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