For all you worship leaders out there, I’m offering the song “Overflow” as a free download with a chord chart in .pdf form.
You can also check out the rest of my album on iTunes: Who Can Stand
If you want to download the song, just right click on the link above and select “download link target”. Enjoy, and use the comments section to let me know what you think!
This is the first in a series of posts I plan to write during my creative coaching network with @loswhit. After each group session I’m going to post some of my thoughts, insights, and takeaways from our discussion. Hopefully some of it might come in handy!
Yesterday I had my first creative coaching session with Carlos Whitaker and eight other church creative types. It was what you would expect from a first meeting of 10 artists–exciting and at the same time a little strange. Los kept referring to it as “the first date”–a little awkward, everyone wearing their most trendy t-shirt, etc. All in all though it was a good beginning.
We talked a lot about innovation–how these days, being innovative equates to “cool” for most churches. He challenged us to think instead about going “backward” to get innovative. Maybe instead of playing the latest Hillsong tune, the most innovative thing you can do right now in your church is to sing hymns or go sit at the organ. (Think about that for a second.)
In thinking about going “backward” and rooting creativity in history and tradition to find innovation, I thought of two specific ways last year at Grace that we attempted to do just that:
- a year ago during Advent, I remixed a gregorian chant of the Magnificat from the 15th century with a back beat in Ableton and our band and wrote new lyrics to go along with it for the congregation to sing. We had this mix of sounds with the gregorian chant in latin providing the foundation for which the congregation sang the translation in English over.
- last month I took some time to teach my congregation some history about hymns–that lyrics and tune used to be separated and that, for instance, the tune we know as Amazing Grace actually wasn’t the original tune. I then told them about the modern hymns movement, how the idea was to capture the spirit of generations before by pairing timeless lyrics with a new melody line and fresh chords. I then introduced Great is Thy Faithfulness, which I had rewritten with a new meter, chords, and melody.
Both of these moments were creative highlights for us, and two of the elements that most effectively drew people into worship over the last 12 months.
The Problem With Innovation…
One of the related questions that was on our agenda but that we didn’t talk about was What problems do you see with the church desiring to seek after innovation and relevance?
The question reminded me of a Tim Keller article I recently read where he eloquently makes the argument for relavant, evangelistic worship that is grounded in tradition. Here’s a great quote detailing some of the pitfalls with many worship leaders’ (including sometimes my own!) “modern worship” worldview:
First, some popular music does have severe limitations for worship. Critics of popular culture argue that much of it is the product of mass-produced commercial interests. As such, it is often marked by sentimentality, a lack of artistry, sameness, and individualism in a way that traditional folk art was not.
Second, when we ignore historic tradition we break our solidarity with Christians of the past. Part of the richness of our identity as Christians is that we are saved into a historic people. An unwillingness to consult tradition is not in keeping with either Christian humility or Christian community. Nor is it a thoughtful response to the post-modern rootlessness which now leads so many to seek connection to ancient ways and peoples.
Finally, any worship that is strictly contemporary will become ‘dated’ very, very quickly. Also, it will necessarily be gauged to a very narrow ‘market niche.’ When Peter Wagner says we should ‘plug in’ to contemporary culture, which contemporary culture does he mean? White, black, Latin, urban, suburban, ‘Boomer,’ or ‘GenX’ contemporary culture? Just ten years ago, Willow Creek’s contemporary services were considered to be ‘cutting edge.’ Today, most younger adults find them dated and ‘hokey.’
Hidden (but not well!) in the arguments of contemporary worship enthusiasts is the assumption that culture is basically neutral. Thus there is no reason why we cannot wholly adapt our worship to any particular cultural form. But worship that is not rooted in any particular historic tradition will often lack the critical distance to critique and avoid the excesses and distorted sinful elements of the particular surrounding, present culture. For example, how can we harness contemporary Western culture’s accessibility and frankness, but not its individualism and psychologizing of moral problems?
Go back and read that quote again. Honestly, the first time I read through that I was wrecked because I knew that in pursuing innovation and relevance, I’d often discarded the foundation that comes from being connected to generation upon generation of faithful worshipers who have come before.
In my hurry to reject the typical traditional church world view that one particular era of church history was a golden age and pinnacle of corporate worship (which incidentally is also false), I had neglected the untold richness that comes from rooting contemporary expressions of worship in the context of historical tradition.
There is something very worshipful about pointing out that the God of the universe that we are worshiping on Sunday morning is the same God whom people worshiped a hundred years ago, or a thousand years ago. There’s a sense of connection to the story that God is writing that will draw people into worship if you take the time to unite your culture with what has come before in your service.
And in this day and age, that’s actually a pretty innovative thought.
What’s Up Worship Episode 9 is up on iTunes! This time we’re focusing in on Hillsongs’ new album, A Beautiful Exchange. We talk about which songs we liked, which ones we didn’t, and which songs we felt like we wanted to introduce.
You can find the episode and subscribe to the podcast for free on iTunes. Click here to go directly to it.
Two corrections from the podcast that are worth noting:
- I mistakenly thought that the song You was titled You Live. It was actually You (Live) i.e.–the live version of You. Whoops!
- Jen found another song called Believe and critiqued the song based on wrong lyrics. We discover her error in the end, but it goes on for a minute or two before we catch her.
So, what did you think of the album? Do you agree with what we said or are we crazy? Which songs would you like to do at your church? Let us know in the comments.
I found this video over at chrisfromcanada.com (seriously, go check out his blog), and it may be old news to some, but I just couldn’t help reposting because I empathize so much with this situation.
Since moving over to using loops via Abelton Live, one of my biggest fears is that I’ll press the wrong button at my feet, and a loop I don’t want played will come streaming through. In fact, twice in the last six months, something exactly like that has happened during service, and not only was it quite embarrassing, but I was kicking myself for distracting a set of worship and resolving to be better prepared and less shaky on transitions in the future.
Good to know it can happen to the best of us.
Two observations that made me chuckle:
- the best part of the video is that Martin doesn’t know it’s him at first! He looks back to the drummer like, “are you playing? no? why did you start that drum loop?” And then he has the moment of realization that it was him. Priceless!
- just one more reason to use your phone instead of that heavy bible to read scripture. I bet resting an iPhone on the keyboard wouldn’t have triggered “bossanova #3″
We just finished a series this month on the devil, and as I’m reflecting on the series, I was reminded of something that I wanted to touch on here. We opened our series earlier this month with Sympathy for the Devil, by the Rolling Stones. This past year we’ve also included songs like You Found Me by the Fray and Lost! (as well as Lost?) by Coldplay.
Including secular music in services is a hot topic that comes up every once and while, and I wanted to address it since it speaks to a broader philosophy of worship. I respect that for many churches, it may not be the right thing to do, but over the past few years, I’ve become a proponent of including some secular music when it fits the theme of the series or sermon, for the following two reasons:
- It’s a barrier breaker–most people aren’t driving around your town listening to pipe organ music. They’re listening to rock, or pop, or country, or rap, or hip hop, or jazz, or whatever. When a guest (especially and unchurched or dechurched guest) comes to your service for the first time, it can be an intimidating experience. Hearing a familiar piece of music can help them make a connection to something they know and allow them to be more receptive when a new song (or 5!) is thrown at them later on in the service.
- God centered truth can be found in many places–there are many songs, movies, and other forms of art in secular culture that reflect the greatness of our God and the truth of the Gospel in some way. Many times the truth they reflect is done unknowingly or only in part, but I think it’s important to engage with the culture at large about what they’re talking about, what they’re creating art about, and then point to the God who created them with the talent to create it. Even Paul found God centered truth in the altar to an unknown God in Acts, and found that using it and quoting a secular poem, rather than using the Torah, was the most effective way to speak to a gentile culture filled with philosophers (Acts 17:16-34).
Using secular music may always ruffle a few feathers, but I’m willing to do so if it means that we can more effectively speak the truth of the Gospel in a way that the culture we find ourselves in understands and is familiar with. Besides, why should the devil have all the good music?
This week on What’s Up Worship, Tim and I were a two man team without Jen. We both were on team at Grace Chruch this past Sunday, so we talked about how those services went, and then tried to give some helpful advice on how to lead worship via electric guitar. You can grab the podcast on iTunes.
Epidsode 7 of What’s Up Worship is now available on iTunes!
This week we give you a special discussion between Jen Kerr and I, along with special guests Derek Sanford and Andy Kerr. The topic? What makes for a good working relationship between Pastors and Worship Leaders.
It’s a great conversation, and the guys really had some good insight into ups and downs of partnering together in ministry. I’m happy to finally be able to give it to you! I’ve broken the episode into the following chapters, so if you have an mp3 player that supports enhanced podcasts, you can skip ar0und and listen to the parts you’d like to. Here are the show notes:
Intro & Tim’s Wrapup–0:00
What Makes a Good Pastor/Worship Leader Relationship?–17:02
What is the Pastor’s Role in Corporate Worship?–45:55
What is One Thing You Wish Pastors/Worship Leaders Knew? 1:20:59
Line 6’s DL4 has been a standard digital delay pedal for several years now, especially in the church scene where I mostly play. I bought mine used 2 years ago and it’s served me really well, giving me access to looping functions as well as being able to save 3 presets of some really great and interesting delay types–it does reverse, tape, digital, swell, & modulated delay, among others.
It’s recently fallen out of favor in the gear community somewhat, due in part to three major drawbacks:
- While it has a tap tempo, there’s no way to set it for dotted eighth delay like you can with my Boss DD-5–you have to tap that in manually.
- It’s big, so it takes up a lot of pedal board real estate.
- It’s known for being one of the most unreliable pedals out there as far as sturdiness–the switches on it are not the highest quality, and the way they are designed, they tend to break down easily.
The third of these is the most weighty. When I bought mine, one of the switches was already finicky (had to press it two or three times to get it going). It wasn’t a big deal, because I had two other preset buttons to work with. However, a month ago, one of the other switches started to go bad, and I decided that it was time to get it repaired.
In looking around for an out of warranty repair, I stumbled upon this thread by a guy in FL who takes faulty DL4’s and tricks them out with all sorts of cool features. His name is Daniel Rasp and I would recommend his work to anyone who has a DL4. I took one look at his list and realized this was the direction I wanted to go.
I was able to repair my DL4 and make it completely one of a kind and unique to my board, with the custom upgrades that I wanted. I had him go to town on my old, broken down delay pedal, and this was the result:
Daniel powder coated the DL4 in a deep red, and replaced all the LEDs with different colors. For those who are gear nerds like me, here’s the skinny on all the mods he did:
- Repainted the body
- new LEDs
- fixed the very slight volume drop that tends to happen when you engage the pedal (same as the Keeley mod)
- replaced all the switches with heavy duty pieces that are much sturdier.
- Inserted a tap tempo out that is synced to the tap tempo switch (I will be feeding this jack with a custom designed dual tap tempo that will feed both my DL4 and my DD-5)
- Attached a mini expression wheel to the side of the unit
- On the top are two switches–one is a hard expression switch which basically makes it so that I can jump between two settings for every preset bank, effectively going from 3 saved presets to 6. The second switch toggles between using the expression wheel and the expression switch. It has an LED that changes color depending if I’m on the wheel or the switch.
I can’t tell you how excited I am to get this pedal back next week. Total turn around time was three weeks. This process has taken a pedal that was on it’s last legs and breathed new life into it. If you have a DL4, I would highly reccomend Daniel as someone to work with. He’s incredibly responsive and will work with you to do as much or as little as you need for your DL4. You can email him at drasp(at)earthlink.com (replace the (at) with @).
My goal when we started the podcast a few months ago was to have an episode up every 2 weeks. We met that goal for the first 5 episodes, but now we had a slip up, and it’s been a long time between episode 5 & 6.
Episode 6 is now up on iTunes–hit the link to subscribe! We do our normal weekly wrapup and then Tim & I debut a special segment focused on Electric Guitars in worship. It’s pretty basic this first time out, but we’re laying the groundwork to go way more in depth with it. If you have things you’d like us to talk about re: electrics in the worhsip setting, or leading from electric, then let me know!
In the beginning of the episode, I mention a special segment in which we have a roundtable discussion with two pastors about the Pastor/Lead Worshiper relationship. It’s awesome, full of great converstaion and clocks in at a meaty 60 min. So I know I said in episode 6 that it would be there, but it’s not.
I’ve decided to save it for it’s own special podcast–it’ll be our main section of episode 7, which will debut next Tuesday, June 1st.
What? New episodes two weeks in a row? I know! But it’s true. So listen in to todays episode, in which we talk about leading spontaneously, leading when you don’t feel up to it, and guitars in worship–then come back next week for our special Pastor/Lead Worshiper roundtable.