Tag Archives: worship songs

US Holiday/WG11 Conference – rehearse, seminars, NZ connection, Enfield, Thabite

Day 2 of WorshipGod 11.

A full day of 2 general sessions and 2 seminars, as well as dinner with a family with strong NZ connections. Wow, thank you Lord for such an amazing day!

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Rehearse

There was some more comedy from Mark Altrogge in the morning (it seems like a WorshipGod thing for Mark to encourage and make us laugh with the things he says!)

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Rich Gunderlock and the Bairds led us in singing this morning. This included some songs they had written, including “Completely Done”. I appreciated the way they pointed to Jesus through singing, praying, Scripture reading and words of encouragement.

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The teaching this morning was from Bryan Chapell. He’s written a book called “Christ-centered Worship” which I’ve bought, look forward to reading it soon!

Bryan Chapell taught from Isaiah 6 as a picture or rehearsal of the gospel, and how it can inform the way our services can similarly help us to rehearse the gospel progression: from glory, to grace, to mission.

(Note: You can listen to the MP3 of the message here)

Seminars

We split up and attended two seminars during the afternoon.

William
The first one (run by Bob) covered principles and suggestions when thinking through how to choose songs. There were plenty of really good ideas and things to consider – will be looking forward to see how to apply them when I’m choosing songs in the future.

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The next seminar was even more interesting – a few worship bands signed up to play a song each. Bob gave feedback, encouragement and constructive feedback. What was particularly valuable was some of the comments about band dynamics, voicing, arrangements etc that Bob gave from his accumulated experience with contemporary praise bands.

Cheryl
Two workshops by Doug Gould, a sound technician at Covenant Life Church, were very helpful. Lots of good explanations for how to reduce stage noise, how different types of microphones work and what they’re useful for, and more. These are workshops and learnings our own sound engineers at HBC would be blessed by.

Thabite

For the evening session, Thabite Anyawile – the Caribbean Spurgeon – brought the Word to us from 1 Timothy 4, emphasizing that the Word of God is to be central in our preaching. I would recommend this message in particular to both pastors and worship leaders, as there are principles and applications for both. If the Word is to be central in our gatherings, both should be on the same page!

(Note: You can listen to the MP3 of the message here)

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Some miscellaneous highlights:

    • The worship in song tonight was led by Enfield – and the energy and zeal they had was AWESOME!

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  • We got to have dinner with a family who have a special love for New Zealand. Susan Perdue spent some time in Taranaki as an exchange student in NZ, and still have special connections with her adopted parents that she stayed with. Philip and Susan have three children who are all very talented musicians – their eldest son, Chris, showed me his mandolin – what a neat instrument!

 

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  • It’s a fascinating experience being in a church where there’s a traffic cop to direct traffic in, and where there’s traffic jams after each session. wow.

 

Next: More seminars, Joseph, Live album recording

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Update (26/08/2011): here’s the full series of our time in the USA.

Part 1: Fly, land, drive
Part 2: train, jam, steak
Part 3: sing, meet, glory
Part 4: rehearse, seminars, NZ connection, Thabiti
Part 5: edify, songwrite, organise, gather live
Part 6: mission-focused meetings, instrument shopping
Part 7: Covenant Life, tears, crepes and goodbyes, Giant groceries
Part 8: DC take 2, travelling back, final reflections  

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– William

 

Lessons from leading worship after an earthquake

This past Sunday I got the opportunity to discover first hand leading worship in light of a 6.1 magnitude earthquake. While the earthquake occurred in a different city to us, with New Zealand being the small country it is, many people in our church had indirect or direct links to those affected. It was definitely a different mood to a normal Sunday service.

In between being glued to the live news updates and trying to prepare for the service, God taught me a number of new lessons this week. They’re not original, brand-new insights that no one’s ever thought of before, but they’re lesson I need to learn myself over time. My prayer is that some of this might be useful not just for those leading gathered worship, but also for those participating in it; not just following times of human tragedy, but during other trials, and on normal worship services too.

1. The church needs to sing songs of lament.

If our music repertoire was wholly comprised of upbeat, optimistic praise songs that made no mention of trials/grief/sorrow, in the midst of tragedy we’d have no songs that would adequately recognise suffering in this life, direct our faith and trust to the Great Comforter, or point us towards an eternal hope. A quick read through the titles in the book of Psalms quickly reveal a very broad range of emotions being expressed: joy, grief, anger, sorrow, all in faithfulness to God. Our vocabulary of worship songs should have that same spread.

I’m thankful that at HBC we’ve learnt a number of songs that address the realities of pain and suffering, we could probably benefit from having more. In addition to great hymns like “The Solid Rock“, “It Is Well With My Soul“, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness“, “O God Our Help In Ages Past“, our church know and sing newer ones such as “Blessed Be Your Name“, “There Is A Hope” and “As Long As You Are Glorified“.

But I think we can still grow in this area. I’ve been given a number of good suggestions from various sources that other people have used. Hopefully we’ll get to introduce them to the church over time, Lord willing. Here are some of them:

Of course, there’s also a rich heritage of hymns with a good selection of songs about suffering. A good hymn book should list these out in the theme index.

2. Be slow to speak, especially about why.

Since Tuesday, Christians and non-Christians across the country have been asking the question “Why did the earthquake in Christchurch happen?”. If Facebook and the public media is anything to go by, everyone’s got their two cents about the problem of evil in this world. My primary job as a worship leader is to use biblical truth and music to encourage the gathered church to join in praising God – so most of my focus should be on that, rather than giving my own answer about this topic.

I’m not saying here that during the worship service we shouldn’t mention anything about this issue, the elephant in the room – that would be irresponsible. But if you can, rather let your pastor or the speaker address it – especially if you’re not completely certain yourself about what the Bible would teach us about God’s sovereignty and love in light of moral and natural evil.

In the end, most of my speaking was done in between songs to highlight scripture passages that speak of the Lord’s comfort for us in troubled times (Hebrews 12:28, 2 Cor 1:3, 1 Thess 4:13-8).

As a worship leader, if you find that you’re spending five minutes explaining the meaning of a passage or a truth from a song, then it’s better left to a sermon from your pastor (and this may be applicable for any given service!) What you say should motivate the church to fix their eyes upon God, rather than put the focus on yourself. As John the Baptist wisely stated: “He must increase; I must decrease.” (John 3:30)

3. Don’t do it all on your own.

As the seriousness of the disaster quickly became apparent, it was almost tempting to be overwhelmed by the enormity of the situation. It was helpful to get some perspective from others who’ve experienced trials, but also just other people to sound ideas off. I benefitted greatly from meeting with my pastors to sensitively work through the details of the service. In addition, I looked on the web to see how the Christian world responded to similar circumstances. Haiti. Hurricane Katrina. In particular, if there were insights on leading worship services in light of those situations.

There were two online resources in particular that helped give me a better framework on the practical aspects of leading a service in light of trials, and — more importantly — ministered to my soul by encouraging me to seek Him as the source of comfort and strength amidst my own weakness:

  • Redeemer Presbyterian Church of New York have an audio recording of the Sunday service following the September 11th terrorist attacks. It was a service that mixed a good selection of scripture readings (Psalm 4, Psalm 27, Isaiah 61, Psalm 46, Romans 8:14-38), singing, and a message that helped to address many of the questions I had in my mind on God’s goodness and sovereignty. I found it most moving to hear a man, choked with tears, declare from Isaiah 61:1-11 that “They shall build up the ancient ruins;they shall raise up the former devastations;they shall repair the ruined cities…”
  • Bob Kauflin wrote about how he was able to lead his church in singing God’s praise even as he was going through his own personal trials. The songs for Sunday couldn’t be changed, so instead he changed his response, to “draw great comfort from God through the truths we sang.” He made this great point, which I’ll quote:

We don’t lead others out of a vacuum or a sanitized form of Christianity that bears no resemblance to normal life. It’s important that we take time to grieve, acknowledge pain, and confess our struggles. But when, not if,  you find yourself leading out of weakness, challenges, and trials, don’t minimize what’s going on or succumb in despair to your burdens. Lift your eyes, even as you lift the eyes of others, to the Father whose compassions never fail and to the Savior whose mercies are new every morning.

Whether God changes our trials, or more importantly, changes usthrough our trials, we praise him now in joyful anticipation of the day he will wipe away every tear from our eyes (Rev. 21:4).

For those of us in the younger generation, we need to heed the wisdom of those who have gone before us. After all, suffering is an age-old issue that generations of Christians have had to deal with.

And even more so, it’s times like these that we’re reminded of our continual need to lift our eyes to the Father. He’s the one who ultimately equips us with what’s needed to serve Him – even if it’s leading worship after an earthquake.

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– William

Behold the Lamb of God: By Andrew Peterson

Behold the Lamb of God

This is a fantastic idea – a concept album that tells the entire story of the Bible. Singer-songwriter Andrew Peterson has been touring and performing these songs for 10 years now. The album is made up of about a dozen songs, most brand new compositions, some rearrangements of older hymns, but all of it having a fresh, vibrant sound.

It comes across as a 21st-century version of what Baroque composer G.F. Handel did this a couple of centuries ago with “The Messiah” – crafting and presenting the gospel message of the Bible using good music. The lyrics to “Behold the Lamb of God” are great – they do use a bit of poetic licence in fleshing out some of the songs, but in general stay true to the Scriptures in faithfully retelling “the old, old story”.

Another thing that impresses me is that the album includes songs such as “Passover Us”, “So Long, Moses” and “Deliver Us” that rightly portray the Old Testament narratives (e.g. the Exodus, the rise of King David, the fall of Israel) as foreshadowing, and looking forward the coming of Christ.

And the best thing? You can hear the entire musical/album here for free:
Behold the Lamb of God: By Andrew Peterson. (HT: Jamie Brown)

My favourite song so far is “Labor of Love”, which paints a heartbreaking and gritty picture of the birth of the baby Jesus:

It was not a silent night
There was blood on the ground
You could hear a woman cry
In the alleyways that night
On the streets of David’s town

And the stable was not clean
And the cobblestones were cold
And little Mary full of grace
With the tears upon her face
Had no mother’s hand to hold

And then a bit further on, my favourite lines:

But the baby in her womb
He was the maker of the moon
He was the Author of the faith
That could make the mountains move

What a profound thought — the baby Jesus that needed a nappy change, simultaneously sustaining the entire universe (Col 1:15-17) — captured so eloquently with these lyrics.

Thank the Lord for bringing up thoughtful and creative songwriters that help us to see the Redemption story in new and fresh ways. I’m looking forward to seeing how we could use some of this material in 2011.

But in the meantime, I’d invite you to play the whole album, whether you’re doing some housecleaning, Facebooking or just on holiday.

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– William Chong

Christmas Weekend Service Redux: 25-26 December 2010

For many people, Christmas Day marked the start of the holidays. But I’m thankful to have been part of a faithful music team that sacrificed some family and present-opening time to serve our church family here at HBC.

Since Christmas fell on a Saturday this year, it meant that we ran two consective-day services, and kept the same music team for both days. Interestingly, we ended up having an overflowing auditorium on Christmas Day, followed by a congregation half the size the very next day! No doubt most people had already departed for their well-deserved holiday.

Here’s a recap of the service and the songs we chose this past weekend (You can find links to the set lists of this church and many other churches each week at theworshipcommunity.com).

Order of Service – 25 December

(worship leader: Craig Starrenburg)

1. Joy to the World – Isaac Watts, F.G. Handel. If it wasn’t so ingrained into the Christmas season, I’d love to use this one more often during the rest of the year. It’s a great way to start a service by inviting everyone to “Let earth receive her King; Let every heart prepare Him room, And Heaven and nature sing” – the arrival of God’s son. I liked what Craig said to precede this song – “we are the reason for the season” – for it is because of our sinful state that God came down as man to redeem and reconcile us back to Him.

2. Silent Night – Joseph Mohr, Franz Gruber, John Freeman Young. The lyrics in the third verse stand out to me most with its proclamation of the baby Jesus’s divinity – something that’s still hard to fully fathom the importance of:

Silent night, holy night!
Son of God love’s pure light.
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus Lord, at Thy birth.
Jesus Lord, at Thy birth.

Reading: Luke 1:26-38. This passage describes the annunciation, as Mary is told by the angel Gabriel that she’ll be the mother of the Son of God.

Musical item: Mary Did You Know – Mark Lowry, Buddy Greene. We followed the reading with this song, which helps us to picture what might have gone through Mary’s mind as she contemplated what her child would grow to become:

Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy would one day walk on water?
Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy would save our sons and daughters?
Did you know
that your Baby Boy has come to make you new?
This Child that you delivered will soon deliver you.

We were privileged to have a good friend David Chua sing the solo for this piece (you can watch it here).

Reading: Luke 2:1-14. This passage described the birth of Jesus, and the subsequent angelic chorus that startled shepherds at night, singing: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.”

3. Hark the Herald Angels – Charles Wesley, Felix Mendelssohn. A fitting song to follow the reading.

4. O Holy Night – Adolphe Adam, John Dwight. This is a favourite of many people at HBC, young and old. I enjoy singing this one, though my personal wish is that it the words would be clearer on how exactly “Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother; And in His name all oppression shall cease.” Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the English translation was penned by a Unitarian minister, John Dwight in 1855 – but I’m not too sure. In any case, before using it next time I’d like to explain exactly how oppression ceases in Christ’s name, and be clearer on the gospel of peace that the song refers to.

Sermon: Peter shared a short message, taking a slightly different account of the story of God coming to earth as a man. In the first chapter of John’s gospel, there’s no sign of Joseph and Mary, no angels, no shepherd, no wise men….

The Word Made Flesh – John 1:1-3,14 (Peter Somervell) from Howick Baptist Church on Vimeo.

5. How Deep the Father’s Love For Us – Stuart Townend. We closed with this song, which sums up the gospel really well and spells out the reason why he sent his only Son (to make a wretch His treasure).

Order of Service – 26 December

(worship leader: William Chong)

This was my opening call to worship (penned about 20 minutes before the start of practice):

As I left church yesterday, one point Peter made during the message stayed in my mind for the rest of the day. He made the point that’s particularly relevant in this holiday season of shopping, celebrating, and partying – that everyone, Christian or not, has some sort of a Saviour. Yet for many this festive season, it’s not Jesus Christ – instead, it’s a whole range of functional saviours, to save us from our respective hells.

This morning, your Lord and Saviour could be:
– some Christmas present you didn’t get, to save you from the hell of not having what you wanted
– popularity and prestige, to save you from the hell of being called a loser
– getting married, to save you from singleness hell
– even your children, who you worship above all else, to save you from your childless hell.

But really, all these things if accepted correctly as part of God’s abundant gifts towards us should lead us to praise and worship our ultimate saviour, Jesus – who, “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. [8] And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:6-11 ESV)

We’ll start our singing with a song that’s an invitation to continue our worship of our God, by asking Him to tune our wayward heart to sing of His grace.

1. Come Thou Fount – Robert Robinson.

2. See What a Morning – Keith Getty, Stuart Townend.

3. How Deep the Father’s Love For Us – Stuart Townend.

4. O Great God – Bob Kauflin.

Sermon: Peter gave the church an end-of-year message, challenging us to be steadfast, watchful, and thankful in our prayer life.

Persevering in Prayer – Col 4:2 (Peter Somervell) from Howick Baptist Church on Vimeo.

5. Let Your Kingdom Come – Bob Kauflin.

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It was a very busy weekend – in the morning prayer on Sunday morning, everyone looked shattered from a full-on Christmas Day with family and friends. But by God’s grace we made it through, and the gospel was proclaimed this weekend. So we happily cry out soli deo gloria – to God be the glory!

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– William Chong

HBC-EFC Combined Service Redux: 12 December 2010

Here’s the weekly recap of the Sunday service at my home church. This week we joined in worship with brothers and sisters from the Evangelical Formosan Church NZ (a Mandarin-speaking congregation) – naturally there was quite a different, yet immensely exciting feel to the day! I led the service, which was ably translated by Paul Young from EFC. Peter preached from Isaiah 52:7-10 on what the prophet announced as “good news”.

Order of Service

(if you click on each title, you’ll get a link to a video or resource related to that item)

Call to worship – reading from Romans 15:1-13. This passage covers both the fact that salvation will extend to all nations, and that it comes through the Jewish lineage as correctly predicted by the prophet Isaiah. Since it was a bilingual service, our reading was done in English, then Mandarin Chinese.

In fact, we sang all the worship songs in both English and Mandarin – the singers swapped between the two languages while the congregation was free to sing in the language they were most familiar with. It was quite a sound to hear the same song sung simultaneously in two different languages. A foretaste of Heaven!

1. O Come, All Ye Faithful/齊來,宗主信徒 – Frederik Oakley, John Wade.


Often these carols are so familiar that it’s tempting to revert to a tried-and-true arrangement (in most cases, 4-part keyboard and voice). We tried to give it a modern arrangement while keeping it as congregational as possible. The chord progressions from Third Day’s rendition were a great help, and helped lend some exuberance to the singing of words like these:

Word of the Father,

Now in flesh appearing;

O come, let us adore him,

O come, let us adore him,

O Come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord!

2. Joy to the World – Isaac Watts, G.F. Handel.


This is a good carol as it not only rejoices in His arrival (verse 1), but also His atonement for our sins (verse 3), and His eventual return to reign (verse 4). There’s a number of carols that, although speak of good truths, end up leaving the King of Kings and Lord of Lords in the manger. Thankfully, this is not one of them!

HBC Item: Hide Away in the Love of Jesus – Steve and Vikki Cook. In the time of Christmas, we need reminding that not everyone is in a festive season of life. Some may have lost their jobs, some may be under trials, persecution, and other reasons. This song (along with many others on Sovereign Grace’s “Come Weary Saints” CD) has powerful words that point us, in our pain and our sorrow, to find our refuge in Jesus Christ:

Come, hopeless hearts, do not despair

Hide away in the love of Jesus

For ten thousand joys await you there

Hide away in the love of Jesus

One of the first things I noticed about this song was that it would work with Chinese instruments, because of its pentatonic melody. For our arrangement, we were blessed to have the addition of a guzheng, a Chinese zither. Due to our stage layout, most people didn’t see the instrument, but the harp-like sounds were absolutely serene and intertwined beautifully with the heartfelt singing from our soloist, Mana.

EFC Item: Rejoice Greatly, O Daughter of Zion/錫安的兒女快樂歡欣 – G.F. Handel. (from Handel’s “The Messiah”). The lyrics of this aria are straight from Zechariah 9:9 – one of the prophecies fulfilled by the coming of Christ. This was sung beautifully by the EFC soloist.

EFC Item: 普天下去傳福音 Go and make disciples of all nations. This was quite cool – they had a 20-strong choir. Maybe if the Lord wills, one day…

3. Hear I Am To Worship (Light of the World) / 世界的光 – Tim Hughes. For those who have turned away from their sin and put their trust in Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, the words from the bridge carry an extra depth of meaning:

I’ll never know how much it cost
To see my sin upon that cross

Those redeemed by His atoning work on the cross will never know how much it cost: the judgement they deserved was poured out on Christ instead… what amazing grace!


4. How Great is Our God / 我主真偉大 – Chris Tomlin (Listen in Chinese).

Good News – Isaiah 52:7-10 (Peter Somervell, Paul Young) from Howick Baptist Church on Vimeo.

Communion: I Offer My Life / 主我獻上生命給你 – Don Moen (Listen to our arrangement of it in English/Chinese). This was a little scary, as I tried to sing the whole thing in Mandarin. But thanks to the Lord and His provision of Google translate (which now includes a “read phonetically” function – try it!), I think it went alright! Update: you can hear the whole thing here: http://www.reverbnation.com/play_now/song_6422830

Reciting the Apostles’ Creed. The EFC church do this every week, and it’s a great summary of the basics of the faith. We opted for the Lutheran version for English, so as not to stir anything up with the use of the phrase “the holy catholic church” from the original.

5. In Christ Alone / 耶穌是我唯一盼望 – Stuart Townend and Keith Getty (Listen in Englishlisten in Chinese).

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Some further thoughts:

  • If you’re interested, here’s the powerpoint presentation we used during the service. And here’s the lyrics sheet that Mana and I used: since we couldn’t read Chinese characters, we cheated and wrote the pinyin pronunciation next to each word!
  • It’s always helpful to make everything as clear as possible beforehand so there’s as little distraction as possible – even if it meant planning all the songs, verses/choruses, repeats, readings, thoughts beforehand.
  • Thanks to one of the members of EFC, we got a bit of a video team together to help film the service and the items. So there’ll be more video to come (once it’s edited!)

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– William Chong