Anchored

Another year has come and gone… Recently coming back from a retreat with a theme of “Anchored”, we remember that Jesus is our anchor in the storm. Our hope is anchored in Him, especially when we’re faced with uncertainty or when oceans roar!

A lot can happen in a year and I’m sure we all had our fair share of ups & downs in 2018. Isn’t it always so easy to thank God and trust in Him when everything’s going your way? But when things start getting a little shaky, who do we hold onto? When our path starts to waver, who do we lean on?

Hebrews 2 challenges us to keep our hope in Christ and not on any other future hope. Jesus is our solid rock & firm foundation! In a construction sense, Isaiah 28:16 says that Jesus is a tested stone, or a cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. And those who believe in Him will not be disturbed. What a great promise that is!

You see, we have an assurance in our anchor, Jesus Christ. We won’t drift away or be shaken because like an anchor, what Jesus has done for us through His death & resurrection is the steadiness and security we desperately need! Without Him, we’re relying on our own strength and surely we’ll fail… Why wouldn’t we trust in the One who keeps us grounded in His never-ending love and consistently provides for us?

So with 2019 just around the corner, our hope & prayer for you is that you will be anchored in Christ. That could mean more Quiet Time during the week, keeping a steady Bible reading plan, attending an early morning prayer gathering, or maybe something else that the Lord is tugging you toward! But may next year be filled with much hope in Him as you continue to grow in the Word and seek Him more!

Happy New Year!

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” – Hebrews 6:19

Reflection Song: Christ Is

Top 10 Posts Of 2016

2016 was an interesting year, wasn’t it? It was full of ups & downs for entertainment, politics, and, I’m sure, for your personal lives as well. But it’s important to stay rooted in what helps you stay rooted in God. And so we thank you for joining us for another year of quick thoughts on our site. We hope to bring you new music in 2017, but in the meantime please enjoy our ten most visited entries of 2016:

1. Lent, Week 5: Prepare The Cross
2. Lent, Week 1: An Early 40 Days (Prepare Yourself)
3. Christ Is Risen!
4. Give Thanks With A Grateful Heart
5. Almost God
6. Good Friday?
7. Advent 3: JOY
8. Prepare The Way (Palm Sunday)
9. Lent, Week 6: Prepare Resurrection
10. Advent 4: PEACE

And here are our top posts from previous years. Thanks, everyone, and Happy New Year!

2015
2014
2013

Top 10 Posts Of 2015

It was a great year for movies, music, and of course our blog! We’d just like to take a moment to extend our gratitude as we head towards the new year. It may have come and gone all too quickly for you, but we hope you can continue along this journey with us as we share posts with you in 2016. Here are our most visited entries of 2015:

  1. It Is Finished
  2. Smiling Galaxy Cluster
  3. In The Light
  4. Temple Of Legos
  5. Perfect Love (A Valentine’s Day Blog)
  6. Love God, Love Others
  7. Post-Easter Self-Control (Fruit of The Spirit)
  8. Christ Alone, Cornerstone
  9. Epic
  10. God Our King

And here are our top posts from previous years. Thanks, everyone, and Happy New Year!

2014
2013

Top 10 Posts Of 2014

As this year comes to an end, we want to thank you for keeping in touch with us. Your tweets, messages, Instagram comments, etc. encourage us and we hope that our posts do the same for you. Here are our most visited entries of 2014:

  1. Hand Of God
  2. The In-Between: Transitions In Worship (As seen on The Church Collective)
  3. Honesty Is The Best Policy
  4. The Father Heart Of God
  5. Endless Love
  6. Jesus Saves
  7. The Day After The Most Depressing Day Of The Year
  8. True Love (A Valentine’s Day Blog)
  9. Multitasking God
  10. Masks And Make-Believe

And here are last year’s top posts. Thanks, everyone, and Happy New Year!

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?