to see in our Praise Team rehearsals.  Until recently, I've never thought about the fact that it is indeed okay to worship at rehearsal. Going even further than that, I'll say we should be worshiping at rehearsal.  Isn't worship the point?  If you're a singer and you're good with raising your hands on a Sunday morning, then why isn't that level of worship happening at rehearsal?  Of course this is a time to work on parts and transitions, but aren't we still singing the same songs?  Aren't we still rehearsing for the same reason?  I'm even talking to myself here.

I feel that a stronger sense of worship within rehearsals could not only bring a tighter unity within our worship teams but even give what we're doing on Wednesday nights a stronger meaning and purpose.  Any chance that we have to worship should not be passed up, and you know what?  Worship is fun.  Upbeat songs are just more fun to sing when you lift your hands and enjoy yourself.  Intimate songs are more personal and fulfilling when you mean and feel what you're singing.  Get into the songs you sing and play.  Don't miss another opportunity to worship...even at rehearsal.

Peace,

Justin

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Why is "Worship Music" a thing?

That question bothered me for a long time, and even caused me to ditch Christian music altogether for a few years. My inability to provide a satisfactory answer caused me to question the purpose of what I got up on stage and did every Sunday. When I ultimately lost faith in Christian music and dropped out of the Worship Arts program at Liberty University, I wasn't sure I'd ever play worship music again.
    
My problem was that I just couldn't prove to myself that Christian music is worthwhile. I felt like the worship music industry spends a whole lot of time and money, and doesn't have much to show for it. It seemed to me that we desperately chase after contemporary relevance while rarely achieving anything more than unoriginality that sounds like a generic caricature of last year's pop music. I felt like we were stealing genuine musical styles from genuine musical genres, and repurposing them as neat, little carrying packages for Christian ideology. I kept asking myself why Christian music doesn't have its own sound instead of poorly copying everyone else's. Why is Christian music on the back-end of the music world instead of its cutting edge? We purport to have the answer to all the world's problems, and a personal relationship with the creator of the universe. You'd think our music would be its own type of original, beautiful expression; perhaps even the greatest music in the world.
    
And then I realized that it is.
    
Worship music is truly great music, and truly phenomenal art. Not only is it beautiful, but it is perhaps the greatest art that has ever been created in human history because it isn't only a raw, auditory expression of human experience; it is the raw, auditory expression of humans connecting with their creator. Every type of music expresses a different type of human experience in a unique way. For example, the style and lyrics of bluegrass music express the culture and history of Appalachia. The rock and roll of the 60's and 70's were the life and soul of social change, and expressed a fiery spirit of freedom in a way that nothing else ever has. Christian music is also powerful expression; just in a different way:
    
In its purest form, worship music is the actual experience of worshiping and praising the living God.
    
The answer to the question that bothered me for so long is really that simple. Praise and worship music channels worship; that's its purpose. It is music that is intended to facilitate experience, not just express it. In other words, worship music is an art form that transcends its medium, and is thereby one of the most uniquely gorgeous types of art that has ever existed! What I'm saying is that worship music isn't about music at all! It doesn't matter how good worship music sounds, or whether or not it has its own unique style. Worship music has nothing to do with music! In its truest form, worship music is the expression/facilitation of worship. Its channeling of worship makes it an incredibly powerful and pure form of expression. When we worry about how good it sounds, or concern ourselves with whether or not it achieves contemporary relevance, we not only completely miss the point of worship music, but also stifle its unique beauty. Worship music is not beautiful because of how it sounds. It is beautiful because of what it is: (hint, hint: it's in the name) WORSHIP! That's all it is, all it has ever been, and all it ever can be. It took me so long to fully realize that. At its core, worship music is the beautiful adoration of our loving savior Jesus Christ. Let's appreciate it as such!

Coleman

Thursday, March 9, 2017

King of My Heart

There is a lot of great worship music out there right now.  So much so, that I can't keep up with all of it.  I have people come up to me or email me all the time saying, "You guys should do this song".  And in all honesty, most of the time I haven't even heard the song before.  Like I said, it's hard to keep up with all of the new worship music out there.  Well, with this week's post, I want to be the person to introduce you to a song that you might not have heard before.  Or at the very least, maybe not this particular version.  

The song is "King of My Heart" by Bethel Worship. There's a version of this song that is played on Christian radio by the group Kutless.  It's good, but there's just something about a song being arranged for church worship.  It's like the song "Revelation Song".  Most people know the Phillips, Craig and Dean version that is played on Christian radio.  It's good, but in my opinion, it's nowhere near as powerful as the Gateway Worship version with Kari Jobe leading.  

So, here's Bethel's version of the song.  Enjoy!


video

Worship Big!

Brad

Thursday, March 2, 2017

A Balance To Worship

Worship leading can sometimes feel like a juggling act.  It's a fine line between playing or singing the right parts and leading people in worship.  I'm a total music guy and am constantly on the look out of not getting lost in the music, but instead getting lost in Jesus.  I'll be the first to admit that I'm not always great at it.

Since I'm a music person, I look at my personal devotion time like I look at my personal practice time on my instrument.  I practice my instrument so I can play the correct notes while on stage.  In the same sense, I use my devotion and prayer time to draw closer to Jesus so as to reflect Him during our time of worship.  When I'm on stage, I try to think about my instrument as least as possible.  The idea is to be confident in the practice time that I have put in.  While I do want to play the right notes and do things correctly, that's not the overall point.  That's why what we do as worship leaders is so unique.  The idea is to direct attention to someone other than ourselves.  In other words, while execution matters, application matters more.  I'm confident that our teams can and will play and sing things correctly, but I like to look at how we lift our faith in order to lead people.  When we give attention to having a heart for worship and spending time with Jesus, then our application is nourished and has what it needs to effectively lead.  If I practice my guitar and hit every single note and play parts with 100% accuracy, but haven't cracked open a bible in a week, or sought the Lord in any area of my life, what has it been for? 

There's a balance to worship.  While we absolutely want to look and sound the best we can, our service is a matter of our hearts.  Prepare for worship.  Prepare your voice or your instrument, but most importantly prepare your heart.  Don't only sing the right notes or play the right parts.  Worship. Lead people into an atmosphere of worship and ultimately into the presence of Jesus.

Peace,

Justin

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Reflecting Jesus

Recently, I read a quote from Mother Teresa that I thought was quite interesting.  She said:

"How sad it is when someone comes to you looking for Jesus and all they see is you."  

For such a nice lady, OUCH! 

Now, I'm pretty sure she didn't say this in the context of music and worship, but I do believe it applies to us worship leaders as well.  I've always told worship teams and choirs that our job is to point people to Jesus.  That's it.  We just use music as a tool and vehicle to lead people to Him.  We shouldn't be on stage to receive any glory ourselves.  Because nothing about entering into the presence of God should exalt us.  Our job is simply to reflect the glory of Jesus and become more like Him (2 Corinthians 3:18).  

So, let me ask you a question:  When you stand on stage and participate in leading in worship, who do people see?  Do they see you or do they see Jesus?  If they are truly seeing Jesus, then AWESOME! That is the goal.  But, if they aren't, why not?  What's getting in the way of you reflecting the glory of Jesus for others to see?  

Is your heart not right?  Is there some sin or sins that are holding you back?  What about your attitude? Is there some part of you that is intentionally trying to draw attention to yourself?  Are you prepared spiritually? Musically? Emotionally? 

Whatever the cause, it is our responsibility as worship leaders to do everything we can to make sure that people see Jesus, not us. Remember, the glory is His.  We just reflect it.

Worship Big!

Brad






Monday, February 13, 2017

Find the One

1-2-3-4
1-and-2-and-3-and-4-and
1-e-and-ah-2-e-and-ah-3-e-and-ah-4-e-and-ah

Basically, each song has a different time signature, a different pace, and when I play, I am hitting one or more pieces of the drum kit at these different times throughout the entire song. It could be on the hi-hat, rack tom, kick drum, floor toms or cymbals. Each song has different combinations throughout: the verse, different from the chorus, different from the bridge. Then you must end the song at the same time as other band members.  Other times I may drop out and the piano still plays, or it's just the singers who continue. Then occasionally, I, or we, must stop in the middle of a chorus or bridge or interlude and all come back in at the same time or different times depending on the song.

Wow!

That's complicated and crazy and hard to keep straight.
You know that's how our lives are also. I believe in a church the size of ours, we have people whose lifestyles are totally different from even the person they sit behind during service. MPBC on any given week will see construction workers, retired people, newlyweds, cat owners, cat haters, people with a long commute, New England Patriots fans and everything in between. Each individual person has their own family and friends, health issues and debt. 

So, the parallels between the drums and the lives of the people are that they are both crazy and each one is different from another.

I have only been playing with the band for about 15 months and in that time I have gotten off beat "uh plenty". When I first started, it was very hard for me to get back on track with the rest of the band.  But as time has gone on and I continued to mess up I found that if I could only find the 1 (which if you look at the example in the beginning, you can see it just repeats itself, so the 1 will come back around), I could get back on track. The trick is being able to recover quickly and don't let that short time of being off beat ruin the rest of the song or set list.

Now comes the encouraging part of the blog.

HARD and REAL as it may be, it is simple.

All the people with different cars and job titles, get off beat in life. Whether it be your tongue that just won't stop moving behind your teeth, a temper that shows itself in the ugliest of ways, that credit card limit, or you may just be feeling burnt out and tired of everyday life. Find hope in knowing that God is always in the restoration business, just as He did with David and Peter when they got "off beat". As we go through this life, our faith and joy often depend on what's happening in that moment in time. Coincidentally, in the measure or two that I'm off beat, I feel the same way, with my mind racing to find the 1 and get back on track.

The "off" moments in our lives will last longer than one song or set list, but as we get "off beat" and try to find the One, know that Jesus will never evade a heart that searches for Him.

Just as God is in the restoration business, Satan is in the guilt business. He will tempt you with many of your weaknesses after you have been humbled before God and gotten back on "track". Satan's goal for the Christian is to make them a rusty tool, dusty and sitting on a shelf. Since he cannot have your soul, he wants you to be unusable for anything that will point to Christ. 

Similar to the drums, if I held on to those times I messed up and kept my focus on that, I would not be able to play ever again because I  would feel like such a failure.  And believe me, that's where Satan wants to keep me.

However, the Holy Spirit being a comforter will ease our minds about the mistakes we make and remind us that God is not a condemner, He will not kick us while we're down and He will not leave us in our affliction. Those things come from the evil one. If we get hung up on our past mistakes and constantly condemn ourselves, then we will never be able to serve Christ to the fullness of his will. What would have happened if Peter didn't forgive himself for denying Christ three times? If he would've said "I'm too much of a failure because of my past transgressions?" As Peter was restored by Christ on the shoreline, we also can be restored through Christ.

I hope you can find encouragement in knowing that no matter how off beat you are, you may even have stopped playing altogether, if you can find the ONE, then there is hope for serving God through the rest of your set list.

I say go for it.

Derek

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Power of Music

Music is a powerful thing. Music has been a part of my life for as long and as far back as I can remember. I remember sitting in Dad’s car as a little girl and listening to classical music. He always said it made a person smarter. I remember my first piano lesson and how I hated it and Mama telling me that I would learn an instrument and learn it well so I had better find one that I liked and stick with it (it wasn’t the piano) 😃 I remember Daddy would sometimes pull out his old tape of instrumentals composed by Michael W. Smith and he would have us close our eyes and try to imagine seeing heaven for the first time. I remember singing my first solo at church when I was about 6 years old. And from the time that I was about 4 or 5 until I was 14 Mama and Daddy would sing a hymn to me before bed every single night. 

One of my earliest memories of actually feeling the Lord’s presence in my life very much involved music... I was about 5 or 6 and we were singing the song “Shout To The Lord” one Sunday morning at church. We always showed a video during the song of different things in nature…. One of the things on the video was waves crashing in the ocean. I remember standing there, singing along, and when the waves part of the video came on the screen I felt the Lord speak into my spirit and say “Do you see that? I made that. And this music. Those notes that make up this song? I made that too.” I came home from church that day and told Mama that when we sang “Shout To The Lord” I felt Jesus. 

That’s the especially beautiful thing about music. Still to this day when I hear those songs by Michael W. Smith I remember thinking about heaven. Or when I hear certain hymns I think about being little and the feeling of peace, safety and contentment I felt as I laid in my bed, in my little pink bedroom, with Mama and Daddy sitting on both sides of me singing those old songs with such rich and meaningful lyrics. Music has a way of embedding itself in our minds and bringing back memories, thoughts and feelings…. and for me, it has and always will be a source of peace and comfort. I have this thing that I do when I’m feeling afraid or overwhelmed. I sing. I usually sing a hymn or a worship song and I’ll sing it until the feeling passes. After the car accident I was in back in December I had dreams about it for about 3 weeks. Almost every single night I would wake up in a sweat after dreaming about the crash in slow motion over and over again. Every night that I had a dream about it I would turn on my light and sing “It Is Well With My Soul” or “Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus” and slowly, but surely the fear would dissipate and I would go back to sleep. 

I love when I’m onstage on a Sunday morning or Wednesday night and I close my eyes during a song and listen to all of the voices around me. I love that God is using something so near and dear to my heart to bring people closer to Him. I love when people say that something I have sung or played has made them feel the presence of Jesus in their lives. There is nothing else like it. I am so thankful for the power that music carries. It has brought me out of many a dark place. I encourage you, the next time you’re at church, to close your eyes during one of the songs and just listen to the voices around you. It truly is a powerful thing.

~Kandace

"Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. The Lord has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations. He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music; make music to the Lord with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing, with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn— shout for joy before the Lord, the King. Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it."-Psalm 98

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

For All You've Done

I'm excited to announce that our Worship Ministry's 3rd album will be here and available for purchase on Sunday, March 5th.  The album is called "For All You've Done" and features
7 songs (covers) that our church currently sings, 4 original songs that we've written and arranged, and 1 song off of our very first album that we've rerecorded.  With this week's post I would like to give everyone a sneak preview of the album.  The link below is a medley of the songs on the album. 

Enjoy!

"For All You've Done" Medley Link

Worship Big!

Brad

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Coffee Cups and Yawns

With this week's post I would like write a word of encouragement to everyone who leads in worship here at MPBC and in other churches everywhere.  One of the hardest parts of leading in worship week in and week out is seeing people each week who don't participate.  They stand there with their arms folded and mouths closed and we get discouraged.  Why aren’t they singing?  Why don’t they have their hands raised?  Do they not love Jesus?  And if they do love Jesus, why do they seem to love their coffee cups more?  Why is it that the only time they open their mouths is to yawn? 

I think that anyone who has ever led worship has asked those questions.  But, here’s the bigger issue.  We look out and see the same faces each week not singing (missing it in our eyes) and we assume that God (the Holy Spirit) isn’t working because He can’t possibly be present and working when the people are so indifferent during worship.  But that’s not true.  In his book, Worship Matters, Bob Kauflin writes:

“The Holy Spirit is indeed present and at work every time the church gathers.  We just need to understand biblically what that means.  When people grasp something of God’s glory, the Spirit is at work.  When people are convicted of sin, the Spirit is at work.  When people receive hope and strength in the midst of a trial, the Spirit is at work.”  Kauflin goes on to say that the Holy Spirit may also choose to reveal Himself through “a heightened awareness of His nearness”.

God probably isn’t going to reveal Himself in some type of spectacular way each and every time we meet to worship together.  But, He is going to show up!  We just don’t know how.  So, we have to trust in His plan and His way.  We don’t know everything that our people are going through.  We don’t know all of their struggles and fears.  But God does.  And we have to believe that He will use us, our music, and our times of worship to minister to each individual situation. 

I’ve been astounded and amazed many times after a service when someone comes up to me and tells me how much the worship time meant to them that morning.  God touched their heart and gave them comfort and peace.  And many times, these are the same people that I thought didn’t care.  They never once sang or lifted their hands or closed their eyes.  They just stood there like statues.  But God was moving and working as only He can. 

So, this week as you lead in worship, and it looks like people are half asleep, just remember that God never sleeps and He’s always present and working.

Worship Big!

Brad