Wednesday, February 29, 2012

It can get tricky!

We recently got to spend some time with good friend and pastor, Ryan Laden. The Laden family have been great friends and ministry partners with us for many years now. They currently live in Perth, Western Australia, doing some great ministry Down Under as the pastor of Warnbro Community Church. Ryan was here in Texas to officiate a wedding, so we got to spend some time with him before he returned to the other side of the world to his family. We miss them terribly, but we know they are right where God wants them and that He has called them Down Under for a purpose!

Michelle and I had a great conversation with Ryan the other day and I wanted to share a little bit of what we talked about. We were discussing the ins and outs of worship teams and worship music in the church today. As we talked I realized a few things. I want you to hear my comments with an open mind and understand that I am not saying that I am the authority on this or that I think I am right and everyone else is wrong, these are just some observations from my perspective.

If we look at the history of music in the church and the world of CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) we can see that up until recently they co-existed but did not intertwine. Worship was not a genre of music. These days it seems that every band has a 'worship' album, many of which are great and inspired. However, not all of the songs out there labeled 'worship' are necessarily meant for congregational worship.
We have to understand what congregational worship is as opposed to personal worship in order to know how to use what songs and when. Personal worship is that one on one time with you and God. Could be in your car on the way to work, as you work out or just some time spent with Him alone. Congregational worship is when a group of Christ Followers gather together to celebrate what God is doing in their lives, individually and collectively. This could be anything from a Sunday morning at church to some evening in a living room. In my opinion there are songs for both occasions, but not all of them fit into both categories. There are some songs that may speak to you personally but may not connect with someone else and vice-versa, and that is OK. That goes for both congregational and personal songs.
I think that to many times a worship leader or worship band tries to take their favorite songs, that speak to them personally and try to fit them into a congregational setting. As worship leaders it is our job to understand the difference in these types of songs and understand the group we are leading in worship, where they are and what speaks to them. As the JGB travels across the country leading worship for different churches and events, it is very evident that the same songs that connect with one group may not connect with another. We have to be aware of that and be willing to meet the people where they are. If we try to force our favorite songs on a group of people instead of engaging them, and helping them engage in worship through music, all we are doing is playing some cool music and performing. As worship leaders it is our job to help the people we are leading to connect with God through music. We can not force them to engage, but it is our job to present the best opportunity for them to connect.
Now, I am not saying that performance songs should not exist in congregational worship. No, as a matter of fact they are great tools to use to get an idea or thought across that will help connect an overall theme. But, if all you do are performance songs, then you are not giving people to connect personally through music. There are so many great bands out there that are doing great music and when we go to their concerts we may connect through their performance, but we should not be trying to replicate that at our churches. We can be using those ideas, but we need to figure out how to connect the people we are leading to worship through music.
This is where worship music and CCM collide. We did not use to see CCM artists doing worship music. They made great music and it was used as performance songs or special music in church services. Today, every artist has a worship CD and therefore the radio and popular music are saturated with 'worship songs' performed by our favorite artists. So trying to capture what we see and hear on the radio, at concerts and on the internet and use it in our churches may not work, we have to be aware of the people we are leading and how they engage and connect. Sometimes that may mean playing a song we might think is old or out-dated or making a set list that has both old and new songs. We have to remember as worship leaders that it is not about us and what we want, but about us being used and being willing to serve.

This may not be the popular opinion, but it is how I view the ministry we have been called to.
Please remember that I am not saying I am right and anyone who disagrees is wrong. I believe that there is a place for all types of worship and worship leaders. Everyone connects with God through music differently. I would love to hear your thoughts! Feel free to post them on our facebook page

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Strong and Courageous!

Some of you may know our song 'Strong and Courageous', but I want to tell you more of the story behind the song and why it is so special to us.
This song was originally born out of us leading worship on a Sunday morning at a local church for the kids Sunday School large group time. The theme verse one particular Sunday was Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. That week Michelle challenged me to write a song for the service that weekend based on the theme verse. So, I sat down and scratched out a simple little chorus and we used it that weekend. It was a hit! We liked it and the kids LOVED it so we decided to work on it some more and come up with some verses and a bridge and voila 'Strong and Courageous' was born! It is a hit with kids and adults, and it is so much fun to see everyone doing the brave, strong and courageous motions!

Well, that is not where the story ends. Our daughter, Gabriella, has a friend named Sadie whom she calls her 'best friend.' Whenever they are together they pretend that they are princesses or fairies or ballerinas, something very girly, it is so cute! A little over a year ago Sadie and her family found out that she had a giant tumor growing in her abdomen. She and her family have gone through so much in the last year with Sadie having multiple surgeries, chemo, radiation and being in and out of the hospital. However, long before anyone knew that Sadie had cancer, her family had adopted a family verse, and that verse is Joshua 1:9, the same verse we based our song 'Strong and Courageous' on.
As Sadie has gone through all of this she continues to hold on to the truth in Joshua 1:9, "God is always with you." She is brave and strong and courageous and does not let anything hold her down! She is an incredible testimony of God's love!

As we were recording our "Live to Love" CD, we asked if Sadie would come in and say the scripture at the beginning of the song, 'Strong and Courageous'. She was a little reluctant at first, but then when she heard her voice on the recording she was very excited! It is so beautiful to hear her say the verse and know that she is living it out! You can listen to the song by clicking on it below. Enjoy!


There is one more part to this story that I don't want you to miss. For the last few years, instead of having a birthday party, Gabriella has wanted to do a fundraiser. She has such a compassionate heart, (just like her mother) and loves helping people. This years fundraiser is going to be on March 1st at Fralo's Art of Pizza in Leon Springs. Instead of bringing gifts, Gabi wants everyone to come out to Fralo's to eat pizza and enter the raffle to raise money for new bedding, art supplies and games for the kids receiving cancer treatments at the facility where Sadie gets her treatments. All of the details are below in the flyer. We would love to see you there! And remember....Be brave and strong and courageous, because God is ALWAYS with you!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Light me up!

Have you ever had the opportunity to experience a raging fire? I mean a real scorcher. One that you can feel from far away. One that lights up everything around it. A fire so hot that you cannot stand by it for more than a few minutes or you feel like you will catch on fire too?

I feel like there are seasons in my life that I am like that fire. A raging inferno of Gods love. And then there are times where I feel like I am doing all I can to put that fire out. The Bible tells us over and over again that we are to love one another. Part of the greatest commandment Jesus says in Mark 12 is to "Love your neighbor as yourself." John 13:34-35 tells us “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” 1 John 3:18 says "Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth."

What I have discovered about myself lately is that when my fire and passion for God is running low so does my tolerance and love for the people around me. I get short tempered, grumpy and just generally miserable to be around. My love for what God has called me to do disappears. My creativity starts running dry and I quit really caring about what I do. I do enough to get by and just trudge through my day focused on myself.

If you have been with us at any event, you have probably heard me talk about St. Francis of Assisi and his quote which inspired our song 'Ablaze'. He said, "Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary use words." It took us about 3 years to write that song and I talk about it all the time, but recently I have re-discovered the meaning of this song. I originally wrote it about living your life in such a way that everyone you come in contact with knows that you are a Christ-follower, but I am realizing it goes much deeper than that. If we are truly passionate about God and want to live our lives as worship, we should be loving at all times, even when we don't feel like it. Love isn't a warm fuzzy, chocolate filled feeling, it is a choice. If I am focusing on myself and the things I want, then I am not sharing Gods love. My fire and passion for God is being squelched by my selfishness. But if I look to God to satisfy my needs and fill up on His love, then that love will pour out of me to everyone I come in contact with, which is what Jesus is saying in the scriptures listed above. It is also what St. Francis is saying in his statement. The passion for life, love and what God has called me to do is very easily found when I am focused on Him and His love. That is where this song has taken on new meaning for me. If I am passionate about God and His love for me then I will be more loving to the people around me.

I would love for you to listen to this song and make it your prayer this week. Focus on Gods love and seek out ways to share it. Loving God and loving others...That is what He calls us to! Set my heart Ablaze!


Monday, February 6, 2012

Information Overload!

It is EVERYWHERE!!! News, TV, Email, Facebook, Twitter. You name it you can get it anywhere at anytime. Michelle and I have been noticing lately that every restaurant you go in these days has a TV. Yeah from McDonald's to the mom and pop hole-in-the-wall restaurant. We are bombarded by information... commercials... non-sense... there seems to be no escape!

When I was a kid (yeah I know I sound like one of those people) TV was something that was enjoyed at home with family or friends, but now you can hardly go anywhere without that glowing box invading your personal space. We are trying to teach our sweet Gabriella that you don't have to be constantly entertained. It is OK to just sit and enjoy each others company. We don't have to have something in our hands or staring at something to have a good time.

I will admit...I am VERY guilty of this myself. I like my information. I like to be in the know. I like noise and flickering lights. I don't sit in silence very well. If I am in the car alone I am listening to the radio...TALK radio. I would think I would be listening to cds or music or something, but no, I like my information. I am also always checking my phone for emails, Facebook messages and tweets. I am trying to limit myself so that my family knows that they are important to me, not my phone. I want to live my life in the present. I want to make memories and love and touch and laugh because we are having fun in real time, not watching somebody else live their life.

Now, am I saying that TV, Facebook and Twitter are bad? No. Not at all! I will still watch TV, I enjoy that. One of my favorite times of the day is when Gabi has gone to bed and Michelle and I get to snuggle up on the couch and watch our shows! I will still interact on Facebook and Twitter, I enjoy knowing what people are up to and getting to know them more. However, I will be aware of when I am doing that and not be glued to the TV or my phone or let those things rule my time.

I want Michelle and Gabi to understand that my time with them is valued and important to me. I want the people who we get to meet on the road know that I am interested in them and what God is doing in their lives as well.

These are just some of my thoughts...Let me know what you think!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Live to Love - How to

I wanted to give you a little something different this week.
I have done a little "How to" video for one of the songs off of our latest CD.
We take a look at the title track "Live to Love", where it came from and a few tips on how to play it.
I hope you enjoy! I will be posting more of these in the future. If there are any songs you would like to know about, let me know!
Have a great week, and remember...Live to Love!