Doesn’t Modern Worship Miss God?

No, not unless it’s telling you to miss God.

New Life (Colorado Springs, CO) worship leader Glenn Packiam is in the middle of a great two-part piece about modern worship, entitled “The Problem With Our Critique of Modern Worship.” Whether you’re a worship leader or a worshiper (hey, that’s every Christian) I would recommend reading it.

I know why Glenn’s writing this. It’s the same reason I would write something like this. Because when you’re in a place of leadership in an evangelical Christian church, every congregant has an opinion of how church should run, and their way is inevitably the “right way.” Much of this stems around the worship style.

Because we’re Christians, we can’t just tell people their ideas are stupid (even though plenty are). We need to be kind. And because we’re leaders, we must have a thoughtful response.

With regard to modern worship style and contexts, some people feel it’s missing God. They ask questions like, “Why do we need lights?” and “What’s up with all that bass?” which inevitably leads to “Are we running a rock concert or a church service?”

Assuming you already paused long enough to read Glenn’s article, his first point citing where critics often accuse modern songs of having “too many eruptions of repetitive monosyllabic sounds” is brilliant.

“Because it’s Biblical.”

And he brings in quotes from Fuller Seminary’s Old Testament professor John Goldingay to make the point. What might surprise many Christians today is that ancient Hebrew worship music was even more rhythmic and less melodic than anything we have today. And, if I might add from a modal study, our music has far more major chord voicings than anything they used in Middle East traditions, past or present.

But I’d like to offer a few additions to Glenn’s second point regarding the common accusation that our services are “too much like a rock concert.” Glenn does a great job of discerning how Christians can “inhabit the form” of something from the world while not being of the world. Like metaphor and diverse expression, the Church is a wonderful vehicle for an array of communications.

Here’s some more food for thought.

Firstly, what is so bad about a rock concert? Or any concert for that matter? Somewhere, the term “rock concert” has become synonymous in certain Christian circles as being “of the devil.”

News flash, and I know this might be a shocker, but I’ve been to hundreds of rock concerts and I’ve never seen the devil. I’ve never been encouraged to worship the devil. And I’ve never felt the devil. Granted, I may not have gone to the “proper rock concerts” to experience this, but even that proves my point: not all rock concerts are bad, and similarly, not all church services are good. So making a broad generalization is poor grounds for any argument.

Secondly, I’ve seen some amazing things in rock concerts. I’ve seen how lights can be used to minimize distractions and draw a crowd’s attention to something important. I’ve seen how quality mixing, thorough sound reinforcement, and poignant visual and video effects can provide an audience with a memorable, life-altering experience that they’ll never forget.

Isn’t that exactly what we’re trying to do in the church?

So if the question isn’t one of style, but really—if we’re being honest—of content, then what are we promoting with all this technology?

I’m not sure about your church, if it falls into the “modern worship” context or not, but yesterday at mine, our worship leaders talked incessantly about Jesus, lead the church in songs about him, shared scriptures from his Bible, exhorted the church to pray and intercede for the perishing in our community, and prayed for the congregation.

Huh. I’ve never been to a rock concert where that happened. Unless you’re talking about a CCM concert, which I don’t think that’s what critics are trying to cite as evidence.

The truth is, I’ve been to secular rock shows where the front man was more humble than some pastors I’ve met on a Sunday morning. Again, not all, just some. Content always trumps environment.

Why am I so stumped when critics draw the awkward and ill-informed rock concert comparison? Because they’re choosing to use broad strokes when really all they need to say is, “I don’t like electric guitars.” Now at least that would be an honest, accurate statement that we could have a discussion about. Or just say, “I’m always going to think that things were better [in whatever decade they were saved in].” I can work with that! I’m sure that I’ll always think the 90’s were the best. (But they really weren’t).

When we use stereotypes in place of facts, it’s usually because we have not thought out our arguments and believe that generalizations will further impassion our plea. The opposite is true: they undermine our arguments and turn well-meaning people into cause-driven fanatics.

If we’re going to critique anything, let it be whether or not we see the love of Jesus at work among his people. Whether or not we see people using their creative gifts to full effect in directing attention to God and creating an unforgettable experience for others. And whether or not people walk away remembering how exciting it is to see “the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (Psalm 27:13).

From Whence Beauty Came

A culture that values beauty, values life. One of our goals as leaders should be to teach the appreciation of beautiful things.

When we see significance in the complexity of creation as well as in the self discipline of creating, we esteem art to a place of tremendous influence.

Where media was but a mixture of molecules and actions, it is now an expression of something divine, testifying to the life which brought it to bear upon the sole of the recipient.

If a people can learn what is beautiful by appreciating what makes something lovely, that people will embrace the subject from which that beauty came more freely.

Man.

And then God.

Jennifer Sings Adele’s Turning Tables

Sprig Music just put out this video of Jennifer’s in-studio performance of one of my favorite Adele songs, “Turning Tables.” It’s an amazingly difficult song to pull off live, and I’m so proud of my wife and in awe of her talent. Check it out, then share to your friends who appreciate good music.

New Video: Loving You Out Loud

I’m so thrilled to announce Jennifer’s first live video on her new YouTube channel. The song “Loving You Out Loud” represents one of my favorites in her new repertoire, reminding the listener of the joy of first-love and all that comes with it.

Jennifer’s been working so hard on her music over the past several years, and it’s finally time to start releasing it for the world to hear. While her new record is in progress with Sprig Music, we thought we’d start sharing some of the songs as we wrote them: personally and intimately from our home in Clayton, NY.

I hope you enjoy this series as much as I do.

Cheers,

ch:

How To EQ Acoustic Guitar

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One of my jobs as a producer is to continually be on the cutting edge of the recording industry. This means I’m constantly researching modern techniques and trying to implement them in the studio.

It’s in that spirit that I pass on this amazing video from the amazing Craig McDurmot on EQ’ing acoustic guitars.

Enjoy!

ch:

Selling My Gibson Les Paul Custom

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Gibson Les Paul Custom Black Beauty ’54 Reissue 1993 Black

***SOLD***

Guitar Specs

Asking Price: $2,699.00
Condition: Very good
Make: Gibson
Model: Les Paul Custom Black Beauty ’54 Reissue
Finish: Black
Year: 1993
Made In: United States

Yup. I’m parting with one of my favorite guitars, hoping she finds a new home.

History

I’m the third owner of this Gibson, given to me in 2002 while on tour. The man who gave it to me purchased it in an estate sale where it sat in someone’s attic—presumably since its creation, as it was in mint condition. I do not have any paper work on the guitar, only email correspondence from Gibson confirming its serial number, model and manufacture date.

Condition

She’s been used on four of my records and a few US tours (no international travel), so there are four notable cosmetic issues I tried to capture in the photographs: 1.) A small nick below the bridge. 2.) Some nicks on the backside of the headstock (corner). 3.) Some clouding on the back, due to wear against soft clothing and moisture. 4.) Pick markings in strum zone (I tried to turn the guitar into the light so these could be seen—a little difficult to since the guitar is black).

Everything on this guitar is stock, with no damage to pickups, wiring, knobs, zero markers, or selector switch. Frets, perfling, body, neck and head are all in great condition; nothing I can think of. Action is dialed in tight, and with the ’50’s style chunky neck, she’s a dream to play.

The case has the most wear. The handle was losing integrity when I was given the guitar, and broke a few months after. I removed the damaged leather covering of one side (now showing its black plastic core), and re-riveted the flange plate to the case. There are some scuffs on the bottom (pictured). While the interior is in great condition, the cover has some fraying (pictured) where it rests on the tuning heads (from the string ends).

Extras

I’m selling her with strap locks and the strap (pictured). If you’re familiar with the weight of this model, you’ll know why I kept the padded strap with this guitar.

•••

Ask any questions you like. Excited to see this Black Beauty get a new home and more use. As the man who gave this one to me said, “Guitars are meant to make music, not sit in glass cases. Play it.”

•••

Accepted Payment Methods

• Paypal
• Cash
• Check
• Money order
• Credit cards
• Bank wire

Be honest, as that’s how I’ll be.

Shipping Policy

Available for local pickup from Watertown, NY
Ships from Watertown, NY
$50.00 to United States
$100.00+ to Everywhere Else

I’ll box and stuff this guitar and case personally. If you want international shipping, let me know—I’ll need to calculate it for you. Be prepared for customs declaration and duties on your end.

ch:

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Guitars For Glory: Guatemala Documentary Short

Guitars For Glory Documentary: San Cristobal Verapaz, Guatemala from Sprig Music on Vimeo.

•••

Giving stuff away is amazing. Way better than getting something yourself. (It’s almost like Jesus knew what he was talking about).

Jennifer and I had the honor of representing Guitars For Glory during our recent trip to Guatemala last month. This meant surprising three people with brand new guitars. We made sure the cameras were rolling, and managed to produce something we’re all proud of. (Thank you, Sprig Music).

Sure, who wouldn’t like a free guitar?

But what the documentary doesn’t show is all the back-story behind the recipients. Like how Rudy’s father abandoned his family for the US, and Rudy was left to be provider for his four siblings and mother; today, he’s a pillar in his family and his church. Or Roger, who’s given himself fully to educating children, and makes in one year what I make in three weeks. Then there’s Willy, who’s always wanted to lead people in worship on guitar, but knew it’d be impossible, seeing as how it’d take him and his entire family over a decade to save up enough combined money to buy one.

The stories are real. The tears are real. Because the people are real.

And that’s the power we have as being part of the world’s wealthiest people.

Please watch the video. Then thoughtfully consider three things:

1.) Giving to Guitars For Glory so they can continue to spread the message of hope in Jesus through music.

2.) Sponsor a child with Inn Ministries, our hosting organization in Guatemala. I can’t say enough about these people. They’re the real deal, and you’re having a daily impact on children when you give toward their education.

3.) Let me know what you think—about all this. I’d love to hear.

You were born to rock. So get to it.

ch:

Building Memories

This week, we’re hosting Douglas Gresham and Meg Sutherland at Sprig Studios. Doug is a long-time friend, and famed adopted-son of C.S. Lewis; and he’s also Meg’s Executive Producer for a potential record deal we’re working on.

Needless to say, the whole experience has been nostalgic and inspiring. Meg’s music is filled with the “divine melancholy” that Tolkien was famous for capturing; and spending any time with Doug’s larger-than-life persona is always a treat. His stories are captivating, and to hear him reminisce of growing up with Jack is nothing short of spellbinding.

But in the midst of the revelry, I’m deeply aware of the new memories we’re forming together—stories, I hope, that my children will tell of with great fondness.

Seek to live your life today in such a way that your great grandchildren will whisper about your happenings with wonder. Honor those around you, and build a legacy with the integrity of consistent action.

ch:

Pictures from my Instagram feed:

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Making Time for Creating

Tonight, my dear friend Wayne Thomas Batson arrives at our home for a three day writing weekend that we call a Writer’s Bootcamp. We’ve been conducting these annually for the past nine years. Usually, we write, talk, write, eat, drink, write, use the bathroom (separately), talk, write, and then pass out, only to awake the next morning and do it all over again, with the goal of pounding out as many words as is inhumanly possible.

One thing that I’ve learned about the creation process is that it requires me to be intentional. When I was younger, making things just seemed to “happen.” I had loads of free time, and proximity to all sorts of amazing tools. And loads of free time.

(Did I mention free time?)

Today, as creative a soul as I am, producing tangible art—whether books, records or designs—only happens when I make time for them.

Here are three tips that’ve helped me:

Book It

Appointments are typically for people, not for “making things.” While people got premium space on my calendar apps—complete with descriptions, reminders and a courtesy text message if I’m running late—projects normally didn’t. Somehow I treated it as a second class activity.

If we really want to be intentional about creating, we need to treat time frames for our creative disciplines like appointments with people. Schedule the time on your calendar, write a description about what you want to accomplish in that time frame, and set up alerts if you’re late (treating them like text messages that say “You’re late! Get in here for your meeting!”).

Guard It

Merely setting planned time aside for your creative activities, whether professional or pastime, isn’t enough. I would never entertain ducking out of an intense marriage counseling session to help someone with the office printer. But I’m OK with stopping a design session to help someone tape up a box?

No.

All those those people and their tasks are important, just not right now.

Once you’ve scheduled time, keep yourself accountable to it by telling any interruptions to your creative appointment, “I’m sorry, but I’m in a meeting.” Most everything can wait.

Guarding these times includes turning OFF your mobile phone and restricting browser usage (if you need it open at all) to pertinent tasks only. TV, music (if it’s a distraction) and company can also be things that breach your guard.

End On a Cliffhanger

One of the biggest mistakes I made early on in my novel writing career was ending my day’s work when I’d finished a section that had a natural finale.

Big mistake.

Don’t end when it seems right, end when it seems wrong. Call it a day right in the middle of your favorite scene. Favorite color choice. Favorite chorus. Call the session when you’re truly inspired. This not only means that you’ll resume your progress sooner, but ensures that you’ll start back up with zeal. You’ll be eager instead of reticent.

What are some things you do to schedule, guard and inspire your creative disciplines?

Happy creating,

ch:

Raul Midón

Raul Midón live

Yesterday, we discussed what good art is supposed to do, and the fine art character sculptures of Stéphane Halleux and his new animated movie.

Here’s some more inspiring work by multi-disciplined musicians Raul Midón. I really don’t want to say anything else. Just come back here and comment when you’re done watching. I’d love to know what you think.

ch:

Why Teams Always Do Things Better

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There’s an old adage:

Anything worth doing is worth doing well.

I’m pretty sure there’s another one. At least there is for me:

Anything worth doing well is worth doing as a team.

And maybe better still:

Anything you want to do well, you’d better do with a team.

Last night, the team pictured above rallied to put on one heck of a show at Indian River High—the largest campus in our county. The event was one of our youth ministry’s LIFTED events, which mixes music, worship, drama, dance and video to support a Gospel message, concluding with an invitation to accept Jesus.

Here are a few reasons I resist doing things without a team:

They’re Smarter Than I Am

When things go wrong and systems fail, I want to be around people that are smarter than me. Or, at the very least, will look at things with different eyes. This allows problems to be treated with new solutions that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

We had a few unforeseen system integration audio issues during set up last night; work arounds came much faster because ideas were shared quickly and freely. We checked one another’s work and talked through some of the more complex signal paths. Because the teams trust each other and are not threatened, even people not on the audio crew were getting involved and doing their best to serve and troubleshoot.

Humor

When the pressure gets high, you need people around you who can make you laugh. The only other release for pressure tends to be rather destructive: you allow it to mount until you snap. And people or things usually get hurt.

Keeping things fun, even in highly stressful scenarios (and I’d argue especially in highly stressful scenarios) is absolutely critical. Dedicated, hard working people who have a lighter side, and know when to augment situational tension with a bit of levity are crucial for letting teams reset and keep things in perspective.

Humor is also a great way for you as a leader to let your team know you’re not drowning in frustrations when things go wrong. At one moment last night when things were especially difficult, I just decided to start dancing. No music. No beat. Just my moves (which are in themselves hilariously pitiful). It made people laugh and reminded us all to keep the main thing the main thing—our core message: we’re here to share the Good News of Jesus with teens.

Ownership

At the end of the day, saying, “I did all that,” gets rather boring. Not because you’re suffering from a lack of ideas, but because you have no one to share it with.

Doing things together means more people are taking pride in what’s happening. And people that do things together end up building stronger bonds because of the process.

This sense of community not only makes the end product more vivid and colorful, but it’s essential in spreading whatever core message you’re attempting to promote.

•••

Doing things as a team says to history, “We were here. We had something so important to say that we needed many voices to say it with.”

May history never forget us and the future never forsake us.

What are some of the favorite teams you ever worked with? What made them special?

ch:

Quiet But Busy

I’ve had a few close friends note that it’s been quiet around here lately. Quiet, yes. But by no means fruitless. As any who know me might well surmise, my energies have been consumed by other more-pressing activities.

For one, I’m still writing—quite a lot, in fact. But not much of it, if any, is ready for daylight on a public forum. I’ve been writing daily, mostly of theology. While The Sky Riders II is in process, I’m simultaneously working on at least three other non-fiction works, as well as some writings for future songs and messages, all content that I feel needs addressing for the sake of Christians I find myself mentoring and pastoring. This has been further inspired and somewhat initiated by an uptick in my reading and processing of older Christian texts.

Apart from the reading and writing disciplines of my life, I’m in gaged in numerous New Life church activities, all of which have been large in scope and demanding of time. A vision to reach mankind with the Gospel and to make disciples should require nothing less. Our current production of A Watertown Christmas hits this weekend to two sold out audiences. On top of regular Christmas activities, as well as preparations for January’s series and annual fast, my team has had their hands full.

The businesses (CiCis Pizza, Cold Stone Creamery) have also consumed more of my creative attention lately, as I’m overseeing new directives to meet with school administrators and church leaders to ascertain how we might be able to serve their food needs and create win-win scenarios in the community.

I’m also fully engaged in one of my more favorite enterprises at the moment: overseeing the final phases of construction for Sprig Studios, due to open mid-winter. The final electrical work begins today, and we’re building all the custom light fixtures on site. The studio, by nature, begets newfound ventures of music creation, which are also simmering behind the scenes at home and in various nooks of the church.

Life is full and rich, made the most so by my wife, children and close friends, and reminds me of how truly blessed I am to be surrounded by constant beauty, creativity and mission. 2014 holds more adventures still, with calls back to Central America and Europe. May the God of the nations receive the glory that he’s due.

ch: