ICOC Worship – thoughts on strengths and opportunities

I’m grateful to be a part of a family of churches known as the ICOC (International Churches of Christ) with hundreds of churches around the world.  I just returned from being at ICMC this past weekend, our conference for campus students in our churches, with about 2200 students in attendance.  It was awesome to get to be led in worship by a phenomenal group of worship leaders, under the leadership of Marc Persing and Julia Dunn.  I was so proud of the whole team.  Here are some things I appreciated:

– worshipful presence of the whole team – clearly about God not them
– excellence in execution and ability
– continually pulling in the church – lots of voices only points to hear their voices
– nice flow of things, prayers interwoven, etc
– good mix of classics and new songs
– new songs that were introduced were accessible, not too hard to sing
– diverse representation on stage, great worshipful leaders that were super giving
– whenever possible trying to put songs in blocks together instead of spaced out between talking things
– it really worked to pull the students up and in the aisles for the worship night
– Loved the new songs by disciples from our family of churches! Whenever possible I’m all for playing favorites with songs by those in our fellowship –something special about that

I have been humbled to get to have some of my songs sung in several of these congregations and to have been involved in worship ministry for a long time, so people sometimes ask my thoughts about worship ministry in our churches, and I had lots of great conversations at the conference.  I recap a few of my thoughts in this video.


I Need Your Love – Reggae Version

Hey folks.  Last week on my video conversation about Sunday morning set up I had mentioned a song we had done the day prior (which had ended up taking more time in rehearsal than I thought it would) – a reggae version of my song “I Need Your Love.”  I thought this week I would share the demo version of the song I threw together for our team.  It turned out being really fun, and the church followed along well.

I Need Your Love -reggae version

Verse:
G / G / C / D

Chorus:
C / D / G / Em

Making new arrangements of old familiar songs is a great way to bring freshness to a worship set while still making it easy for the church to connect and sing.  Do you have any cool versions of songs you do?  I would love to hear them!


Easy Like Sunday Morning

Remember the song, “Easy Like Sunday Morning?”  For worship teams, Sunday morning is not easy!  Seems like the default for Sunday morning tech set up and rehearsal is stress and anxiety.  In this 20 minute video I share some tips for decreasing anxiety and stress like…

  • Have someone who is shepherding the overall team who has a spirit of peace and spirituality (it doesn’t necessarily have to be someone with musical talent), someone who can “keep their head in all situations” (2 Tim 4:5).
  • Don’t try to do too much with technical set up – figure out how to stream line things.
  • Don’t try to do too much musically.  Know your group and anticipate where you are going to spend time.
  • Keep an eye the big picture –everything that needs to be accomplished without getting bogged down on details that aren’t as crucial.
  • Most important —work hard to maintain an atmosphere of unity, love, and keeping first things first –giving our best in worship to God.

Let me know if videos like this are helpful.  Not sure if I’m just rambling or if this kind of thing will serve others 🙂

Love to all!

BC


Let Me Rest

This year I have really meditated a lot on letting go of stress and anxiety, “casting all my worries on God,” and I think I’ve been doing better with it.  (Last fall I realized I was carrying a lot of stress and anxiety when I had a panic attack in the middle of the night, passed out, and my wife had to call 911.)  There have been some difficult things we have been going through, but I realize these are the times that can draw me even closer to God if I remain plugged in, persevere, don’t give in to sin as I battle fear, worry, and anger.  I think those are things many of us struggle with.  Next week I’m going to write about how to reduce an atmosphere of worry on Sunday mornings with your worship team, but today I wanted to share a personal song I wrote, striving to “let go of all that brings a burden,” meditating on the words of Matthew 11

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matt 11:28-30

The context here was John the Baptist seemingly wrestling with his faith.  It appears he had different expectations of God’s plan.  Perhaps things weren’t turning out the way he had envisioned.  Jesus’ message in this context is so comforting and faith-infusing.  I used a few of the verses from this chapter (esp v. 12, 25, 28-30) for the words of this prayer:

 

LET ME REST
(based on Matt 11)

Let me rest within your presence, Lord
Still my soul in your embrace.
Cleanse my heart and calm my spirit, Lord
As I am calling on your holy name
I am calling on your holy name.

You say that all those who are
weary and burdened
can come to you and we’ll find rest.
You are gentle, you are
humble in spirit
I’ll follow you, I want to learn.

You hide your teaching from the
wise and learned
You show yourself to little kids.
I want to let go of all
that brings a burden.
Make me young and new again.

You chose me for a purpose;
your yoke is easy.
You give me what my soul will need.
Subject to violence in the
kingdom of heaven,
but come to you and we will live.

 


How to Introduce New Songs

In the last blog post I wrote a little about why we need new songs in the church.  Today I’m typing a few thoughts about HOW to introduce new songs at church.  Have you ever been at a conference or an event where there were just too many new songs?  You are enjoying the moment and the corporate gathering, but also a little bit frustrated because you would like to be able to worship and sing out, but you just don’t know the song well-enough to do so yet.  So while we don’t want our times of worship to grow stale with only worn-out songs, we also should be careful about timing, placement, and method of introducing new songs.

Choosing Songs

It’s my passion and desire that everyone in the congregation sing, and most people can’t sing very complicated melodies.  So I’ve purposely made it a goal for a long time to write very simple songs for congregational use.  (Some time later I’ll write about some of my insecurities about that when it comes to how talented musicians can sometimes view my music.)  It’s up to you to figure out what works for your congregation but simple ones tend to get the best results as far as congregational engagement.

Here’s an important point —the music/songs that inspire me personally as a musician or even on my own spiritual journey are not necessarily the same songs that I’m going to choose to use for congregational singing.  Those are three different things:  My personal walk with God, my role as a worship leader, and my own musical development.  Those of you who are more gifted musically might have to limit your scope a bit when it comes to meeting the needs of your congregation in corporate worship.  But feel free to create and stretch yourself as far as your own musical exploration in other arenas.  You might need a creative outlet.  Sunday is not primarily a creative outlet; it’s about serving the church.  (At least that’s my opinion.)

Churches can definitely learn to sing more complicated songs, or songs that are harder to sing the first time; just know that this will need to factor into your plan.  If you have a one-time event and you want everyone to sing, you should choose familiar songs or pick something simple, if it’s a new song.  If you are introducing some new songs to a congregation that you’re going to be singing for a while, you can take your time introducing them over a span of time.  There are quite a few songs that we first introduced as more of a “performance,” but over time have become congregational favorites.

Setting Options

You might have had a church leader tell you “no new songs on a Sunday ever.”  I totally get it.  It’s that awkward thing of people not knowing the song —they are “supposed” to be singing on it, but they don’t know it yet.  I think new songs can be introduced on a Sunday if done the right way (more on that below), but if not, there are many other ways to get new songs going in your group.

Midweek – This has been our top choice for introducing new songs.  We usually do a more stripped-down version of the song (if it is to eventually be a full band song) at a midweek — just an acoustic guitar or piano accompaniment.  We might take time to teach the church some of the harmonies if time allows.

Worship Night – A Friday or Saturday Night worship night is a great opportunity to introduce a batch of new songs.  I would just recommend not more than 1/2 of what you’re singing be new.  Think of when you go to see a favorite band —they play both the classics everyone loves and the new songs off their upcoming album.

Small Group / House Church – I think trying out a song with a small group of people is absolutely the best way to get an idea of how effective a song is going to be with the whole church.   The ideal is about 20 people.  You get a sense of if the key is going to work, if both men and women can sing it, if people are following the melody.  You can really hear how it’s working, more than on a Sunday when your singers are mic’d up and you have a band playing and it’s harder to hear if the church is really getting it.

Placement in Service

If you do a new song on a Sunday, here are some best practices I’ve found.  Probably obvious, but don’t do more than one new song on a given Sunday.  Don’t use the new song for a key moment in the line up — for example as the first or closing song.  It can work right before a lesson or right after a lesson if it is very topical to the lesson.  (For example we had a worship series from the book of Daniel called “In the Eye of the Storm” and we introduced the song with the same name and general idea as the sermon series.)  In general I like to “sandwich” new songs in between two familiar ones.  It especially helps if you can make the new song lead naturally into a powerful song people know well already (like if it’s the same key, tempo/feel, or theme).

I think it’s important to mention to the congregation that it is a new song.  When people visit our church one of the things they always comment on is that everyone is singing.  On a new song that is not going to be as much the case though, so it’s helpful to explain why.  You can say something like, “Betty is going to perform a new song for us that we’re going to be singing in the weeks ahead.  Feel free to just listen, or to sing along as you catch on.”  First time it’s introduced, don’t keep telling the church to “sing out” if they don’t know it yet!  (Unless it’s a very simple song and they can get it the first time.)

Finally don’t be afraid of repeating new songs!  That’s they way we learn them.  Remember that typically for every one time a church has heard a song, the worship team has heard it about 5 times — including preparation, rehearsal time, sound check, etc.  So repeating the songs is key to your congregation learning them.  At youth camp every year we have four nights of 40min sets of worship.  We always plan to introduce about 4 or 5 new songs over the week, and we sing them over and over.  By the end of the week it’s always so awesome to hear all the campers belting out the new songs they learned that week!

Keep singing!  Love to hear from you about any new songs you’ve been singing that work well.  Feel free to leave a comment below.


Why New Songs

What would life be like without new songs? I was driving with my son the other day and one of those songs came on that had been way, way, way overplayed for a couple years straight and we were both like “change the channel!” Some songs seem to never grow old, but others definitely tire out. You might be surprised to hear I get tired of my own songs, and that there are those we might not sing for several years in my congregation. (After a while they become fresh again, and its fun and nostalgic when we bust them out after a long break.)

The Bible is full of references to new songs. I just read this verse yesterday — it’s from what’s known as “Second Isaiah” (chapters 40-55) some of my absolutely favorite parts of scripture, addressed to God’s people after they have endured suffering and discipline at the hands of the Babylonians yet face a new future in the Remnant who will return to the homeland. Isaiah 42 is one of the “Servant of the Lord” passages, identified as the Remnant of Israel and ultimately finding fulfillment in Jesus Christ. But look what God says about his work in the world and our response to it:

“I am the Lord; that is my name!
I will not yield my glory to another
or my praise to idols.
See, the former things have taken place,
and new things I declare;
before they spring into being
I announce them to you.”
Sing to the Lord a new song,
his praise from the ends of the earth,
you who go down to the sea, and all that is in it,
you islands, and all who live in them.
Let the wilderness and its towns raise their voices;
let the settlements where Kedar lives rejoice.
Let the people of Sela sing for joy;
let them shout from the mountaintops.
Let them give glory to the Lord
and proclaim his praise in the islands.
The Lord will march out like a champion,
like a warrior he will stir up his zeal;
with a shout he will raise the battle cry
and will triumph over his enemies.   –  ISAIAH 42:8-13

No matter what chapter in the story of his people, God is always about NEW. New songs, new places, new things. That’s why something in our spirits connects with new songs, new messages, new ideas, new conversions. We need new songs in the church.  God does something new, and we sing a song of praise about it.

Next week – HOW New Songs. Anyone who has led worship for a while has had a new song crash and burn. Next week I’ll write a little about HOW to introduce new songs.

New Chord Charts – I realized it has been a while since I updated the chord charts page – I just uploaded a bunch of new chord charts from the last few years (plus updated a few) — here is the list of new charts I uploaded – I few are new songs of mine, others are newer songs or arrangement by other Christian artists.

I Need You – Donnie McClurkin
Soldier
Emptied All
O Come to the Altar
Reckless Love
Ven Espiritu Ven
It Is Well (Bethel)
Beneath the Waters
Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen)- Christmas version
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
Now Behold the Lamb
Noel – Chris Tomlin and Lauren Daigle
He Shall Reign Forevermore
The First Noel – David Crowder
Joy to the World – Francesca Battistelli
O Come All Ye Faithful – Hillsong Worship
No Longer Slaves
What a Beautiful Name
Holy Spirit
I Belong
Hills and Valleys
Touch the Sky
This Is Living
You’re Worthy of My Praise
God Our Father
How Can it Be
In the Eye of the Storm
Rise
Lay it Down
Te Doy Gloria Gloria
I Wanna Grow Old with You
Higher and Higher (your love keeps lifting me)
David Danced
When the Spirit of the Lord
Blessed Assurance
Lord Reign in Me
Indescribable
Desert Song
Reach
Power of Love
Come Thou Fount
Take Me Back
Lord Your Love
The Power of Love

 


Warrior for God – “The Whole World Will Know”

It was great to get up to the mountains for a couple days to join in an annual men’s retreat hosted by the AV Reach church (aka the Antelope Valley Church of Christ).  It was called “Warrior for God” and Jeff Chacon did an incredible job inspiring us.  He taught some lessons from the life of David, and one of the songs that I shared was this one I had written a while back from the story of David’s encounter with Goliath, “The Whole World Will Know.”  I love David’s confidence, faith, fight, and grit in this story:

David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.  All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” – I Sam 17:45-47

On a side note, I read a great book a while back by Malcolm Gladwell about some of David’s actual advantages in this encounter, based on his speed and expertise with his weapon.  Of course he was an underdog, but sometimes underdogs win by using unconventional means.  No matter what though, it was an epic battle that inspired generations and continues to inspire.  When we stand up for what is right, conquer fear, step out on faith to the glory of God, the whole world will be changed.  “It’s not really about me, I’m just a part of something bigger.  Someday the whole world will know.”

Hope you enjoy this new video I created.  It was fun — I’ll have to do another one of these.  The illustration took about an hour, I think, condensed into 3 1/2 minutes or so on the video.   The music recording is from my 2010 release, The Whole World will Know.  (By the way, here is an older video where I do the song live.)

Here also are the chords and lyrics of this song.  It actually works well as a congregational song — we have sung it with our church many times, great especially for a missions or David-themed service.

 

THE WHOLE WORLD WILL KNOW

You messed with the wrong God
Picked a fight you cannot win and
pretty soon the whole world will know

Got your spear and javelin
But I got the the Lord Almighty
Cut you down and the whole world will know

Oo, the whole world, the whole world
The whole world will know

Go ahead mock me
I know who wins this war and
pretty soon the whole world will know

This ain’t really about me
I’m just a part of something bigger
Someday the whole world will know

Oo, the whole world, the whole world
The whole world will know

I know all that’s behind me
Shown me what God can do
Seen the bear and the lion fall
And now this time it’s you…

 

THE WHOLE WORLD WILL KNOW

Verse

G        /    F/G     /     C/G     /   G

Chorus

G       /     F     /   C     /   G

Bridge

Eb    /   Bb    /   Ab     /  Bb

Eb    /    Bb    /   D     /   D

With the capo on the third fret…

Verse

E   /  D/E    /   A/E    /   E

Chorus

E     /   D    /    A     /   E

Bridge

C    /   G   /   F    /   G   

C    /   G   /   Bb  /   Bb