O Holy Night (Advent #2)

This week at our home church we sang “O Holy Night”, which may seem out of the ordinary since it’s a song typically sung on Christmas Eve. But the message of the song is something we can carry throughout all of this Advent season, isn’t it?

We’re always looking for a way to have a “holly jolly Christmas” when it is, in fact, a holy Christmas.

Is it holy when we get frustrated when another shopper takes our parking space? Or when you flip out when the item you’re looking for is out of stock?

While most of the time we may be running around like a headless chicken, checking off items on our shopping list, going from point A to point B to point C, etc., “O Holy Night” reminds us that we need to stop and give glory to the King. How are you spending your time leading up to Christmas?

Who knows? You could be having a great Christmas season. Or maybe you’re feeling nervous, concerned, or distressed. But consider this: we get to take part in something incredible together; looking forward to an event that is indeed a holy moment… the birth of the Messiah, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Luke 2:8-11 says:

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.

What great news! We hope this truth brings you peace as you continue this second week of Advent. Christmas Eve may still be weeks away but that doesn’t make this song any less meaningful to us. Let’s keep preparing the way for Emmanuel, God with us, as we continue to shift our view of these popular Christmas carols.

Reflection Song: Here Today

O Come All Ye Faithful (Advent #1)

Right before the Thanksgiving/Black Friday shopping craze, I saw stores starting to sell Advent Calendars (these are charts with numbered flaps, revealing a special message, picture, or prize as you count down to Christmas). And every year, without fail, I debate whether I should buy the Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar. But this year, before I could even decide, it had already sold out online and in stores. Wow!

On this first week of Advent, we wanted to ask… How do you prepare yourself for Christmas? For many, it means getting your shopping done. Others might go all out with their lawn decorations. But the word “advent” is defined as the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event. What are we counting down to?

To Christians, Advent is the coming of Christ. We’re preparing the way and getting ready to adore our Savior whose birth we celebrate on December 25. That’s the whole “reason for the season”! I hope you’re anticipating this celebratory moment as this special day approaches. In Luke 2:15-16, the shepherds were anxious for Jesus’ birth! They couldn’t wait to come and see, to greet Him, to honor and adore Him.

So for Week 1 of Advent, feel free to begin enjoying the festivities and jolly celebrations (after all, tonight is the Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting) but don’t let that eclipse what this season is to our faith. Let’s be joyful and expectant this Advent Season:

Make a way for Jesus! O come, let us adore Christ the Lord!

We hope these short weekly excerpts will help you see these Christmas “carols” in a new light as we count down to Christmas together!

Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.Psalm 95:6-7

Reflection Song: You Are Greater

Fourth of July Giveaway!

With July 4th just around the corner, what better way to celebrate freedom than with some freebies?

Since our EP God Our King recently released, we want to give some copies away next week to celebrate. Entering is super easy and we’ll have 3 winners!

Friends, all you have to do is simply subscribe to our monthly mailing list… That’s it! If you’re already subscribed, then you’re in it to win it. You have until July 4th, 11:59pm EST to sign up. Winners will be contacted by e-mail on Monday, July 6th and will be mailed a physical copy of the CD.

God Our King

Day in and day out we depend on so many things: technology, schedules, our own strength… But when the storms of life hit us, who do we turn to? God, our King, is awesome in all the earth – the same God that breathes into our lives and our lungs, the same God that deserves the worship from our hearts and tongues. We should trust in Him and glorify Him above all.

The Bible says that even the kings of the earth belong to God (Psalm 47)! When we think of this King of kings who is all powerful, yet sends His Son to make us new, it’s just so humbling and amazing!

If you take a look at our album art for the EP of the same name, you’ll see the irony of the crown. Jesus, who should be crowned with honor and glory (Hebrews 2:9), suffered the mockery of the crown of thorns. We trust in God our King who cancels the record of our sins and makes us new through the grace of His redeeming Son.

God Our King
Words & Music by Andy Lee

Lord of heaven and of earth, You’re the last and You’re the first
You stand firm when all else falls apart
You’re my anchor in the storm, You’re my shield and You’re my sword
I will trust in all You say You’ll do

Majestic in power
The King of kings

From my life to my lungs
You’re breathing Your breath in me
From our hearts to our tongues
We give glory to God our King

Spirit of the living God, You give life that goes beyond
Any sin and every kind of grave
Make us one, it’s by Your love; Make us new, it’s by Your blood
By the grace of Your redeeming Son

You are, You are
Maker of all the earth
You are, You are
King of the universe

Because Of Your Love

We owe it all to God – our hearts, our words, our lives… every moment. 1 John 3 says that if we are children of God then we will do right because of His love for us. “What great love the Father has lavished on us!” (1 John 3:1)

And it’s because of this great love offered to us that we are able to offer everything to Him. Our song “Because Of Your Love” is a list of results of God’s incredible love for us as a response of worship.

Just as it says in Ephesians 2:4-9, we have been made alive with Christ because of God’s grace and love. So with these new & transformed lives, we now make Him our purpose and our focus. After all He’s done and all He does, how could we do anything less?

Because Of Your Love
Words & Music by Andy Lee

My heart is bursting with the massive love that You have for me
My heart is chasing after You, oh God, You’re the lover of my soul

It is Yours
After all You’ve done

Because of Your love I’m saved by grace
Because of Your love I’m unashamed
Because of Your love I say Your Name
Because of Your love, because of Your love I’m changed

My life is bought by the blood of Christ that was bled for me
My life is naught unless it’s lived for You, You captivate my heart

Every word and every thought
It is Yours after all is done
Every moment that I’ve got
It is Yours after all You’ve done

Free Downloads Extended!

Back by popular demand! We’ve extended the Free Downloads offer until the end of this month (aka August 31, 2014) so be sure to take advantage of it!

We also wanted to let you know that our Pear sponsorship was successfully submitted and we will be receiving these new t-shirts very soon. More info to be announced!

In the meantime, sign up for our mailing list so you can be in the know – it’s a great way to stay connected and hear news from us as soon as they’re announced. You can sign up here.

Happy Birthday! Free Downloads!

With all that’s been going on recently, we completely forgot to wish our own Robin & Andy a very happy birthday! Just like last year, we want to give you all something special this month. Until August 14th, every order will get a free download of our recent single “Unending Praise (Young Weather Remix)“!

If you place an order between now and 8/14/14, we’ll include one of these (physical card if you order something mailed, or download code if you order something digital):

New Songs In Church

“Of course he’s doing his songs…” is what some may be suggesting when you use your own songs in church. But more on that in a little bit.

We’ve heard it many times before from Psalm 96: “Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth”, which could refer to spontaneous times of worship or, for the purpose of this post, a new song you and your team have planned. For example, you’ve heard the new Passion or Hillsong album and you want to try the title track on a Sunday… what do you do?

When I select songs, I’m very intentional. What I mean by that is I make sure I’m not slapping together any 4 songs together as an “emergency setlist”. In fact, I often prepare setlists weeks in advance. This may come as a surprise to some of you, while for others it may be the norm already. But introducing new songs is the same deal: we don’t want to impulsively throw a new song at our congregation or even our team. It takes planning! In addition to our older post What Kind Of Songs Do You Pick?, here are a few thoughts when it comes to new songs:

  1. Listen to the song carefully. How easy is it for your average congregation to learn the melody? How many times would you need to “introduce” it before it’s more naturally sung? When we introduce a new song at our church, we use it about 3-4 times within 2 months (which may even involve back-to-back Sundays) before including it in our regular rotation of songs.
  2. In a given year, I only allow a handful of new songs. That means I may not even get to the latest single by “So-and-so Worship Artist” because I don’t want to overwhelm the church with too many new songs at once.
  3. If you plan on introducing a new song, always take a closer look at the lyrics and even ask your worship pastor (if you have one, or another one of your pastors) if it is scripturally sound.
  4. What other songs are you including when you lead this new song? Make sure that you are surrounding it with more recognizable songs to balance the familiarity of songs and flow of worship.
  5. Lastly, and possibly most importantly, notify your team in advance! The only thing that makes teaching a new song harder is a band that doesn’t completely know the song either. Imagine if you were out in the pews trying to learn the song but the lead vocalist is unsure of the melody… or the words on the screen don’t match… These factors make your job that much more difficult.
  6. Added bonus: if the song in question is played frequently on the radio and your church has some avid Star 99.1 / KLOVE / etc. listeners, then half the battle is won!

Once the new song is in place, feel out how the congregation is responding to this song to determine if it works (or will continue to work) in your church.

Now onto originals…

If you write your own songs, like we do, you may feel led to introduce some of them in church. This is where you really need to get objective and answer the same questions as unbiased as possible! With the songs that you write, do they fit in Sunday worship context? And feel free to check out other factors in What Kind Of Songs Do You Pick?.

We want to be careful that we don’t come across as “self-promoting” because that shouldn’t be the reason why we’re writing these worship songs in the first place. We’re not worship leaders to promote ourselves, but to promote Christ. And if we’re called to be worship leaders, we ought to be leading both on and off the stage. If we’re leading both on and off the stage, then your fellow brothers & sisters in Christ will probably be eager to learn something new with you!

For us, we generally use our songs if: A) it fits a sermon topic or theme for that particular day/event or B) if the song was birthed out of something we experienced together as a church. If you can relate to B, then that’s great! That means it’s not so much “my song” (you, the writer) but “our song” (us, the church)!

It’s easier said than done, for sure. You’ll find that you like these new songs, while your drummer will like those new songs, etc. But it goes back to what we wrote in our previous post: it’s important that as leaders we lead intentionally – this stems from the very beginning when we select the songs to how we decide to actually lead and connect these songs. Let’s be intentional and humble in all these processes. We’re merely the vessel for these songs to be led & sung in worship by the church to our Lord Jesus Christ!

What Kind Of Songs Do You Pick?

Someone recently asked me, “What kind of songs do you pick?”. That phrase ‘what kind of songs’ could mean anything: Personal vs. Corporate? Fast vs. Slow? Musical genre? Theme?

I asked for clarification, to which they responded, “You know, do you sing songs by…”, followed by a moment of silence as they tried to remember the name, “…by Chris… Tomlin?” – Finally the question became clearer and I briefly explained my thought process behind selecting songs for praise. But let’s take a moment to pause so that you can think about how you select songs for Sunday.

I have been leading worship for about 12 years and am incredibly blessed to have been able to pick the minds of many worship leaders over the years, hearing how they go about their “setlists”: Paul Baloche, Charlie Hall, Todd Fields… to name a few. But you should know that there’s no perfect way to pick songs. There’s no formula. There’s no blueprint. But there definitely are factors to consider:

Church Demographic

This is actually a great place to start. I always take into consideration who I’m leading into a time of praise. This will help me determine what “era” of songs I can select from. Realistically, no matter how much a song like 1984 Maranatha’s “As The Deer” has ministered to you as a youth student, there comes a point where a very old song actually becomes a new song to the younger generations. The plus side is that in today’s day and age, there may be a modern version of an old classic you grew up with, or at least a song with a similar theme.

Song’s Content

Music today has taken an interesting direction. Call it a generation gap if you will, but current radio music is influencing how badly you need to hear that beat “drop”. So before saying yes/no to one of my church teams’ new song suggestions… before giving into how “relevant” or “catchy” a song sounds, I always review the lyrics first. Does the song make sense? Does it connect within itself? What is it saying? Is it supported by scripture? Which leads to:

Congregational

You may really connect with that one Shane & Shane song in your devotional time. Or maybe that one Jesus Culture song really hits home with you when you’re praying. But these songs may or may not work on an average Sunday morning. What makes a song congregational? Ask yourself these questions the next time you look at a song: Is it God-centered or me-centered (side-note: does the song explicitly address “God”, “Jesus”, etc.)? Is it singable? Does its music help draw the picture of the lyrics? Such questions will help separate songs that are better for corporate worship at church and songs that are better for a Christian concert or personal times of worship at home. Paul Baloche says, “Instead of making Sunday morning worship a concert, I’m interested in making Sunday morning the un-concert.” Many songs are great for our growth with God but, taking a step back, does it fit with our goal for Sunday morning worship?

Theme

Much like a song being congregational, its theme is also part of the “big picture”. When picking the order of the songs, I always think & pray about where we are heading, if there is an overall idea or direction, and what songs we can sing to meet God in that place. Rather than worrying about picking a song order based on key or tempo, I’m more concerned about how well it will flow together. As an extreme case, you wouldn’t want to sing about Jesus’ birth (such as the Christmas song “Angels We Have Heard On High”) and jump to a song about Jesus’ death & resurrection (such as Matt Maher’s “Christ Is Risen”). Theme is also very important if you want to prepare an appropriate response song to reflect the sermon.

God’s Plan

Ultimately, what it comes down to is how God is moving you towards these songs. A lot of the song selection process may feel like what we want to sing or lead, but if we align that with what God wants to do with these songs then we can plan for how God can effectively use them in our church (more on that in a future post). Pray through the songs and see if they are usable by God in your ministry. What we plan and what God plans should go hand in hand. I never go through with a setlist that I’m sure about unless I’m sure that God is behind it.

The Set

Now that we’ve thought and prayed about what songs we can choose from, we can start working on the order. It helps to be in tune with all of the above because it makes creating the flow a lot easier. Charlie Hall once told me, “Get inside the story of the song and try to see it from God’s perspective.” What journey has God planned for this week with the songs that have been on your heart? I begin to narrow down the list of songs from there to the 4 songs we sing on Sunday (maybe more/less for your church) and organize them in a way that will help people focus in on God.

Throwing new songs into the mix can be a bit confusing but easing them into a semi-frequent rotation in the beginning will quickly make them a regular choice in the future. Plan out exactly how many new songs you would want to introduce in a year. Note which familiar songs you are pairing with them so that you’re not overwhelming the congregation with too many new songs. (This includes any original songs you’ve written that have spurred out of what God’s been doing in your own churches. More on that here.)

It’s important that as leaders we lead intentionally – this stems from the very beginning when we select the songs to how we decide to actually lead and connect these songs. Tim Hughes once said that we are more than song leaders. We’re not karaoke machines; let’s not just “set it & forget it” and simply sing the songs. We’re the ones who are leading these songs, so lead your church on the journey that God led you on when deciding on them! What kind of songs do you pick?