Friday, August 10, 2018

Carry the Flag

It’s a privilege to lead in worship. The more I do it, the more I am in amazement at the honor it is to reflect worship for the Maker of the universe. It’s a pretty big deal. 

With such an honor, comes a responsibility to be genuine in our worship. The worship that we do when we speak to our families, give to others, deal in business and conduct our lives is way more of our time and a reflection of who we are than anything else. If that worship to God isn’t cheerful and genuine and in alliance with His Word, then neither is the 20 minutes playing or singing on a lit stage. It’s a pleasure to lead with a pure heart before God, because it is just “right.” And you can feel it. I know because I have done both. I have gotten up there knowing that I didn’t really have a pure heart before God and chose in that moment to beg His forgiveness so that it would be real and prayed that He would help me not make that mistake again. 

I think of leading in worship like carrying a flag into battle. The flag being the representation of bringing pure praise to God and His holiness.  Satan wants us to trip and fall and drop the flag. He wants us to mess up. But like Peter, when we keep our eyes ahead on Jesus, gripping that flag as we look on Him, He will guide our every step and we need not worry one bit. 

So carry that flag... that mic, that guitar, those drum sticks. 

Katy

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Music and Missions

Put your heart and soul into every activity you do, as though you are doing it for the Lord himself and not merely for others. For we know that we will receive a reward, an inheritance from the Lord, as we serve the Lord Yahweh, the Anointed One!  A disciple will be repaid for what he has learned and followed, for God pays no attention to the titles or prestige of men.
– Colossians 3:23-25

Since Paul and Aquila were both tentmakers by trade, Paul moved in with them and they became business partners. Every Sabbath day Paul spoke openly in the synagogue, to both Jews and non-Jews, attempting to persuade them to believe the message of Jesus.
– Acts 18:3-4

CONNECT


As Christians reaching out to a lost world, I have found that common interests are a great place to connect with someone, build a relationship, and introduce them to Christ. God created us each with desires and interests and that is GOOD! Many people feel guilty for their hobbies if they are not explicitly Christian (i.e. sports, music, video games, shopping, etc.). But have you ever considered that your interests have been given to you to further the kingdom. There are so many things that I enjoy and God has showed me how to enjoy them in a way that can build relationships with others and share His truths.


I love coffee! So the Lord has given me this dream of one day being a coffee roaster. The coffee roasting industry is an avenue to make direct relationships with farmers all over the world, buy their products, and share the good news of the gospel.

I love hiking! Last year God allowed me to go to Alberta, Canada and walk in His Spirit (or Hike in His Spirit is more like it). Going with two other friends and listening for direction from God and being obedient, we met two other hikers. For 4 hours we were on a long hike with these two individuals and we were able to share Christ’s Gospel with them.

There are so many avenues to connect with people. Three of my favorite things are music, coffee, and soccer. Not necessarily in and of themselves, but for the fact that they are a common language across the world. You will find them in almost any country.

WHY MUSIC

Music, however,  is my favorite because it reaches people in so many ways.

1.  You create unity with someone, by sharing a similar language (music), and are able then to meet them where they are.

Why it’s biblical: Jesus, though fully God, He also chose to be fully human. He brought himself to our level to understand our human needs and to be tempted in every way, but overcame it. He related to our humanity.

2.  You learn to die to self. By embracing nuances of other cultures in your music, you unify with them even more for the sake of the gospel. You don’t even have to fully know a language in order to memorize a powerful song with deep theological teachings.

Why it’s biblical: Jesus spoke in parables. His parables were always symbols that were relatable and understandable to his audience. He knew what appealed to them and what they understood.

3.  We embrace in creativity… which is how we were designed. God expresses who He is in his creation. We express who we are in our creation such as music. How many times have we found ourselves without words to pray to God, or words to express how we feel or what we think, but we find a song, an artist, or collection of songs that embrace it. Music, art, creativity is a symbol of who we are. We learn so much more about each other and once again create a deep unity.

Why it’s biblical: Romans 1:18-20 and Acts 17:26-27 

THE POWER OF MUSIC IN MISSIONS

I first saw how powerful music can be in missions when I watched a documentary done by Bethel Church called “Holy Spirit”. In this film I watched as a man and his guitar posted up in a public place in India and just simply played his guitar and sang… he sang about freedom. People began to crowd around and soon he was walking streets and he had a crowd of followers drawn to him and his music. Soon he was asked by Hindu temple officials to play on the steps by one of their sacred rivers and also was invited into the temple. This is unheard of.

However, this man and camera crew went with courage in obedience to India. They just followed the Holy Spirit’s lead. As I watched this, I wept. I wanted to be a part of this. 
I pray that when I leave on the World Race (11 countries, 11 months mission trip), that one of the ways that I can share the truths of God is through music. 

Use music; use your interests in this world to proclaim the gospel to the ends of the Earth!

Kaylin



See the same blog on my World Race blog page:

https://kaylinstarbuck.theworldrace.org/post/music-and-missions

Thursday, July 19, 2018

The New Song

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace,

Justin

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Would You Like to Dance?

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

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


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

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

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

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

Shelley

Thursday, July 5, 2018

No Longer Slaves

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


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

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

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



Worship Big!

Brad  

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Worship Fails

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

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

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






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

Worship Big!

Brad

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Still

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Christ’s Love,

Carly

Thursday, May 31, 2018

I Have a Secret

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

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

I think I replied something to this effect:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Martin

Thursday, May 24, 2018

30,000 Foot View

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Say Go For It!

Derek

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Break Down the Walls

I'm not sure what the age is, but eventually in everyone's life there are moments when you say to yourself "if only I knew then what I know now".  I'm currently in the middle of one of those times.  It's like a light bulb has flipped on in my head.

I've spent most of my professional ministerial career planning, practicing, and preparing.  There is always more to do, so it never stops.  And that nonstop pace includes Sunday and Wednesdays.  So, up until service time I am always working on some last minute detail.  And then once the music is done, I head to the sound desk where there is more to do.  It never stops.  For most of my career it has been like this.  I'm a worker at heart, so this feels very natural to me.  

But recently, it dawned on me how much I have been missing and neglecting in my role as Worship Pastor.  I want our church to be a church that worships.  I want our Worship Team to be the best that they can be musically and spiritually.  But the thing that I've been missing out on is the importance of building relationships.  Not only with the worship team and tech team (I try to do that), but with the congregation.  Too many times I'm running to or from the stage trying to get something done right before a service begins and I'm just flying right by people that I need to reach out to.  Our people want more from me and our Worship Team than to just hear us sing or play.  They want and need us to lead them.  But we make that difficult when we don't take the time to get to know them. 

So, now when the music is done I walk slowly around the edge of the congregation and shake hands, hug necks, give high fives to kids, and smile and say to hello to as many people as I can.  Before services I try not to rush around quite so much.  I try to talk to as many people as I can.  My hope is that if they know me better, they'll be more open to me leading them in worship.  

If you are a worship leader, then let me encourage you to do the same.  Let's break down the walls between our people and our stages and let the people really get to know us.

Worship Big!

Brad


Thursday, May 3, 2018

Refined Through Fire

Have you ever considered how much trials affect every aspect of life? Recently, I’ve done that exact thing. Everyone goes through difficulties, and everyone experiences their effects. In our human finiteness, we tend to look at things from a very subjective point of view. That being said, it’s easy for us to think that our hardships are just utterly relentless. Sometimes it’s almost like the break in the storm is always just out of sight, or the light at the end of the tunnel is just out of reach. To be frank, all the despair in life just makes you feel stuck sometimes. That feeling has this uncanny way of sneaking in and affecting one mentally and spiritually, which in turn, affects one’s worship. You see, when our minds become preoccupied with the affliction that we face, our attention can be diverted from God. As worship leaders, our job is to facilitate worship to people so that they may experience the fullness of Jesus’ presence. The condition of our hearts plays a tremendous role in the way worship ministers to people. For example, when one leads worship with a prideful heart, it can be an obstruction to others. Absent-minded or diverted worship leading can have the same effect. One Sunday morning quite recently, my heart was burdened with things that I had been dealing with. I had just finished playing the worship set for that day when a member of our congregation pulled me aside and said: “You didn’t seem like yourself up there today. You didn’t seem into it.” That was all they said. I didn’t think anyone really noticed that I was disheartened that day, but that person did, and it affected them. 

It became clear to me just how important it is to be 100% intentional in my worship, even if that requires me to “suppress my mess” or lay down my burdens. So, how are we supposed to do that? How do we respond to our difficult circumstances so that our worship is wholly unreserved? Some time ago, the bible study group that I’m a part of did a wonderful study on the book of James, and I was reminded of a truth that holds the answer to those questions. James 1: 2-4 says: “Count it all joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.” In the study, that passage was compared to the process of refining silver. Initially, silver is laden with all sorts
of impurities. To refine the silver, the silversmith must heat it to its boiling point. This causes all the impurities to rise to the surface, which the silversmith carefully removes. Once that is done, he allows the silver to cool. He continues this process of heating and purifying the silver until he can see a perfect reflection of himself in it. That’s when he knows the silver has been fully purified. 

God does that exact same thing in our lives. He refines us through the trials in our lives so that when completed, He may see a reflection of Himself when He looks at us. You see, it’s only when we walk through fire that we can be purified. The beautiful thing about it is that no matter how high the flames get, we will always be carried through by One who loves us with the most ardent and infinite love imaginable. That knowledge is so important to us as worshipers and lovers of Jesus. We can offer Him our uninhibited praise because we know that our trials are meant to purify us so that we may be a reflection of Christ. I sincerely hope that upon reading this, you would always be encouraged by this one thing: we are refined through fire, but He ​NEVER​ fails to walk us through!  

Keep smiling,  

Maddie 

Thursday, April 26, 2018

What You Do

We all have something we aspire to be great at.  Whether your gift is singing, playing an instrument, playing a sport or something in between, you want to be good at something.  I think it's human nature and it pushes us to push ourselves from within.  As Christians, we want to lay our absolute best before the feet of Jesus.  But what does that mean? What is your best?

In the time that I've spent on our worship team, I've served in a few different roles, and continue to jump around.  I really enjoy playing electric guitar one week, bass guitar the next, maybe some acoustic and some occasional piano playing here and there.  That's what keeps me on my toes.  I remember when I first started as a volunteer on the team.  Playing rhythm electric every other week was plenty to keep me busy.  Since then, things have progressed.  I've journeyed through several different internal musical paths on the type of musician that I wanted to be.  Early on, even before joining a band or team in some capacity, I wanted to be the among the best guitar players; guys that I would read about in Guitar World magazine.  Don't get me wrong, I still want to be the best that I can be, but the inner-workings and the details of that goal that I had as an 8 year old, just learning to play guitar, have changed.  

Being a part of a worship team with different instruments and different people has really helped me to see what I can be good at.  A few years ago when we decided we wanted to record our own worship album, I saw something inside of me being brought to light. Something that I never knew was really there.  I had an opportunity to arrange music and to hear it in a different way than ever before.  Those are the things that led me branch out my range of ability on a worship team.  

As a 26 year old, I still want to be the best guitar player that I can be.  I've played guitar now for 18 years and I'm definitely not the greatest. I'm not like some 13 year-olds on YouTube who can shred unbelievably.  I'm way far from that.  I'd be a fish out of water in a 5 piece Jazz band. Those things serve me no purpose in my career and field of study. But is it okay if I say my goal isn't to be the best among everyone else?  But, if you need someone who is versatile in a worship setting who has a decent ear for what needs to happen and where things can go, then I'm your guy.  It's my goal to be the best that I can be.  The best guitar, bass or piano player that I can be.  The best husband and father that I can be.  The best follower of Jesus that I can be.   

I've learned that there will always be someone who is seemingly better or more talented, but so what?  Be the best you can be today.  Become great at what YOU do.  Let that be your offering at the feet of Jesus.

Peace,

Justin

Friday, April 20, 2018

Enjoying God

Recently, I was reading a book about worship and the author wrote something that really caught my attention.  He wrote that "a lot people know God, but not everyone enjoys Him".  Now, I believe that statement can correspond to many different aspects of the Christian life, but I would like to focus on how I see that affecting worship.  

As a worship leader, I see people each and every week given the opportunity to participate in worship and experience the presence of God.  Some choose to participate and others don't.  Over the years I've learned that some people just won't sing or clap or even smile.  And I guess I've learned to just accept it.

Now, these are good, Christian people.  They enjoy God's promises, His protections, His provisions, and His precepts (and other words that start with a p), but for some reason, they don't enjoy His presence.  It's really kind of sad.  And it's not that I'm upset at them for not participating in our times of worship.  I realized a long time ago that it's not my job to make people worship.  It's that I want them to truly experience the life changing presence of God for themselves.

Because, ultimately, we want our times of worship to be the highlight of people's weeks.  We want them to experience the power and awesomeness of God's presence in new and amazing ways each time we gather!  We want people to do more than just know God.  We want them to enjoy Him!

So, as worship leaders, what can we do to help them?  I believe the biggest thing we can do is to set an example for them.  The Bible says to sing (Psalm 95:1) and clap (Psalm 47:1) and lift up holy hands (Psalm 63:4).  So, that's what we need to do.  We need to remember that people are always watching us.  We have to demonstrate for people what true Biblical worship looks like.  And if we can do that, then maybe we can help people experience and enjoy the presence of God in ways that they never have before.  

Worship Big!

Brad




Thursday, April 5, 2018

I Say Go For It

In some of the blogs I’ve written for the worship blog I will end it with the words “I say go for it" followed by my name. I would like to explain what I mean by that. Anyone who knows me well would most likely say that I’m always up for an “adventure”.  Whether that be trying spicy food or skydiving, it's true for the most part. I’ve heard professional musicians and movie stars when asked about giving advice say “take every opportunity you can”. In other words go for it. They say this because, with every time you do something, new especially, you learn and grow from it, even if you fail (this is very important). 

When Nikki and I joined MPBC we joined the choir shortly there after, and I’m glad we did. Through this we met, and made friends with a lot of people that otherwise we may not have. Also through this I began to kind of be interested in learning the drums. I just wanted to try it. I could hear the basic beat and I thought why not? I took lessons for a while from Brad and practiced at home on my basic electric set by Yamaha. I then began to learn more advanced things and I got an acoustic set. After about a 1 1/2 years of practice, I started playing with the worship team. 

I’ve been playing in the band for about 2 ½ years now and you know what, I’ve still got a lot to learn. But it’s been worth it. When I was a younger man, and played ball, I would be so hard on myself for messing up one little thing that I would get in my own head and then mess up even more.  It would feed on itself. As I get older, I realize that time keeps on ticking at the same rate, 1 second per 1 second, if you mess up or not. It could be a total train wreck on stage on Sunday and eventually the set list would end, and Monday still rolls around.

So, where does this help or encourage you? Whatever it is you are thinking about trying, TRY IT. If you want learn an instrument, go back to school, teach a Sunday school class, learn to crochet, or start a dog training school, I say go for it. Obviously you should seek wise counsel, and pray about all things, but what I’m saying is don’t live life in fear. Fear will handicap you if you let it. 

To expand a little more, I would also say that “going for it” doesn't mean without control. For example, the way I play the drums on "I'm Going Free (Jailbreak)" is different than how I play on "What a Beautiful Name". One is fun and one is powerful. So, when each song comes around I try to play it in a way that compliments the message. Imagine if we played "Lord, I Need You" the same way as "Victor's Crown"? It would not fit the song. 

Anything new you try will be the same way. You will need a different mindset to start a business than you would to learn an instrument. Both are challenging but in different ways. But they both require a first step. Whatever it is you decide to go for, go for it to the fullest measure that it will require. Be bold in the face of a challenge, trust in the Lord, and realize that you may fail. But in the words of… well maybe you know who said it, "Failure, the best teacher is".


1 Corinthians 9 24:26- Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives a prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.

I say go for it!

Derek

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Reckless Love

I’m sure you guys have heard the new song Reckless Love by Cory Asbury.  If not, I’m attaching a video so go listen first, then read!:


When I first heard it, I was slightly confused by the chorus… “leaves the 99”.  I wasn’t totally sure what that was all about.  So, I did a little research and found this verse:

Luke 15:3-7

So Jesus told them this story: “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!


In this passage, it is so evident that God just wants me- a dumb little sheep that loses its way on the way home.  And when He finds me...when I’ve tucked my tail and come running scared to death, with no hope, on the edge, He finds me.  He embraces me.  God, the Creator of the universe rejoices over ME.  What an overwhelming love that God has for me!  

When you are the one that has lost your way, EVERY SINGLE TIME God will come chasing you down, fighting the battles to ensure your safe return.  His love is reckless.  He would move mountains to have a relationship with us.  His love is never ending.  We can never outrun His love for us.   

As we enter into Passion Pay weekend and Easter coming up next weekend, I hope that you will be inspired to reflect on the way that we are loved so recklessly that Jesus offered up His life, took on each of our sins, our pains, our sorrows, our secrets, our scars, so that He could prove His love for each soul.  And yes, He did it for the one.  When Jesus was suffering on the cross, it was for the ONE.  There is nothing that will stop the love of Christ from reaching into the darkest parts of us to bring the light of eternal life and redemption to our lives.  

I hope this encourages you this week!  

Savannah

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

To Play Like the Original Song or Not?

I have a few disclaimers to share before moving forward:

1.  I will be showing my age.

2.  This may be for just other musicians on other praise teams.

3.  You may find this extremely boring.

I’ve been a part of various forums online for quite some time now, and one topic that tends to come up every now and then is how closely should the musicians play the original tracks?  Should we try to learn each note for note, or do we simply use the tracks as a “suggestion” and do whatever feels best?

In order to give my opinion, I thought it would be interesting to give a little bit (or a lot) of history of my experiences in playing praise and worship over the past 20 years or so.

When I first started playing praise and worship music, in my experiences, there was no “standard” way of playing many of the songs that we did.  

Some of these standards include the following:

"Shout to the Lord"

"Lord, I Lift Your Name on High"

"Open the Eyes of my Heart"

"I/We Exalt Thee"

"Here I am to Worship"

"Wonderful, Merciful Savior" 

For millennials, all of this will seem very foreign and weird.  You know what?  It was a lot of work, but anything worth doing takes time, energy, and most of the time, money.  So here goes:

When I was first learning many of the “standards,” most of the time there was no CD available because they were expensive. You have to keep in mind that this was about 7-8 years before downloading and sort-of-illegal file sharing.  See, if anyone wanted to learn the latest and greatest worship music straight from the track, he or she had to go to a Christian bookstore, possibly order the CD for $17.99, and wait about a week to get it (The local place got in shipments every Thursday.  If it didn’t come in that week, maybe the next Thursday it would come in.  If it was really new and in demand, sometimes it would take several weeks.  Please note that I’m not bashing the local place.  I loved it!  However back then, this was just the way it was done.).  Sometimes, you would take your chances and drive to the not-so-local place an hour or so away and hope and pray they had it in stock.  You could call ahead to see if they had it in stock, but sometimes you would get there and it would be sold.  Don’t ask me how I know. 

Because of the lack of readily available music, the VAST majority of worship music I learned was through word of mouth, much like the way stories have been passed down.  There was a lot of sitting around with worn out crummy guitars, under-powered bass rigs, and drums that were decades old with the original heads.  But that’s what we had to learn on, and I think we did ok. 

Many of the worship leaders I worked with back then tended to be a little more “loosey-goosey” in terms of how to start songs and when to stop.  There was just as much “learning the leader” and other band members as there was learning the song.  We all learned to “read” each other.  Head nods, bobbing guitar headstocks, facial gestures, winks, foot taps, eye-to-eye glances, etc. were all crucial to starting together, stopping together, and adding extra verses and choruses as needed.  It was very on-the-fly playing.  One of my most memorable moments is when the leader started a worship song I had never heard before.  Like, ever.  Keep in mind that this wasn’t during a practice; this was on a Sunday morning!  In a loud whisper, I got the worship leader’s attention and I said, “I’ve never heard this song before in my life!” and without skipping a beat, she said, “It’s a slow song!  You’ll do fine!”  This is one of the times where I wish I could go back and take a look at my own face to see what it looked like!  Everything ended up ok that day.  Back then, this was just par for the course.

During these years, there was a lot of great worship music for me despite a few train wrecks along the way.  But we all learned with each other and from each other.  It was fun and a little nerve-wracking at the same time because I sort of had an “idea” of what the worship was going to be like on a given Sunday morning or Wednesday night.  As far as playing like the original song?  Well, it was about as far away from it as you can get aside from possibly the melody.  Back then, I really didn’t see the point of learning a song exactly like the original; I didn’t really see the value in it.  I mean, as long as we get through the song, everything’s fine, right?

Maybe then, but not now.

Let’s fast forward to today.  Right now, there are three services at Mount Pleasant.  We have three different drummers, and there are several folks taking lessons right now who may end up playing in our church someday.  In addition, we have quite a BIG handful of other musicians who play week in and week out and over a dozen different singers (not counting choir members).  So that we are all on the same page from week to week, we use an app which provides each person with an MP3 of each song, an MP3 of each instrument isolated so everyone can practice along on his/her specific instrument in addition to links to YouTube tutorials for just about every instrument as well.  While Brad does an excellent job in keeping us consistent with our teams (for example, I usually play 1st and 3rd Sundays every month), worship teams shift due to sickness, vacations, work trips, mission trips, etc. (Especially in the summer.)

Because the singer and musician lineup can change from week to week, I do my best to learn as closely to the original song as I can which is a far cry from the way I used to learn songs.  My number one job, as a drummer, is (and has always been) to make everyone else sound as good as they possibly can.  I’m there to support the music that’s happening around me – it’s my job to NOT “stick out” (although sometimes it’s nearly impossible).  Learning a song close to the original helps keep everyone on track, no matter who is singing or playing that given week.  While I do take a little “license” with a few drum patterns and fills, I like to think that when I show up for practice or for service, everyone knows what he or she is getting from me, and I try to be as consistent as I can because when there is a click track/metronome clicking in all of our ears, the last thing we need is a “surprise.”  By learning songs close to the original, the chances of anyone being thrown off by a weird pattern or drum fill is minimized.  With playing drums, there is absolutely nowhere to “hide” which is both exciting and a little frightening at the same time.  All in all, these days I attempt to play closely to the original because it’s what works best for our church.

So, all of this leads me to the original question – should worship musicians play like the original track or should they simply see the original tracks as a suggestion?

My answer?  It depends.

When I first started playing worship music, our church needed the freedom for our worship team to take quite a bit of license with the music.  So many of us were new to this, and we just had to feel our way through a lot of worship music, and by doing this, we all developed in our playing in addition to a lot of non-verbal communication.  I’d say simply using the music more as a guide works well with smaller churches where instrumentation may be limited and possibly where time constraints aren’t as prevalent.  Also, if the musicians are new, it helps to simplify.

These days, with three services and a tight schedule, the music needs to be somewhat predictable.  This is not to say that our time of worship isn’t powerful and moving; however, if we are going to serve as many as we do, there needs to be some order.  This is what I feel works best for us right now. 

Overall, simply do what works best for your church, and do so with a servant’s heart. 

Martin