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

Friday, March 9, 2018

My Answer

With the recent passing of Billy Graham, a lot of people have been sharing their memories of him and his lifetime of ministry.  Most people probably think of his preaching and his crusades, but recently I learned that he also wrote a daily newspaper column for 50 years called "My Answer".  In each column he would answer a question that had been submitted to him.  A church member sent me the one below.  Rev. Graham was asked about "new" music in church and I thought that his response was perfect. 

Enjoy and Worship Big!

Brad

DEAR BILLY GRAHAM: Maybe I’m just old-fashioned, but from time to time our church’s music director introduces new songs into the service, and I don’t care for them. I like the old hymns, and wish he’d just stick with them. Should I complain to our pastor? — E.W.

DEAR E.W.: I know this has been a controversial issue in many churches, and I don’t pretend to have all the answers, especially since I’m not particularly musical! But we have a singing faith, and God has given us the gift of music to praise him. The Psalmist declared, “With singing lips my mouth will praise you” (Psalm 63:5).

Instead of complaining to your pastor (or anyone else), I urge you to ask God to help you be grateful for all music that points us to God, new or old. No, you may not like some of it, but others do, and God can use it in their lives to encourage them and bring them closer to Christ. Remember: The old hymns you like were once new, and someone probably didn’t like them, either!

Sometimes, I’m afraid, a hymn can become so familiar to us that we sing it without even thinking about the words. But this is wrong, because then our singing becomes empty and meaningless. Don’t let this happen to you, but meditate on the words of the songs you sing, and even turn them into a prayer.

Your music director has probably been wise to introduce new songs slowly; completely changing everything all at once can be disruptive. Pray for him and encourage him, letting him know that you’re grateful for his gifts. Yes, let him know you appreciate the old hymns, but support him also as he seeks to reach a new generation through music.  

Billy Graham

Monday, February 26, 2018

Victor's Crown

Threshold moments are those points in your life that you use as a sort of “marker” or point where you define time before and after it.  Marriage is a great example, as many folks talk about life before and after marriage.  Kids are another example, as are changes in jobs, buying a home, etc.  I think that there are certain threshold moments in ministry as well.  Maybe it’s the first time a church breaks 100 people in attendance or possibly when a church breaks ground on a new building.

In my journey in playing in different bands and worship groups, I’ve had some of these threshold moments as well.  The following is probably the most prominent of these times during my time at Mount Pleasant.

I remember when Brad told me we were going to start working on a song called “Victor’s Crown.”  The first time I listened to it, I knew that it was going to be a real “threshold song” for our church, or at least, it’s a threshold song for me simply due to the drum parts in that song.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with the song, let’s just say that the drumming on the last half of the song has a little more “oomph” to it than the typical praise and worship song. 

I guess my first reaction was denial, in that there was NO WAY the congregation was going to go for this song…like, at all. You see, my personal history in playing drums at church has not always been an easy one.  While our church body is very accepting of drums in church, not every congregation in my experience has been nearly as welcoming, and I have had to deal with my fair share of animosity from various people in other churches.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that I was expecting some of these same harsh reactions from the congregation the week after we played “Victor’s Crown” for the first time.  As a matter of fact, I remember I half-jokingly telling Brad before we played that morning something to the effect of “If I don’t have a chance to say it, it was a real honor playing here because I’m not sure if I’ll be allowed back after today.”  

I’m pretty sure he laughed, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t.  

As I left that Sunday, I emotionally braced myself for what was coming. 

Much to my surprise in the upcoming weeks, I was flooded with compliments from you in our congregation!  What an encouragement that was, and I still appreciate everyone’s warm compliments. Receiving compliments was and is never my intent when playing drums at church; however, your kind words offered me much-needed relief.  I knew at that point that I would be able to “open up” a little bit more in my playing.  I've been able to do this, but it took learning and playing this song to get there.  

I truly feel like our church culture changed that day, well, at least in my eyes it did.

At this point, “Victor’s Crown” is just another song added to the long list of music we have played in the past and continue to play today.  It’s fun to play (it’s ok to have fun in worship, right?), but even more so, it’s good knowing that I can play it without fear of animosity.  I’m sure that there will other threshold moments like this one, but “Victor’s Crown” will always stick out in my mind as a moment of change at Mount Pleasant.

Thanks for letting me serve.

Martin

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Is Worship a Concert?

Since a new wave of worship music has come along in the last several years, there has been a bad word to develop among the Christian community in regards to the styles of music being done in churches across the country.  That bad word is “concert”.  That seems to be a word never to be uttered among churches when talking about their times of worship on Sunday mornings. 

Since the “new vs. old” and “traditional vs. contemporary” argument began, some people that cling to the side of traditional hymns have called the music of “modern” churches a “concert”.  Obviously a concert can’t bring any glory or even offerings to the Lord, right?  Well….maybe I look at it a bit differently. 

First of all, don’t get me wrong.  I love hymns.  I didn’t exactly grow up around them so forgive me if I don’t know all 6 (or however many) verses to “Amazing Grace”, but I really do enjoy the song!  There are lots of hymns that I enjoy that have very sound doctrine.  In fact, our church makes it a point to do several songs that throw in a hymn in part of the song, so I don’t think hymns are to be forgotten at all.  Those songs just connect well.  Here’s the thing though…at one time, hymns were considered “modern” and were widely unaccepted in churches.  Imagine that!  Sound like any modern styles of worship music today?  But that debate isn’t why I’m writing.

Back to my thought on “concert”, where does your mind go when you hear that word?  Can you actually have a worship concert and still be holy?  Can you perform and still glorify Jesus?  

Let’s look at the definition of concert:  

1. A public musical performance in which a number of singers or instrumentals, or both, participate.
2. A public performance, usually by an individual singer or instrumentalist.
3. Agreement of two or more individuals on a design or plan.

So, as you can see, there’s nothing inherently wrong with the word “concert”.  We’ve somehow twisted it’s meaning to where “concert” means bringing attention to one’s self.  Sure, if we look at secular music and artists, it’s easy to say their “concerts” bring attention to them and they celebrate their record or the purpose of their tour. That is a “show” and that isn’t what we’re doing.  Our focus is Jesus and Him alone.  We can sometimes be so quick to look at secular culture for our definitions that we overlook what it may really mean. 
Just like everything else we do and every intention we have, our heart is key.  If we are just out to please people with our electric guitar riffs and 4 measure drum fills, then that’s a different story.  But if we come together in harmony, agreeing that Jesus is Lord of all and is worthy to be praised, and use our instruments and voices to lift Him on high, then that by definition is a Worship Concert. 

It’s been said of other churches and probably even ours; “I went there and it just felt like a concert! I’ll have no part of that!” I’m going to say something here…we want it to feel that way!  We want everyone coming together for one purpose!  The music, the singing, the lights, everything is meant to work together to create an atmosphere of worship!  That’s the point of every single note that’s played, every fader that moved and every light that’s triggered.  The name of Jesus is to be raised and glorified!  So, if things feel that way here, then good! That’s what we’re after.  What greater reason to gather, celebrate and put on a concert each week than the name of Jesus?

Peace,

Justin

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Save Me

With this week's post I wanted to share with you the choir special ("Save Me") from last week's Worship Wednesday Service.  Seth and Marci did an outstanding job and the choir was wonderful as always.  The video link is below.  Enjoy!

Worship Big!

Brad


Thursday, February 8, 2018

Precious Jesus

With this week's post I want to introduce a new song that we will be singing this Sunday.  It's called "Precious Jesus" by Gateway Worship.  It is a wonderful and moving song about the precious blood that Jesus shed to wash away our sins. 

The lyrics of the chorus are below:

"Precious Jesus, precious Jesus
The beauty of the Savior's blood
Precious Jesus, precious Jesus
Your life and love poured out for us
Precious Jesus"

One of the aspects of the song that I believe people will really enjoy (especially those of us who are a little bit older) is that it incorporates the chorus of the hymn "'Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus" into it.  All in all, I believe it makes for an extremely powerful reminder of what Jesus did for us on the cross at Calvary.  

Click on the link below to watch a video of Gateway Worship singing it.  



Worship Big!

Brad

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Right Game

Have you ever just sat somewhere and “people watched”? You can do this anywhere really, whether that is in a busy mall or just at the movie theater before the movie starts. I like to do this just to see what I can gather about someone in a few moments. What I see would most likely be different from what you see, just because of people's individual point of view. This blog may come across as negative or even condescending, especially in the beginning, however I think if you stay till the end we may have a different view. 

What I see: I see people of all ages that are constantly in motion, either at work or on their personal time. We have created a lifestyle climate that does not sit well with the quiet. I mean when was the last time we stopped and enjoyed life? This fast paced life has created many side effects, and just like medicine, the side effects can be worse than than the issue at hand. I believe the worst side effect is that the family has been placed in the reserve fuel tank. Anybody who has ridden dirt bikes or four wheelers have been in a situation where the motor starts “spittin and sputterin”  because the gas tank is dangerously low, so you stop and turn the reserve fuel tank on just to get back home or to make it to the truck. We have done the same thing for the family. In this fast paced life the is no room for them, except in the reserve tank. We run here and there at breakneck speed all day, and then when we finally make it home (after two practices and fast food while planning the weekend activities) there is no gas in the tank, so we turn it to reserve and give just enough to make it till bedtime. Repeat. Repeat again. "Oh yeah, we have that thing this week, and finally the weekend. Have you checked the game schedule? We only have four games on Sunday this season, that’s not too bad is it, and spring break is just around the corner." I see parents who devote so much to their child, there is nothing left for the spouse. People in middle management positions at work especially. Through the pressures placed on them, or by their nature, they just can’t get away from that "darn phone" or the emails piling up. I see people who have nothing good to say about social media, yet check their phone 15 times an hour. People seem burned out at church every time we come together. Husbands and wives insult each other while in a crowd. I see mothers pushing the stroller with their right hand, her pocketbook falling off her left shoulder, she's holding her phone with her left hand, has shopping bags hanging from her right forearm, and her teenage son and husband walk clueless beside her. I see garages full with cars parked outside. All around... people are just OVERWHELMED, with the pace of life. 

I also see selfless people who devote much of their time to others. Fathers that will help with dishes and laundry, who will share wisdom with his children. Mothers who pray for the prodigal son to come to his senses, and young women that carry themselves with class and dignity, teenage boys that aren't too proud to serve at church, or hold the door for an elder. I see pastors who grasp the weight of their calling. People who forgive when it would be easier to hate. Someone that is burnt out but keeps doing what is asked of them, while asking God for strength. If I asked you to go a mile, you would go two. I see people in the workforce that commit his/her work to the Lord by being dependable for decades, going farther than the bare minimum, and just being content with the work that is before them. We come together to laugh, encourage, learn from and worship with one another. Some families have cut out TV altogether so they could spend more time engaged with each other. I see prayers of thankfulness before meals, to give God the glory for health and strength, to ask for grace on others and themselves because we are unworthy. I see a church with 10% of its budget given to missions. A church that wants to actively seek out people, and share the gospel. A church... that I am thankful for.

In writing this blog I realize it may be scattered, or just bad, but I think there’s some veins of truth in it. I am not pronouncing verdict or sentencing, because we all drift in out of this entire blog. We all overlook things that deserve our attention, and dwell on the frivolous. Let's be careful not to be so “devoted” to everything else, that we miss out on family,or God, because we can apply all of this to our spiritual life as well. That we would look for opportunities to just be quiet and still. To purposefully throttle back a bit and see this life in a different light, and (if we must) literally schedule time for both, then do it, because if you look at your 24 hours you’ll find, there is a lot to do, and something is always pulling for our attention. If I had to sum it all up in one phrase, I would say, as we pass through this life, let's make sure the game we win at... is the right game.

Derek

Friday, January 26, 2018

What Happened to the Music?

In the 4 1/2 years since we started this blog, I don't think that I've ever shared a post from another blog.  Well, recently I read a blog post from Mike Harland, the Director of Lifeway Worship.  He's a great songwriter, musician, and worship leader.  I've seen him at a couple of conferences and have always enjoyed his insights into worship.  In the post of his that I've shared below, he brings up a very interesting question about the Psalms.  And his response to the question is one that I absolutely agree with and support.  I've highlighted his answer so you don't/can't miss it.  Enjoy!

Worship Big!

Brad

What happened to the music?
In the Psalms, we are fortunate to have a number of superscriptions from the original texts that give us details about some of the psalms. A few describe the setting of the psalm, like Psalm 34 that has a superscription that reads, ”Concerning David, when he pretended to be insane in the presence of Abimelech who drove him out, and he departed.” Now we can read the psalm with a little more understanding of what it was about – like today when a songwriter explains why a song was written. People love “song stories.”
The superscription of Psalm 45 intrigues me and leads me to the question. It reads, “For the choir director: according to ‘The Lilies.’ A Maskil of the Sons of Korah. A Love song.”
 According to “The Lilies?” What does that mean? Well, it seems the original performance of this text was associated with a particular tune called, “The Lilies.”
What in the world did that sound like? We don’t know.
And, now to my question; if the Sovereign God of the universe preserved the text of this psalm as well as the whole Bible – and I certainly believe he did – why didn’t he preserve the tune? Hmmm.
He could have. He could have given us the exact music to be performed. Think of all of the arguments we could have avoided if God had just handed us the proper music setting for worship along with the scriptures.
After thinking about this a decade or so, I’ve come to this belief: God didn’t hand us the tunes so that each generation could join him in creating the music. One of his divine attributes is his creativity – he has allowed us to express our own creative nature as we have written the songs with him down through the ages of the church. And, think about how much the music has changed. Each generation has found it’s own tunes and it’s own way of expressing our faith and worship in song.
The tragedy would be if any particular generation came to believe they were the one that landed on the final melody. God gives every era of believers their own chance to add to the music. What a wonderful gift that is to us. It truly is “The song that never ends.”
Let the children of God from every generation keep right on writing it.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Music and Worship Academy

With this week's post, I wanted to showcase a wonderful opportunity that the music ministry provides:  the Mt. Pleasant Music and Worship Academy.  Back in September we began the first term of the academy and in February we will be starting our 2nd term.  We currently have more than a dozen students taking lessons and hopefully that number will grow with our 2nd term.  Our students are making wonderful progress and even now I'm looking forward to how well they will do in our 1st ever recital in May.  


We currently offer lessons in acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass guitar, voice, classical piano, modern piano and drums.  If you've ever thought about learning an instrument, this is a great way to give it a try.  Not only will you learn the skills necessary to play an instrument, but along the way you'll learn how to play a number of the songs that we do on Sundays for worship.

So, if you have the time and the desire, we'd love to see you be a part of this wonderful ministry!

Worship Big!

Brad

Thursday, January 4, 2018

A Year in Review

With the beginning of a new year, I thought it might be nice to look back at this past year (2017) and see a few of the ways that God moved within the Music/Worship Ministry here at MPBC.  

To start the year off, we decided to take a break from the Passion Play to instead focus on recording a worship album.  And in March of 2017 the Worship Ministry released it's 3rd
worship album ("For All You've Done").  It was a collaboration between the Praise Team, the Praise Band, the Children's Choir, and the Worship Choir.  It was a lot of hard work to accomplish, but it was also a lot of fun to put together.  Justin Gourley did a great job of arranging the original songs we wrote and everyone did a wonderful job recording their parts. I still have people tell me every week how much they have enjoyed it and that they listen to it every day.  EVERY DAY!!! Unbelievable!

I think that the next big event for the year was the worship
choir kick-off in August.  After taking the summer off, I wasn't
sure who come back to choir and if we would get any new members.  Boy, was I surprised!  I actually ran out of music packs for those visiting for the 1st time.  The choir room was packed and it was an exciting time as we kicked off the new year!  

I believe that one of the things that made it so powerful was how we changed the way we were doing choir practice.  We had always done choir practice the same way that everyone else does it.  Come together, work on parts, then go home.  Well, we decided to do something different.  While we still worked on learning new music, we also spent more concerted time in prayer and devotion.  We also started going over the worship songs for Sunday with a small acoustic setting (2 acoustic guitars, djembe, piano, and a singer or two).  And it was amazing to see how God would move during these times of preparation and worship.    Check out this post from Justin to see a short video clip of choir practice:  
http://mpbcworship.blogspot.com/2017/08/this-is-choir.html

Another cool thing that we started last year was having the choir do a special at our Worship Wednesday Services.  It had been a couple of years since the choir had done a song by themselves and I believe that people have really enjoyed it.  Here are links to 2 of the songs they have done:

http://mpbcworship.blogspot.com/2017/10/your-mercy.html

http://mpbcworship.blogspot.com/2017/11/ever-be.html

Finally, I believe the event that people will remember the most from 2017 was our 1st ever Christmas Candlelight
Celebration in December.  It was awesome!  We sang Christmas songs, put on a light show, and lit candles.  We even made it snow inside!  But I think the thing that people will remember the most is experiencing the presence of Jesus and being reminded of the true meaning of Christmas.  I'm still hearing from people about how much they enjoyed it and how much it touched their hearts and lives.

So, with 2018 upon us, it's exciting to look forward to all of the ways that God is going to move and use us in this new year.  We'll be doing the Passion Play again in March, the Christmas Candlelight Celebration in December, and as always, doing our best to lead and encourage people to worship and set their hearts on Him each and every week!

Worship Big!

Brad