Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Sometimes I write titles for my blog posts and get confused by my own brain and how it works. I generally come to the same conclusion after I think about it for a little while, and this is just the way God made me. I can’t do anything about that but walk in it and enjoy the journey. Now that’s out of the way…

If you are reading this and don’t agree that music is one of the most powerful and most consistent mediums in the world, you should probably go ahead and stop reading. This is probably not a post for you. If you’re still reading and haven’t been hiding under a rock for the last few months of the year, you’re probably aware that Adele came out with an album and it shattered records that we didn’t even know were out there. You may have even heard it. You may have been like me and preordered it and rejoiced greatly when you opened up your iTunes that Friday morning and it started to download automatically. Then you devoured track after track, ingesting each one with joy, sorrow, and gratitude. Joy that she finally gave us another album. Sorrow from the deep, heartfelt emotion that came from each track about love lost and found and searched for. Gratitude that there is still someone out there making music that is technically proficient and there is no whipping or nae-naeing involved (granted, not many songs can get a whole group of people dancing quite like that one can). I thoroughly enjoyed the album and, because I don’t spend a lot of time listening to radio, I wasn’t overwhelmed by “Hello” and still enjoy hearing it. I saw how much this album took the world by storm when it came out and I couldn’t help but wonder why. Is it the lyrics? It is her spot on reflections on relationships? Is it the fact that it’s virtually impossible for her to sing out of tune? Is it production value? I think it’s all of these things. I also think that the importance of music and how it connects to the heart and how well she does that with every note she sings.

When I think about it, I hear music like that and think about how real the struggle is. There’s not a real resolution at the end, but there is definitely an internal struggle that is being wrestled through. I didn’t listen to that album and think, “she figured out and now I know what I need to do”. I listened and thought, “man, this woman is dealing with some things. I hope she figures it out. I’ve been there before”. I think that’s the ticket. I also think that is the struggle that some people have with music within the church. There have been a myriad of songs written within the church that seem shallow and don’t touch all of the emotions that people walk in the door with. Yes, it is important to know that we are loved by God and that he can bring joy and that He is good. But sometimes, the struggle is real. Sometimes your kids are driving you nuts. Sometimes your wife or husband is about to leave. Sometimes your job is in jeopardy. Sometimes cancer rears its ugly head in someone you love. Sure, we want to know that God is the answer to all of our problems, that’s one of the reasons we come to church, to find encouragement. But there aren’t a whole lot of songs that dig down in the middle of the struggle.

This is not a post about old versus new, hymns versus contemporary. This is simply an observation about the strive for holiness. When you are striving for holiness there are many different points. There are highs and lows and many different points along the way. I don’t really think there’s a need for people to write songs about being stuck in sexual addiction. Everyone doesn’t sit in that place and it won’t edify the whole body. I can only imagine the comment cards that would come from that one. I do believe that there is an important voice that music has within the body of Christ that has to be heard. I believe that those leading people in the singing of these songs have an important job in helping connect the songs to real life situations. When that is done effectively then we start to see people go from spectators to participators in the singing portion of worship. When I hear a song on the radio that I don’t connect with, I turn it off and find something else. But when I connect with a song I sit in the car even after I pull into the garage and listen until it goes all the way off. When I’m in church and songs speak to how awesome God is and how good he makes me feel, that might not always connect with where I am. But, when someone connects that song to something that is happening in life that tugs at my situation or a situation I’ve dealt with, my interest is piqued. I tune in a little bit more. I feel as if this person is attempting to help me engage with my heart issues and why it is important for me to seek God for the answers.

I think music in the church is still a lot deeper than some people give it credit for, but we have to help connect it to the heart. Music is still important in the church because it connects to the heart in a way that a message doesn’t always do. It’s awesome when music can help prepare you for what is about to be said. When emotions are tapped into, your ears open a little more to hear what’s being said. You are looking for something that will answer questions that you brought with you. The church is still important today. Music in the church is still important today. Their effectiveness has everything to do with how we utilize them to connect people to the cross and its importance in every aspect of life.¬†Adele and her team have figured out how to connect music to life. There is a ton of music being written for the church that have figured it out as well. Make sure that you are doing what you can to put that music in front of people. Why? Because the story still needs to be told.

Music is always changing. We know that. It doesn’t tend to change as quickly within the walls of the local church. We all know that as well. It is not an easy task to get people to continue moving forward. Right now we are in the midst of this push back towards the power synth sounds of the 80s. I personally wasn’t a huge fan the first time, so I’ve been personally struggling with this shift for a little while. I saw it as early as 2009 with the release of The Power of One by Israel Houghton. The opening of that song was strong and I immediately thought, “Is this where we are going now?” Now, don’t get me wrong, I love that album. That’s not what I’m saying. I just remember thinking that we might be heading straight back to the heavy synth sounds and I didn’t know what I thought. Then it kept going. Planetshakers, then Jesus Culture. More and more groups started grabbing onto this sound. Then Hillsong United came out with Aftermath and then Zion. I wasn’t happy with either because the initial sounds weren’t doing it for me. It wasn’t until I went back to a few of these with a more open mind and started to realize that there was some good music in there that I was completely overlooking because of personal taste.

I share this because I know that I’m not the only one who may have felt some of these initial thoughts. And if I am the only one, then I’ll accept that too (not really, someone out there is lying). As a worship pastor, part of my job is keeping up with where music is and where it is going. The second part of that is always challenging. In most local churches this is generally difficult for whomever is making the musical choices. You have to pick music for a large, picky, diverse group of people, and that is never easy. You’ve got people who like it loud, people who like it soft. People who like the newest song on the CCM station that’s not really a good song for corporate worship but they want you to sing it anyway. There’s the group of people who think that we need more hymns. There are ones who think the drums are always too loud and those who wish that your voice was not so loud in the mix (I have a big mouth. Sorry!). I could go on and on, but you get the point. I used to struggle a lot more with the idea of what to do to make the most people happy. I realized after a few years that if I kept that mindset I’d go crazy and blow stuff up. I’d probably also still be doing hymns from a pipe organ.

What I had to learn, and what a we have to keep in mind is that musical styles change just like clothing styles (I seriously saw a dude rocking the bibs with one strap unhooked the other day. I’m excited and slightly scared about that one coming back). One thing that continues to stay the same is the Gospel. It’s a lot easier to stay consistent with WHAT being said as opposed to HOW it’s being said. I’ve taken the approach of let the Gospel go forth. How is not determined by me. That allows me to personally begin to enjoy albums like Hillsong Young and Free. Or at least be able to listen deeper, to the words more than just the strong keyboards at the beginning.

How do you handle the ever changing musical styles around you?

Jesus Culture Concert Review

Posted by worship180 under Music

I know it has been awhile since I’ve posted, but I’ve been busy. Without going into too much detail right now, I’m wrapping up the recording of this music for our Good Friday program so we can have it for rehearsal this weekend. I wanted to take a break from that and write about this show I went to last night.

I was blessed with an opportunity to go see Jesus Culture last night at the Warfield Theatre in San Francisco. The Tech Director here at the church ended up with an extra ticket and let me tag along with him. First of all, the Warfield is a gorgeous venue if you’ve never been there before. Such history and the design on the inside reminded me of the Fox Theatre in Saint Louis, but not as big or gorgeous (sorry, I’m biased). Anyway, we had great seats at the first row of the loge section. We could sit if we wanted to with no worries of anyone standing in front of us. But let’s face it, no one sits at a Jesus Culture concert.

First was Derek Johns0n. I’ve been listening to some of his stuff recently and have been impressed. The impressiveness continued during his set. With an acoustic, an electric, and a set up that included a kick drum, a tambourine on a stand and a shaker, they completely rocked the house. His voice is solid singing high or low. His love for God and his love for leading worship was so evident even in that big room. He made it look effortless. As a worship leader I’m always looking to see how other worship leaders manage a situation and connect with the room they are in. You could have closed your eyes and thought you were in a church. It was that awesome. They absolutely killed “One Thing Remains”. You’re used to hearing that song done with a wall of sound, except for on the Bethel Loft Sessions CD. But this was just perfect.

After he was done they went to a video of Kim Walker-Smith sharing her heart for this project and sort of her vision for the concert. It was awesome to hear that done and the video was pretty cool. I know it’s hard to recreate that sentiment night in and night out, but it would have been cool to have her share some of that live on the stage. Again, I totally understand and was actually impressed with the use of video. The band came out and started in with “Alive” from the new “Still Believe” CD. THAT was a wall of sound. Even with all of the sound they were producing, they were really only hitting about 110db in the room (yes I checked. What do you expect?). Anyway, the worship was steady and it was solid. As much as it was a performance, it was that much if not more a worship experience. Each and every song was just a vehicle and opportunity to fill that room with praise. I wonder if the people at the strip club that’s connected to the Warfield could hear us. It was crazy loud in there. When they got to the title track of the CD, you could easily see why she named the CD after this song. The passion in which that song was written and sung was far and above everything else. The words of the chorus are simple, but powerful. In a world where everything is changing and people are choosing their own ways like never before, we need to keep in mind that God is still God.


And I still believe you’re the same yesterday, today and forever

And I still believe your blood is sufficient for me

If you haven’t heard this song, go check it out. It’s worth it.

Now you can’t go to a Jesus Culture concert where Kim is on the stage without a couple things. 1, you’ll get your money’s worth with EVERY song. They won’t end a song until they feel is exactly time to let it go. I appreciated this way more in concert form than on a CD. You don’t quite get the same feel listening to it in your car. 2, you’re going to get the Kim Walker-Smith laugh. Outside of her heart for worship and the lyrics and music she so intricately weaves together, this is one of my favorite things about her. I counted 4 times, but I could have been off. She ended up cutting the set short because she ran out of voice. Then she told us why. I won’t spoil her secret just in case someone reads this that is planning to go to one of their upcoming shows. Also, if this post finds its way to someone on their team then I don’t want to be the one who spilled before it was time.

Overall, great show. B+ for sure. It would have easily been an A had we not had to shut it down early. I will definitely go see them again when they come to town. If they are going to be close to you in the near future I would suggest you find yourself there.

I’ll be the first to admit it, I’m not as young as I used to be. Now, for those of you that are older than me and will read that statment and laugh at the 32 year old, hear me out. I know that as far as the world stands right now I’m pretty much right there in the middle of everything that’s going on. I’m a social networker. I obviously blog. I keep up pretty well with current events. There’s pretty much a “prime of my life” mentality overall. But I’m noticing a distinct change happening in my brain and it reminds me of my dad.

As I listen to music today I’m realizing that there’s just a lot of it that I’m either not getting or it’s just not my thing anymore. I find myself splitting my time musically between listening to new stuff and then reverting back to old music that I listened to when I was younger. I haven’t yet determined if that is because I’m getting older and “the stuff these kids are listening to today” isn’t really my cup of tea, or if it’s just a matter of fact that the music that is out today is just not really as good as it used to be. I find myself musically underwhelmed and verbally bored. And before you ask, yes, this pertains to both “Christian” and “secular” musical genres. I’ve listened to a few CDs already in this young year that will probably be up for some sort of musical awards this time next year that will either win because of the name associated with it or because of the lack of competition in their category.

Why am I saying this? Well, from a secular standpoint this totally makes sense. The world that we are living is currently and constantly deteriorating and so it the music reflects that. However, from a Christian standpoint we serve an ever-living, ever-loving God that is continuing to do a mighty work in our lives and the lives of His people. Shouldn’t our music reflect that as well? I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I will ask the question again. Should we be setting new trends or just following the ones laid out by the world? I think now more than ever the Church is poised to take a huge stand in creating music that is cutting edge, at the forefront of a movement that speaks truth. There are some out there doing it and doing it well that are FINALLY starting to get some recognition, but I believe that now needs to translate to the mainstream CCM that we listen to and use in our churches.

I speak from the heart of a worship pastor whose job it is to lead the people that set foot in our church in a relevant, authentic worship experience and is finding it a little bit harder than normal to pull that off lately. Maybe I’m a little jaded and cynical, but that’s why I present these arguments to you and ask you to share your thoughts. I’d love to hear what you have to say. I think that maybe I’ll have a Google+ hangout or a video chat or something about this. Let me see what I can do about that. In the mean time, this is my medium and I ask you to share your thoughts about it.

Happy New Year!!

Posted by worship180 under Music

Happy New Year worship180 readers and subscribers! I will start out by saying a big thank you for continuing to read and follow what we are doing here. Each year it is my goal and desire to keep writing fresh things to give insight into worship and continue writing things that you want to read. My biggest goal for this year is to get back to writing consistently. I read an article from another writer who said that they only way to get better and widen your audience is to keep writing. That seems to be the case, as far as the little stat line goes. When I write, people read. When I don’t, well…duh. Oh well, that is my goal to keep sharing. My hope for this year is to be a little more interactive. I don’t know if I’ve ever really asked the question to any of you about what you’d like me to write about. Is there anything you’d like to hear my thoughts on that I haven’t shared already? Are there any worship topics that you’d like to discuss? I’d love to hear from you guys and I’d love to do what I can to foster healthy discussion.

Before I wrap up this first post of the year, I have some last year business to finish. I forgot to post my “Favorite Music of 2012″. So I have to do it today. These are in no particular order, but here are my favorites from the year.

Black Radio- Robert Glasper

A Creation Liturgy- Gungor


Tuskegee- Lionel Richie

Live Worship-Vertical Church Band

The Same Love- Paul Baloche

Radio Music Society- Esperanza Spaulding

PTX Volume 1-Pentatonix

Inspired-Groove For Thought

Back to Love-Anthony Hamilton (disclaimer: This one came out in December 2011 and I didn’t add it to last year, but it was awesome!)

There you have it. 10 of my favorite albums from 2012 (and one from LATE 2011). Let’s see what God has to say for this upcoming year.

This week we didn’t have any crazy electrical problems or anything like that. This Sunday was wonderfully executed and there was a great time of worship…except for when I started a different song than my band was playing. So I guess it wasn’t wonderfully executed, but we got it done pretty good. Here’s what we did.

Live Venue

O Come O Come Emmanuel

You Never Let Go


Trading My Sorrows

How He Loves

Everlasting God


Video Venue


Silent Night

The First Noel

What Child Is This

You Gave Your Life Away

O Holy Night

O Come O Come Emmanuel


November 11 Sunday Set List

Posted by worship180 under Music

This Sunday was an interesting one here in California, but the worship sets ended up going pretty well. Both sides (live and video) had a few challenges, but we made it through. Here’s what it looked like.

Live Venue*

All Creatures of Our God and King

From the Inside Out

In Christ Alone

Be Thou My Vision

Lead Me to the Cross


Video Venue

Come Now Is The Time to Worship

Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)

Draw Me Close


Revelation Song



February Wrap Up Sunday Set List

Posted by worship180 under Music

Good morning all! What a random weather weekend we had here in St. Louis! We don’t know how Spring is going to enter, but we know that Winter has been acting rather schizophrenic all season long. Oh well, we are wrapping up our sermon series on Collision Course. This month has been pretty jammed packed. We started a couple new things with the Pastors Chat and our family lunch this afternoon. There has been a lot of new music along with a huge Black History Celebration last week. We are about to springboard right into March! Here’s what we are singing today to wrap up this month.

Mighty to Save-Opener

If God Be For Me

You Are Good

Forever Reign

How Great Is Our God-Sending Song

Should be a good day here at The Word at Shaw. Join us if you don’t already have somewhere to go. Before I wrap this up, I want to say happy day of birth to Adelyn Maelie Susan Smith. She was born this morning at 2:39! She’s simply beautiful and I hope to get to see her today after church. Congrats Brittany and Smitty! Love you guys!


Sunday Set List 091811

Posted by worship180 under Music, Sunday Set List

Good morning friends! Today is a big day at The Word at Shaw. There’s a lot of new things happening today. First off is the fact that we have small groups starting up. It has been in the works for a long time and we are finally launching them at 9 am. From a worship standpoint, I have implemented a lot of new things for my team here. One of them is the role of service producer. I have a person who’s main job is to make sure that everyone knows where they need to be and so I don’t have to be the one handing out tons of information before the service starts. We have also split our screens so that the front and back run independently from each other. It worked pretty well last week in the trial, but let’s see what happens this week. I have a pretty big group on the stage, but these people are worshipers so I’m really excited to see what happens. This will put my split rehearsal theory to the test. I think it will stand firm though. Here’s what we are singing this morning.

Christ is Risen-Matt Maher

King Forever- Dan Hartke

The Wonder of Your Love-Hillsong (New for us)

Your Love Never Fails-Chris McClarney

Hallelujah-Brenton Brown (Closing Song)

Hope you all have a blessed Sunday!

Deceptive Cadences

Posted by worship180 under Music

In music theory, a deceptive cadence occurs when you come to the end of a phrase and when convention tells you the next chord should be one thing something else happens there. You were deceived into thinking that you knew what was coming next. It happens a lot in music and when it does it is generally a dramatic difference.

The same thing happens in our lives all the time. Things are running along smoothly and we do pretty well at knowing what’s going on. Our analysis of a certain situation may be spot on. But then something happens. You get a phone call that reports a tragedy. You walk out of the office to see that your car isn’t where you parked it. You come home to an envelope that has papers that you didn’t want to see. Your child learns one of those painful lessons of teenage heartbreak. Something happens and it rocks your world and takes you somewhere you weren’t expecting to go.

Generally, a deceptive cadence will double back and repeat a portion of the section before en route to ending a song. It also has the ability to take you somewhere completely different and into a new section. We can’t really know what lies ahead around the next corner. We can only know what’s right in front of us. That’s why these types of cadences work. Sometimes they will cause a complete shift in your life. However, sometimes they will just simply lead you in a new direction, a direction you may not have seen before. Don’t be afraid of that direction because there may be something there for you that you may have never noticed.

God is the master conductor who is orchestrating our lives. We may think we know exactly what’s going on and how things are going to work out when change occurs and we aren’t sure how to handle it. It isn’t our job to know. It’s our job to pay attention to the conductor and make sure that we don’t miss our entrance to play. The cadence may be deceptive at first and catch you off guard, but in the end it’s all a part of His song. And we already know how that one ends.

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