Thursday, October 12, 2017

Glorious Day

With last week's blog post, I shared a video of the Worship Choir singing "Your Mercy" from our Worship Wednesday Service.  They did an outstanding job and I know that the video was watched and shared a lot.  Well, with this week's post I would like to share with you a video of our Children's Choir singing from last night's service.  They sang a song called "Glorious Day" and did an AWESOME JOB!  I was extremely proud of them.  We've got a young and inexperienced group, but they did really well.  Emma Kate and Aiden did a great job leading the song and I know that the church really enjoyed it.  The video is below:


 Children's Choir-Glorious Day


Worship Big!

Brad

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Your Mercy

With this week's post, I'm really excited to share with you the video of the Worship Choir singing last night at our Worship Wednesday Service.  Over the last few years our choir has morphed from a performance choir into a worship choir.  They do a WONDERFUL JOB leading in worship each Sunday, but I also wanted them to have the opportunity to sing by themselves. So, they are now doing a choir special each time we have one of our Worship Wednesday Services.  Below is the video of them singing "Your Mercy" from last night's service.  It is OUTSTANDING!


 Your Mercy

Worship Big!

Brad

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Worship and Drama

Y'all! It's only 13 weeks until Christmas! Only 13 more Mondays...we can do it guys! So what does it all mean?! This means Christmas Program time 🙌🏼 This means more practices, Christmas music, (I mean who doesn't love Christmas music in September?!) and the Christmas play! Y'all, it's time to celebrate the birth of Jesus! (And also pray Pastor Brad doesn't turn into "Passion Play Brad" before we even make it to Passion Play time 😳😬)

I'm so blessed to go to a church filled with so many wonderfully talented people...a church that not only has an amazing choir and worship team, but one that also has a drama team--I'm so thankful for a church that sees that worship can take place in many different forms! 

Before I became involved with the drama team at MPBC, I had never done many plays in a church setting. I'm a theatre major; I'm used to performing in front of hundreds of people, but the first 2 minute skit I ever did in front of the congregation was one of the most terrifying things I'd ever done! The pressure you feel to get it right is overwhelming! I mean this isn't just for entertainment, this is someone's life! This is the Word of God being spoken, not just meaningless lines on paper...it's a big deal! You get to be a messenger of truth and hope, and just like singing lyrics to a song (no matter how upbeat or how serious) the same can be done through drama when you come with your heart ready to receive the presence of Jesus! 

I'm ready, are you?!

Nicole

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Back to Church Sunday

Mrs. Hodges bust through the door and said with a sense urgency, and almost panic, “Turn on the TV, quick! A plane has hit the world trade center!”.  Mrs. Howell got the remote and turned the TV on (I don’t think it really mattered which channel it was on that day, the news was everywhere) to see fire and smoke coming out a huge hole in one of the two tallest buildings in New York.  We were too young to realize the weight of what just happened, but we all new it was bad. There was not a sound in the room other than the news men and women.  As we focused in to see what was happening
there came another plane which crashed into the second tower (which I had the privilege to see just a few months earlier on a trip up north with my family over spring break 2001).  The explosion was so real and happened so fast that even hundreds of miles away, we could almost feel it.  The rest of the day was a lot quieter, there was no noise in the halls or classrooms other than people talking about what had just happened.  I was in the 7th grade when America was attacked on September 11, 2001.


That next Sunday churches were FULL of people looking for hope, community, answers, and maybe Christ.


I don’t remember when the phrase “Back to Church Sunday” came about, but I know that the Sunday after September 11th is “ Back to Church Sunday”.  It is a day that we should all reflect back to that Tuesday and remember those who died during and after the World Trade Centers were attacked.  As you recall it, think of all the times that God has come through in His time, to answer your prayers, give you strength, and calm your weary spirit.  The reason so many people came to church then was to find what “we” have, even if they didn’t know that’s why they came. They may not have even heard of the Christ (so how could they actively seek Him?), but the masses hoped the comfort they were seeking could be found in the church.  The truth is, it can be found only in a relationship with God through Jesus, but people have to hear the Word first, and that’s where the second part of “Back to Church Sunday” comes in.

The second part is you and me inviting some people to our church next Sunday. People who we cross paths with everyday that may need to hear the preached word.  Just think of it; if 600 people invited 1 person and they all came on Sunday.  Now, you and I both know better, so let’s say 25% of them come on Sept 17th. That would be 750 people which would be like Easter or Christmas numbers.  MPBC has had that many before which means there are people willing to come. People might be willing to come if they’re invited, and who would invite them except us?  Interesting how that chain is linked together.  Don’t get me wrong, I do not want to just see numbers because each of those 750 would represent a person.  Each one will have troubles and good times, debt and blessings, and most importantly, each one is a soul that God has made unique in His own way.  Those souls are the very thing that we want to see reconciled with Christ.  Tell them about our Flag Football League, the Soccer League in the spring, the Passion Play, the Christmas Candlelight Celebration Service, our Worship Time, the teaching of the Bible verse by verse, the community that you have even at a large church, the MPBC App, and just why you go.  Talk to them about where they were “when the world stopped spinning that September day” (to quote Alan Jackson) and ask how they remember it, what they felt, and how they responded.  Tell them it is “Back to Church Sunday “ and you would like them to come.  Go to them with the sole purpose of steering the conversation towards September 11th, 2001 and then steering it toward MPBC, which will lead them to the hearing of Christ. Which is the entire goal anyway.  I hope this week you and I both will have the courage to take this challenge, possibly for the first time.

I say go for it!

Derek

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

FaithFest

WOW is all that I can say about the Christian music festival that was held this past weekend here in Wilkesboro.  A big shout out to Craig Church of Craig Church Ministries who put this vision into reality.  Craig is a longtime friend and member of MPBC who does some amazing work in evangelism all over the world.  This event was a huge undertaking, but it was well organized and with the help of great sponsors and hundreds of volunteers, God was definitely glorified and people were exposed to the gospel.  

As a member of the MPBC praise team I love good music and on Saturday I was blessed to be part of this great event that brought national Christian artists like Unspoken, Matthew West, Phil Wickham, Meredith Andrews, Jason Crabb, Matt Hammitt, and Finding Favor to little ol' Wilkes County, NC.  Faith Fest also afforded the opportunity to local artist Caleb’s Crossing, John Lewis and our MPBC Praise Team member Kandace Brown to use their talents and glorify God as they sang in this venue.  This event was more than just a music event.  It was an event where we saw thousands come together to not only hear good music, but also hear the word of God preached by Craig and challenge us to carry the cross of Christ every day.  What an AWESOME experience it was! I really felt the presence of God throughout the evening and it was wonderful to see the community come together to support this outreach event. 

I must admit that at times I got caught up in watching the bands as they performed trying to see what they did musically or what their stage presence was like, hoping that I might see something that I could use to better my role on the praise team.  As the evening went on I stopped watching what was going on and drifted into “worship”.  You see true worship cannot be planned for, it just happens.   For me it was during one of Jason Crabb’s songs and I just had to stand and raise both hands toward heaven, I didn’t care who saw me or what they thought.  When you are in the presence of God you will give him praise!   Now, don’t get me wrong. I do believe that we can prepare our minds for worship, but true worship happens when we let go, don’t worry about what others see and just focus on God.
  
My prayer is that anytime that I am in front of others, my focus will be on singing and praising God and not worrying about what people see.  If I can do this then God will be glorified and hopefully I can be a vessel that will help lead others into letting go and worshiping as well.
  
Psalm 95:  Oh come, let us sing to the Lord.  Let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving, let us make a joyful noise to him with songs or praise.  For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. 

I have no idea how many people attended the inaugural FaithFest, but here are a couple of pictures that I took looking back over the
crowd. It was awesome to see people praising God and lifting their hands toward heaven. 



Just a little glimpse of what heaven may look like!

Geoff

Thursday, August 24, 2017

This Is Choir

A couple of weeks ago, Pastor Brad posted a blog called "Top 10 Reasons to Join the Worship Choir".  It was great, it summed up everything that the MPBC Worship Choir is as well as touched on some things to come.  In this post, I think I would like to show you an 11th reason to join the Worship Choir at MPBC. 

This past Wednesday was the 2nd practice we've had since our big kick-off and it was awesome.  We had a total of 59 people! We went over some new music for events coming in the near future and also songs for this weekend's services. We even have a small group prayer time and a devotion each week! The room was packed and what an awesome sound it was!  Check this out...

video


Yep...this is what you can expect at choir practice!  That was one little clip of our practice together while going over songs for Sunday.  Nothing extremely structured or formal; just great people singing to the Lord and enjoying His presence.  What an awesome time of fellowship and encouragement!  I consider these people a second family! This truly is a highlight of my week!

If you've thought about giving choir a try, come on out!  You won't be sorry you did!

Peace,

Justin

Monday, August 14, 2017

It's Not About Perfection

I had a conversation with a fellow praise team member on Wednesday night that stuck with me.... We were both talking about being perfectionists and how we struggle to find the positive when something goes wrong or doesn't work out perfectly. Especially when we’re onstage. I tend to be a perfectionist when it comes to musical things. Whether I’m singing a song or playing an instrument. I used to be a “if it’s not perfect I’m not even going to try” person. I could sit here and tell you every time I’ve even slightly messed up on any song in the past 10 years. I have gotten into the habit of keeping a log in my head of all of my mistakes. This can sometimes be a good thing, but more often than not, it isn't. 

Recently, I’ve been working on being happy and finding positivity in all circumstances. This is also a good outlook to have in life. ;) I remind myself on a daily basis that God isn't asking for perfect, He is only asking for our best. I know the last thing He wants is for me to beat myself up over a small mistake that I made during a song. In this life things will go wrong. There will always be chaos and mistakes that are made. If everything were to always be perfect then heaven wouldn't seem nearly as wonderful. 

I think about this a lot. God is the essence of perfection and we are to be like God and strive for perfection, but not in a way that is obsessive or unhealthy. He wants our best. Whatever that may be. That is comforting to me... just knowing that God is up in heaven preparing a place that is perfect and that He loves us not for our perfect performances onstage or in life, but because we are His children. 

The next time you worry about a mistake you made or a problem you’re facing remember that God is on the throne and He loves us... for us. In all of our imperfect, chaotic and sometimes downright ugly ways. We truly serve such a good good Father! :)

Kandace

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Top 10 Reasons to Join the Worship Choir

Next week, the Mt. Pleasant Worship Choir will resume practice with our first ever Worship Choir Kick-Off.  To help encourage people to join us, here is a list of the top 10 reasons for you to join the Worship Choir.

1.  You'll gain another family.  Some of the best people you will ever meet are in the choir.  This group really cares for and takes care of each other.  This is a great way to build lasting relationships and find new sources of accountability in your walk with God.

2.  No auditions or solos.  You don't have to be the most talented musician in the world to come sing in the choir.  If you can't read music, no problem.  Just come sing along and you'll be fine.

3.  Intellectual stimulation.  When you sing, you are using both sides of your brain simultaneously.

4.  People who are involved in music live longer and are healthier.  I have no actual proof of this, but I read it on the internet so it must be true😉.

5.  We'll make sure you are ready to lead worship each week.  Not only will we spend time reviewing the music for the upcoming Sunday each practice, but we will also spend time in prayer and devotion each week.

6.  Worship Wednesdays.  On one Wednesday night a month (Worship Wednesday), the choir participates in
helping lead the congregation in worship.  It's the one time a month where we all have the opportunity to lead together (as opposed to Sundays where we are split between the 3 services).  Plus, starting this October, the choir will also be performing 1 song by themselves during each Worship Wednesday Service.  People are going to be really excited to hear the choir sing by themselves again!

7.  The Mt. Pleasant Christmas Candlelight Celebration. 
This is something new that we are doing this year and it isgoing to be AWESOME!!!  The Praise Team/Band, Worship Choir, Children's Choir, Drama Team, Production Team, and Pastors will all be participating in this unbelievable celebration of the birth of Jesus.  You are not going to want to miss out on being a part of it!

8.  The Mt. Pleasant Passion Play.  This will be our 9th year presenting the play.  Each year it is an unbelievable experience for everyone who is involved with it and you'll definitely want to be included.

9.  3 Words:  CHOIR. IS. FUN!  It really is.  And we laugh a lot!  Sometimes we have such a good time that I don't know how we actually accomplish anything.

10.  Worship.  Singing is one of the best ways to worship God and singing with a room or stage full of believers is one of the greatest things you'll ever experience.

So, come join us!  I promise you won't regret it.

Worship Big!

Brad

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Skinny on Worship

With this week's post I was going to share some mind blowing thoughts on worship, but then I saw this video from Skitguys and thought you all would enjoy it a lot more😉.

So, ENJOY!



Worship Big!

Brad

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

An Honorable Job

My grandpa told me once that any job, no matter what it is, is an honorable job.  He said whether it’s flipping burgers, working as a substitute teacher, CEO, or any other profession, as long as you work hard to supply for your family, are dependable, and commit your work to the Lord, no one could look down on you.  My mother has said that the Lord has always blessed her and my father with health and strength to work each and every day.  “We will never be rich but we’ve never missed a bill because the Lord provides”, she would say.  I believe this to this day, as I have worked in a few different fields (literally while working in the Christmas tree fields of Ashe County). Through them all I have tried to be thankful for health and dependable to a hilt, though sometimes I just don’t want to go, or I may disagree with the people who have authority over me.  I’m sure all of us have days like this in our workplace and in the duties we have at home and church.  If you will allow me some “creative license” (as Pastor Kevin says) maybe we can find honor in our jobs (particularly in the church).

Have you ever thought about how many “jobs” are taking place every week at MPBC?  All the people on staff (that are kinda on call because if something goes wrong who will be there to deal with it), the kitchen crew who works to feed all of us weekly, the grounds keeper, the cleaning crew (think about how big our campus is when you think of these two), security teams, teachers for Sunday, VBS and Wednesday nights, the sound booth, video crew , band, choir, the person that folds the bulletin every week (how would you like to fold probably 400+ every week?), the coffee maker  (and when they’re gone we know it don’t we?). I’m sure there are more than that, that I can’t recall, who come every week to work for the Lord, everyone of them does their part and does it well.  

You see we all have a role to play in the “body of Christ” in that no one can say that any of these duties are not important, think about what would happen if they all went away overnight. MPBC would be an overgrown lot with dirty facilities, where the chairs never get moved (there’s another job, the chair movers), food is not cooked, no fresh batteries for the mics, no coffee (I, with some of you, just winced). MPBC would not exist.  

All of these above are physical things.  What about the more spiritual things?  The body is physical along with spiritual.  Let’s start with the feet.  Feet are good for one thing only and that is “going”. At MPBC we have people who have traveled literally to other continents to spread the gospel of the Christ. Through our mission teams to other places peoples hearts have been changed. The heart is the boiler in the belly of the ship that gives energy to everything on board. Just as compassion for the lost fuel the fires to GO, for without compassion what would be our motivation to work out in the hot sun to build a church in Mexico with our bare hands?  

The hands are the way we physically connect to the world by a loving hug, swinging a hammer, playing guitar, holding a rifle to defend our freedom, or making a beautiful tapestry.  People that are the hands of Jesus are the one’s who are in the grit of the world. They may hug you or help you build a garage, or go to China just to love on handicapped children, or they may put you in a velvet vice when you need to be guided with some force back to Christ.  The elderly lady who prays without ceasing for her grandchild and the person who does mundane work without much recognition could be the backbone of the whole thing (I mean, when was the last time you gave thanks for your backbone?).  

The voice are those who preach, sing, or write to proclaim the gospel with a white hot fervor or to give encouragement quietly to someone in need.  None of it works without someone to lead and do the logistics, which could be the brain.  

Now this is just an image of what the “body of Christ” could be, there are many different parallels that you could put with this example, and someone could be multiple parts simultaneously, but all of them should have the same thread running through which is to work hard, be dependable, and commit yourself in every aspect to the Lord.  Give thanks for health and strength and never think that your job is not honorable.  “For the body does not consist of one member but many...but God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.  If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it”-1 Corinthians 12:14, 24b-27.   
In C.S. Lewis’ writing, The Screwtape Letters, Screwtape is guiding his nephew along in the practice of tripping up Christians using all different techniques. You see, they are demons working for “Our Father down below” which is Satan.  In chapter 2, Screwtape says this, “One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to those humans”.  You see the Church body has spanned throughout time while still bringing the same message which is redemption through grace, but we struggle to see anything beyond ourselves and what our story is. And even as this piece of literature is fiction, I believe that it is correct.  Our tempters do see the Church through time because they have been trying to bring it to destruction ever since it began.  

So, instead of looking at our positions and seeing worthlessness, mundane and think, “what is the point?”, let's see our jobs as part of a bigger painting that glorifies God. and just doing that alone is enough to bestow on you honor of the highest rank.  Not to mention all the things that you do for your family, church, friends, and your profession which are all honorable and the Lord sees those also.   I hope you can find encouragement in these words and realize that whatever you do, commit it to Lord, and it will be “An Honorable Job”.

I say go for it!

Derek

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Wounds and Wins

A few weeks ago I heard a Worship Pastor say that we (meaning Worship Pastors) judge ourselves by our "wounds and wins".  Meaning, we judge ourselves by all of the hard and rough times we've gone through in ministry and by all the successes we've experienced in ministry.  And it's true!  Put two Worship Pastors in a room together and they'll start off by talking about the good things they are involved in within music ministry, but eventually they will begin showing off battle scars from all the wars they've endured during their time in ministry.  And in all honesty, most of their time together will be spent telling war stories and showing off scars and more recent wounds.  Well, with this week's post I want to share with you some of the "WINS" I've experienced at MPBC and not get bogged down by the "wounds" and scars I've endured and accumulated in my 20 years of ministry.  So, here we go:

1.  No More Worship Wars:  We have a church that doesn't argue about music and musical styles anymore.  Any church that has been around for awhile will eventually have to deal with what style of music they are going to have.  And I am happy to say that MPBC gives me and the worship team the freedom to use whatever style of music we want or need, to create an atmosphere of worship.  That can't be said in a lot of churches across the country.  They argue every week over what instruments will be played, whether to sing modern worship songs or older hymns, and how loud or soft the music needs to be.  I'm grateful to say that we are past that.
 Now, that doesn't mean that everyone is happy with the musical selections each week.  No, it just means that people understand the fact that not every song or style has to be geared towards them.  Sometimes, we do songs for the younger generation (like "Grace Like a Wave") and sometimes we do songs for the older generation (like our version of "Victory in Jesus").  Our people seem to understand that worship isn't about them.  And that is most definitely a "WIN"!!!

2.  Congregational Singing:  We have a church that sings.  Now, don't get me wrong, not everyone sings.  But as I look out over the congregation each Sunday morning, a LOT of people are singing and participating.  Some, obviously more than others.  But still, they're participating and that's pretty awesome!

3.  The Next Generation:  One of the great things about MPBC is how many young adults are involved in the music and worship ministry here.  They are actively involved each
and every Sunday in leading in worship.  They are gaining great experience and it's good to know that one day when my voice is gone and I can't play the guitar anymore, someone else will be ready to step in and take my place.

4.  The Passion Play:  This year we'll be presenting our 9th Passion Play.  It seems like just yesterday I was asking Kelly Nichols to play Jesus in our very 1st play and now we're on our 3rd actor to portray Jesus.  The Passion Play has been a tremendous ministry for the church and a blessing to
everyone who has participated in it or witnessed it (at least I hope).  We've seen a number of people make decisions for Christ throughout the years and also a number of people get introduced to MPBC for the first time who have since come to be active members.  Many of them have gone on to participate in the Passion Play themselves.

5.  Investment:  We have a church that is willing to invest in the music and worship ministry.  Most churches don't like to spend money on music.  It always seems to come in last in terms of need when compared to other ministries within the church.  But not here.  The church is proud of our music and worship and is willing to invest money in it to make it better.  The church was even willing hire a full-time Media Director and hire me an assistant who has become our worship ministry associate.  I know a lot of other Worship Pastors who would love to have the help that I have.

6.  Worship Projects:  One of the really cool things that we've been able to do here at MPBC is to record our own worship
CD's.  And through them we've been able to share the gospel and encourage people.  I've been amazed to hear stories of people in other states who have heard one of our CD's and how a song that we wrote or recorded helped them through hard times they were going through or encouraged them to be more dedicated to following Christ.  It's pretty cool!  

Now, I'm pretty sure I could just keep on listing example after example of "WINS" that we've seen here at MPBC, but I think you get the idea.  I've experienced a lot of "wounds" in my time in ministry, but I'm grateful for MPBC, because now my "WINS" far outnumber them.

Worship Big!

Brad  

Thursday, July 13, 2017

An Old Favorite

In today's music culture, new music gets released all the time, even in christian, church-based music. It seems like Bethel is coming out with a new record every 2 months.  The idea of new music is great and I love it.  However if you're a worship leader in your church, you know it's up to you and/or your team to pick music that you think would work for your congregation and that will lead them into the presence of Jesus.  For me, I sometimes have to remind myself to think about our congregation when listening to new music.  There's so much new music being released and for the most part, I really do enjoy it all.  But not every new christian song is going to work in your church.  Not every new Hillsong single is going to connect with someone other than the 20 year old college student.  So, for those reasons, we have to think of our church as a whole.  Do you ever scroll through the radio stations hearing all the new music that you aren't quite used to, then you find the station that plays the 80's hits and it just feels familiar?  In the same way, sometimes in the midst of all the new music in the christian world, it just feels good to hear an old favorite.  

I'm excited about our "new" song for August.  We are breaking out a song that we used to do called "Here In Your Presence" by New Life Worship that was released in 2010.  I really do enjoy this song musically and lyrically.  It's one of few songs that talks about just being in the presence of God and the emotions associated with it.  To me, it's brilliant and our congregation enjoys it.  It's been a few years since we've done it and we've since added the use of MultiTracks, which have a click track for the team, a vocal guide and other backing tracks that we can't pull of live.  In our recent month of practice, I can really tell the progress our team has made in the last few years.  We have a lot of the same people, but we are much tighter and are just better musicians and that goes for everyone on the stage.  Needless to say, I've really been impressed with the progress it's made.  I'm really excited to re-introduce this song to our congregation.  There's something to be said for breaking out an old favorite.  It's a breath of fresh air for most folks and for those who haven't heard it or had the chance to experience it, it's a nice surprise.  


If you're searching for a new song for your congregation and seem to be stuck, look back at some of your old music and see what's there that might work again.  Challenge your team to re-learn it, focus on the song and really try to capture some of the nuance you may have missed in the past.  I know you'll be blessed by it.  You may even be able to notice some progress made by your team's maturity and musicianship.  We'll re-introduce "Here In Your Presence" again in August, but until then, check out the video of the song below!



video

Peace, 

Justin

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Jesus Never Fails

In last week's blog post I shared how I was disappointed in the way that the conference I was attending was utilizing choirs.  There's nothing wrong with a choir who performs.  I was just hoping they would also show how a choir can be used for corporate worship time.  One choir I saw did sing "Revelation Song".  Unfortunately, it was in latin.  That was kind of how the week went when it came to choirs.  But, even with that disappointment, there were still some good things at the conference.  And one of those things was Cana's Voice.



Cana's Voice is a trio consisting of Jody McBrayer (Avalon), TaRanda Greene (The Greenes and Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir), and Doug Anderson (Signature Sound).  They were outstanding!  And the best song they did (at least in my opinion) was "Jesus Never Fails".  I'll be honest.  I am biased towards that song.  It was the first song I sang in church after I started taking voice lessons during my senior year of high school.  My voice teacher taught it to me and another young lady he was working with.  So, it does mean a lot to me.  

But even beyond my bias it is an unbelievable song.  It was a #1 song for the group Truth back in the 80's but is still relevant even today.  It simply states that no matter what you are going through and no matter what is happening in the world, there is one person who will never fail-Jesus!

Here's a video of Cana's Voice singing "Jesus Never Fails". Make sure you watch at least until the 2:34 mark. That's when it gets really good😉


video

Worship Big!

Brad

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Is the Future of the Choir in the Past?


I'm in Gatlinburg, Tennesee this week for a worship conference put on by Lifeway Worship.  One of the major points of emphasis of the conference is the importance of the choir.  I totally agree.  I think that choirs are an extremely important element in corporate worship and a wonderful way to get people in church involved in ministry.  But that's not the way they are being presented and utilized here.  

So far, I've seen 2 choirs perform here and that's exactly what they were:  performances.  They were billed as
"worship" times, but were in reality, just opportunities to show off.  Don't get me wrong.  They were excellent choirs.  Very talented and extremely prepared.  But they just performed for us.  At no point in time were we invited to participate with them.  

Is that the future of choirs? I'm going to be honest with you.  It kind of feels like the past.  That's what choirs were doing when I was a kid.  Where is the corporate worship?  Where is the worship leading?  A choir is supposed to enhance our worship.  They are supposed to encourage, inspire and lead us in worship, not worship for us. 

Here's the thing, I don't have it all figured out.  Music and worship ministry is changing all the time.  And I'm like everyone else, I'm just trying to figure it all out.   But listening and watching people here, you'd think the best course of action for the future of music ministry is to revert back to 1975:  choir robes, anthems and organ music.  There's got to be a better way.

That's one of the reasons that I'm so grateful for our choir at MPBC. They love to lead in worship.  I really do believe it is their favorite thing to do.  Now, that doesn't mean that they won't ever do a "special" during a service.  In fact, I'm planning on them doing one each month during our First Wednesday services beginning in the fall.  They will also participate in our Christmas Candlelight Celebration in December and lead most of the songs during the 2018 Mt. Pleasant Passion Play. But, their main role is to lead, inspire and encourage in worship.  And that's what they do BEST!

Worship Big!

Brad




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