February 25, 2013 | Get free updates of new posts here
Hillsong United releases their new album Zion tomorrow! It has been over two years since their last studio album so anticipation has been building for this. I’ve had the chance to listen to a preview copy of this CD for a few days and I will tell you that while Zion is certainly a new direction for Hillsong United this album is full of great melodies and songs which will find their way into churches around the world.
Much more layered, more complex arrangements, no more thick driving guitars, this is a matured, grown up version of Hillsong United we hear on Zion. This album is going to find a new audience but I don’t think that was their intention:
To label Zion as a fresh sound is to understate its originality. “In the aftermath of Aftermath, we all took a little break and in that time caught a fresh vision for what it is that we do, why we do it, and what it means to be a part of the church,” UNITED’s Joel Houston shares.
Matt Crocker continues his growth as the primary worship leader for these albums – from the opening Relentless to the first single, Scandal of Grace to the closing King of Heaven.
If Hillsong knows anything, it’s how to spread the word and get people excited about a new project. They’ve done a great job of releasing resources for this album even before the songs were available so you’ve probably come across one of the lyric videos like this one for Scandal of Grace:
I wanted to share this album with you and thanks to the fine people at EMI we’ve got TWO copies of this CD to give away. Instructions are below in this little widget but you’ll get entries into this giveaway by liking, sharing, following and tweeting. Since there are TWO copies to give away you can win one and your friend can win the second copy!
This is a quick giveaway – we’ll close the contest Friday, March 1 and announce winners that day. Good luck!
February 25, 2013 | Get free updates of new posts here
Being aware of some of the activity and pressures behind some of the decisions we make is a good thing. If you know me, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of the church – there really is nothing quite like her. Because of her uniqueness, the church is sometimes susceptible to pressures and influences which need to be examined in a unique way.
To be honest, this is the main reason I don’t listen to Christian radio. Having my worship leading decisions influenced and pressured by what is being marketed to Christians becomes dangerous ground to tread. Songs which do well on radio are not necessarily songs which I want to use to lead worship for my church yet the pressure and the influence of those songs is certainly present.
I am not one to come down hard on marketing or outside influences having their way in the church but if we equate radio/marketed success too closely with the favour and blessing of God we walk a dangerous road.
I came across a series of videos from Warren Cole Smith where he talks about this issue and I wanted to share with you just part of one of these videos because it relates to you as a worship leaders and how you choose the songs you use to lead your church in worship.
Watch this 3-minute video just to be reminded of some of the influence and pressure behind some of the decisions we make and consider if any of this is at work in your own ministry. I’ve also included a transcript of Mr. Smith’s words below this video.
You’ll want to jump forward in this video to 5:14.
Have you ever considered why we don’t sing ‘A Mighty Fortress is Our God’, a 500-year-old hymn in our churches, but we will sing a modern song that might have been on the radio a couple of months ago?
Well, part of the problem, or part of the reason we do that (and again I’m not making a judgement at this point as to whether this is good or bad – I’d just like to ask you to consider the question), is that the songs that we hear on the radio today produce a revenue stream for somebody.
In fact, they often produce a revenue stream for many people, so the songs that we hear on the radio today are actively promoted to pastors and worship leaders all across the country, whereas a song like ‘A Mighty Fortress is Our God’ is not.
Without making any judgements about which one is better or which one is worse, let me simply say that it’s interesting that we could sing songs like ‘A Mighty Fortress is Our God’ for almost 500 years in our churches, but in the course of 30 years that song has almost completely disappeared from the menu of our churches.
Whether you think that’s a good thing or a bad thing, it’s an interesting thing, and I don’t think it happened by accident. The reason it happened is because the Christian Industrial Complex is at work – it’s always promoting the next new song, and usually these new things are given to us by Christian radio.
I’m not talking about just music, but I’m talking about the latest speakers, the latest books – everything comes to us via Christian radio. Christian radio is listened to mostly by Christians, but about 30% to 40% of folks who listen to Christian radio are non-Christians.
So we’ve got an unfortunate situation in America today where we have non-Christians having a major role in deciding what songs and what content comes on Christian radio, that creates a revenue stream for us or for the folks that produce that content that allows them to promote that material into the churches as well.
Once again, I’m not asking you at this point to say that that is a good thing or a bad thing – I’m just saying that it is a new thing, it is a different thing, it is an interesting thing that we need to be mindful of as we consider how we as Christians are to behave in a media-saturated world.
I think this is important theologically for a couple of reasons. One (and probably the primary one) is what I have in this last bullet here – it says that we need to be ever mindful of the fact that we are not consumers, we are humans.
We humans are not consumers who need to be satisfied, but we’re sinners who need to be justified before a holy God.
I believe that whenever we allow industry to thrive and ministry to suffer, that we confuse those two realities, and I think we do so to the peril of souls and to the danger of the church overall.
February 22, 2013 | Get free updates of new posts here
I’m excited to share with you this second instalment of the Final Friday Guest Post series. Last month Daniel Bashta wrote about awakening the dreamers and today I’m excited to post this great article from Phil Cooke.
Phil Cooke (web|twitter|facebook) is this really unique combination of brilliant, hilarious and talented. It’s pretty scary, actually. He’s one of my favourite follows on twitter, I’ve had the opportunity to hear him speak in person and the proof of his dedicated creative ability is in the pudding, so to speak. I’m so thankful he wrote this article that I’m able to share with you. Read it – you’ll be challenged and encouraged – and then connect with Phil online and continue learning from him. I know I do!
An internationally known writer and speaker, Phil Cooke has actually produced media programming in nearly 50 countries around the world. In the process, has been shot at, survived two military coups, fallen out of a helicopter, and in Africa, been threatened with prison. And during that time – through his company Cooke Pictures in Burbank, California – he’s helped some of the largest nonprofit organizations and leaders in the world use the media to tell their story in a changing, disrupted culture.
Should We Worry about Offending Church Members?
In my new book, “Unique: Telling Your Story in the Age of Brands and Social Media” I explain that “branding” is essentially a compelling story that surrounds a product or company. Corporate giants like Apple, Nike, and Starbucks have built powerful brands that tell persuasive stories about their products. But the truth is, it was Christianity that invented the principles we now call branding. But today, Christians are rapidly losing our ability to share their story in a compelling way. As a result, the church continues to slide into cultural irrelevance.
Lately I’m reading Dorothy Sayers (1893-1957). She was one of the famous “Inklings” – the group of writers at Oxford that included C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. In her book, Letters to the Diminished Church, she writes:
“First, I believe it to be a grave mistake to present Christianity as something charming with no offense to it. Seeing that Christ went about the world giving the most violent offense to all kinds of people, it would seem absurd to expect that the doctrine of his person can be so presented as to offend nobody. We cannot blink at the fact that gentle Jesus, meek and mild, was so stiff in his opinions and so inflammatory in his language that he was thrown out of church, stoned, hunted from place to place, and finally gibbeted as a firebrand and a public danger.”
In our present day efforts not to offend, I wonder if that’s taken some of the distinctiveness out of our faith. Granted, most of the people Jesus offended were the religious folks. When Jesus was confronted by sinners or the suffering, he was far more tender and gracious. He saved his most fiery volleys for the hypocritical types within the church.
Also, understand that when I talk about offending, I don’t mean for stupid reasons. Wildly colored hair, prosperity preaching, Jesus junk products, cheesy, out of date approaches and styles – no one has the right to be stupid in their presentation of the Christian faith.
But today, we hear pastors try everything in their arsenal to defend a point of doctrine without actually using the scriptures. We think the audience will “relate” to it better, when it may actually be positioning the Christian faith as just another lifestyle choice, and not the raging fire that transformed the Western world.
I wonder in our well intentioned desire to embrace the culture, if we’re losing the very heart of the greatest story ever told? Are we trying so hard to be hip and contemporary, we’ve lost sight of the fact that the Christian faith is compelling, not because it’s nice, cool, or positive, but simply because it’s true.
I think if we really believed that, it would dramatically change the way we present the Christian message.
February 21, 2013 | Get free updates of new posts here
You probably have a Facebook account (mine is here), your church probably has a Facebook page (ours is here) but I noticed something pretty incredible on Facebook yesterday that I hadn’t seen before. Facebook is taking recognition and recommendation to a whole new level!
You know how it works: You post a link on your Facebook page, your friends click the link or like the link, they might share the link with their friends. Great.
But what if the link is related to someone else’s content or page? What if Facebook could recognize the content of the link and recommend a page where you can get connected to more of that person’s content.
People of the internet, welcome to the future!
Now I know I’m not the smartest guy around but I’m pretty sure this is a new thing for Facebook. If not, I still think it’s incredible!
Think about this: My friend Shannon posted this link from YouTube, not from Chris Tomlin’s page or his website. Facebook was able to recognize the link, that it was content from a Chris Tomlin song and then recommended that I like Chris Tomlin’s page on Facebook.
Does this not seem crazy to you? Am I alone in thinking that this is actually pretty incredible? I hope not.. because I actually think it’s pretty incredible!
So why does this matter? Let me give you three big things I noticed about this:
There are actually more links to Chris Tomlin’s Facebook presence than to the actual link on YouTube. Clicking play on the video itself would play the video within that window on my Facebook news feed. Clicking the title of the song would take me to YouTube and play the video there. Clicking Chris Tomlin’s name would take me to his Facebook page and clicking the Like Page button would keep me in Facebook and give me another opportunity to click through to his Facebook page. Final score? Facebook: 3, YouTube: 1. That’s pretty good considering the link actually originated from YouTube.com!
Facebook is essentially driving more traffic back to itself rather than having users click through to outside sites. Think about your church – what if someone posted a sermon audio link or event promo on their Facebook page. When it shows up in their friends’ news feed there could be a link below that with a direct link to your church’s Facebook page as well as the call to action Like Page button. Essentially a friend-generated sponsored story promoting clicks and likes for your page.
Facebook never stops changing. You may or may not think this is an improvement. You may not think it’s even that big of a deal. The point is that Facebook never stops developing, never sits still and is always looking at ways to generate more likes, more clicks, more engagement, more users and more minutes on their site. Your Facebook strategy (if you have one) must evolve and change along with the platform.
February 19, 2013 | Get free updates of new posts here
Two beautiful examples of the power of technology to get new creative content into the hands of worship leaders all around the world quickly: Hillsong United is streaming their new CD “Zion” on iTunes and Elevation Worship is streaming the DVD of their new CD “Nothing Is Wasted”.
Here’s how Hillsong United describes the new CD “Zion” –
The whole point of this album is the realization that God is doing His thing, and He has already done it, He is establishing His Church, and it’s through us.
The album was birthed out of our cry, “God I want to be a part of what it is you’re doing, if that means write a song, we’ll do our best to write the best songs we can. If it means serving the poor and those who are hurting, then we’re going to do it better than we’ve ever done it before. If it means just being a great son or daughter, brother or sister, mum or dad – wherever it is we find ourselves – then let’s do that better than we’ve ever done it before.
Go here to stream the new Hillsong United CD “Zion” in iTunes US & Canada.
Elevation is releasing the newest Elevation Worship album “Nothing Is Wasted” and today ONLY they are streaming the DVD of the album live on their site. Another great use of technology to get these songs directly to worship leaders all around the world.
February 14, 2013 | Get free updates of new posts here
Worship leaders, church tech volunteers and creatives are always looking for training opportunities and conferences where they can develop their skill, reach a new level of inspiration and connect with others who are passionate about the same kinds of things as they are. Those kinds of conferences are few and far between in Canada but I want to tell you about two conferences happening this year for church tech volunteers, worship leaders and creatives and encourage you to attend one or both of them!
Reconnect Tech Conference is happening April 26 & 27, 2013 at Forward Church in Cambridge. The focus of this conference is to give practical, relevant, hands-on training for volunteers in the areas of audio, video, lighting and tech leadership. I’m privileged to be part of the lead team putting this conference together and our heart in this has always been smaller churches. Some of the best and most effective teachers and trainers are coming to be part of Reconnect and we know you will leave this conference equipped to do your job even better than what you are already doing!
After an incredibly successful launch last year, we have agreed to bring back the Reconnect Tech Conference in 2013. Registration is only $59 and is open now at www.thereconnect.ca. You can also follow Reconnect on twitter @reconnecttech and find more on Facebook.
Our lead team is working on details but we wanted to get this to you as soon as possible so that you could add the dates to your calendar and plan to be there with your entire tech team.
Some of the breakouts being offered as part of this conference include:
Basic setup and soundcheck
Stage design on a dime
Dreaming with a vision
Running a soundcheck
Knowing your mixer
How to tell a story through video
And lots more!
The main session speakers for the Reconnect are Greg Atkinson and Stephen Brewster. They come with loads of experience and expertise with years and years of results to back up what they are bringing.
Spread the word on this conference for tech volunteers and head over to the website to get registered today – www.thereconnect.ca
The second conference I want to tell you about is the Create Conference which is happening June 3-5 at Central Community Church in St. Catharines, ON. Create is this beautiful mashup of creativity and technical know-how which will take your inspiration to a whole new level while at the same time giving you some really practical instruction in how to get there.
The team behind Create is some of the best people I know who are actually producing really great results. Their Sunday morning services are impactful and memorable, the media they are producing is really high quality and their commitment to excellence is inspiring. Carving out time for you & your team to attend Create would be a really great decision.
You can find all kinds of info on the Create Conference website at www.createconference.ca or on Twitter @createcanada but here is a list of just some of the incredible speakers they’ve got lined up for this year’s conference.
Check out this list:
And lots more!
All of these names may not be familiar to you but I promise they will deliver quality content and the conference is shaping up to be a great experience for you & your team.
February 13, 2013 | Get free updates of new posts here
“Always Been About You” is the new album from Fellowship Creative and Fellowship Church. The album just released on February 12 and I’m pretty happy to share it with you on the blog today. Read through to the bottom of this post to find out how you can win a copy of this new CD.
Fellowship Creative has released a few albums already – “Closer to the Start” is one of my favourites and an album I go back to pretty regularly when I need some high energy inspiration and creative fuel. On this new album, the songwriting is fresh, the melodies have got a great feel to them and overall the album seems to lean in a direction which isn’t heard very often in the modern worship movement.
And that’s a good thing!
From Fellowship Creative:
“Creativity has been around from the very beginning. We believe we were made in God’s image-the ultimate creator. Therefore, we are creative beings. So the question isn’t “if” we are creative, but how we use our inherent creativity.”
Not every church is going to be able to sing these songs but that’s okay. If anything you will hear some new ideas which will inspire you to rethink the songs which have become common and run-of-the-mill in your own context. You’ll get some seeds of creativity which will lead to new songs and fresh expressions of what God is doing in your congregation.
Here’s some more info on this album and the heart behind it from a couple of the Fellowship Creative guys and then scroll to the bottom for instructions on how you can WIN this album.
You can find out more about Fellowship Creative and the new album here:
February 12, 2013 | Get free updates of new posts here
Worship leaders – you’ve probably begun planning or at least brainstorming your Easter services and are looking for some final ideas on the best worship songs you can use that weekend. Always a good idea to stay simple at Easter, sing lots about Jesus and focus on the resurrection.
The good people at PraiseCharts have put together their list of top 10 Easter worship songs and I really like it. This is a good list of worship songs – most or all of them will be familiar to your church, several of them are traditional reworked with a new chorus and the lyrical content of each one is very solid.
These aren’t really presented in order but here’s the list of top 10 Easter worship songs from PraiseCharts:
February 11, 2013 | Get free updates of new posts here
Seeds Conference at Church on the Move in Tulsa, OK has been on my radar for a couple of years and I’m excited to finally be going this year. Will you be there? Let me know – I’d love to connect if you’ll be at Seeds!
Seeds Conference is March 6-8, 2013. Registration is sold out but they do have an online streaming option.
Workshops are targeted across several ministry areas – creative, students, kids, guest services, senior pastors and pastoral care – and I’ll be focusing on the creative ministry workshops:
Delivering A Great Vocal Performance
Creating A Mix That Rocks
The Elevation Creative Process
Fundamentals of Stage Lighting
Lighting for Video
General Session Talk
The COTM Marketing Strategy
Building A Better Band
Crafting Testimony Videos
Working with Your Senior Pastor
So much great stuff in one conference – I can’t wait!