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).

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.



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.


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.


Gallop Amps


I was at a friend’s 50th birthday Saturday night in PA, and one of his best friends flew in and surprised him from Las Vegas.

Nice friend.

Don Gallop is a church planter, something I respect highly. And as his tent making, he builds custom, one-off amps. As we talked more, I realized this guy can model any board out there, or build to whatever idea you hear. What a gift! From super quiet circuits, to fat and dirty, he can dial it in.

I was totally amped(!), and thought – shoot, if we’re going to buy amps anyway, why not buy a custom build at a fair price, and support a guy who’s planting a church in Vegas?

Now that’s money well spent.

Pass it along.


New Look, Same Incredible Resource: Nina Hopper Vocal Studios

I’m very proud to announce that my amazing, talented, and enigmatic mother – from whom so much of my personality is derived – has officially begun taking new vocal students here in Northern New York.

For those that know about Nina, her diverse musical background, and her history in the greater New York music community, this is an obvious blessing for those in her new home of Jefferson County. Since moving here 10 months ago, I’ve been eager to see what she (and my father) will impart to this region to enrich and beautify the lives those who live here; the joy of appreciating and creating music being just one of those contributions.

For those who don’t know about her, I’m excited to see their response, for she is one of the most talented, enthusiastic, joy-filled people I’ve ever had the privilege to know. And her passion for the arts is certainly one of the main reasons I am thriving as an artist today. I owe her a deep debt of love.

So help me spread the word, if you don’t mind; at the very least, tell those you know in Northern New York about her website. She’s accepting new students at the moment, and getting a terrific response. I’m so excited for her, and for those whose lives will be touched by her just as mine has.

Go make some noise!


Ignite: Musicians Conference


My home church, New Life, hosted the first Ignite: Musicians Conference on our campus in Watertown earlier this week on Tuesday. The heart was to invest into the training and betterment of artists and engineers in our county by bringing in high-end, Christian teachers and coaches at no expense to attendees.

The night consisted of two parts: breakout clinics for individual disciplines, and a group clinic on the main stage with the entire team.

We also asked the teachers to come in early so they could offer private lessons to people in the community (*the only paid portion of the event, with payment going directly to the teachers).

I think the event was a win-win, allowing musicians in our region free access to quality training, and giving teachers a chance to impart their skills to willing players along with giving them a revenue stream.

Here are some pics from the event that I posted on Instagram. Enjoy!















Sing Hallelujah

Mike Kim and Nate Cronk performing “Sing Hallelujah” at Red Booth Studios

My buddies Mike Kim and Nate Cronk just released their new single together, Sing Hallelujah. Go snag the track on iTunes, and watch the music video on YouTube. (You may or may not see a crazy bald white guy in the video). The video was shot on-location at Red Booth Studios in Rochester, NY – shout out to the notoriously good-looking Brian & Kim Moore.

Hope it blesses you and all those you know.


Opening for Phil Wikcham

The only thing better than hosting Phil Wickham at your church is being asked by the promoter to open for Phil Wickham at your church. Such a privilege is exactly what Jenny and I will be doing on Sunday, October 21st at 6pm, along with The Royal Royal.

If you’d like more information, including tickets, please visit New Life.


It Feels Like a Crossword Puzzle (Worship Song Writing with Brenton Brown Day 3)

Today wraps up my third and final day of posting notes taken from the worship song writer’s workshop I sat in on with master song writer Brenton Brown. Of his three points, this was his shortest, but poignant nonetheless.

In fact, I’ll leave it worded exactly as he delivered it.


It Feels Like a Crossword Puzzle

Sometimes writing a song is like trying to fill out a crossword puzzle. Which I suck at. The puzzle says, “Name a five-letter word for a flat service.” After drilling my brain for hours, I decide there simply is no such word. Then in desperation I walk around the house asking people, “What’s a five-letter word for a flat service?”


Man, what didn’t I think of that? Because I wasn’t really dedicated to hunting the word down. I just wanted it easy.

Stop rhyming the last word in a stanza with praise, and name, and grace – there are other words out there that work. Please hunt them down! Work at it!

‘Nough said.


Behind The Scenes


Yet another of my dad’s (Peter Hopper) fantastic sayings growing up was about touring in the music industry:

It’s 90% grunge and 10% glory.

And about sound engineers and production staff:

If it all goes wrong, you get all the blame. And if it all goes right, you get none of the glory.

And while some of my favorite jobs in both music and church ministry go largely unnoticed, they remain the most rewarding. There’s simply something extremely gratifying about knowing you had a part to play in making an atmosphere beautiful.

The Christian Musician Summit that Jennifer and I recently attended was a perfect example of this. The main sessions were held in The Chapel’s worship center (aka “sanctuary”). The scene people walked into each morning and evening – with anyone from Paul Baloche and Brenton Brown to David Crowder and Christy Nockles leading worship – was what you see pictured above. Nothing short of spectacular. And seemingly effortless.

But being the associate pastor production junky that I am, I snuck in for all the sound checks and asked to poke around the stage. (Geeks are only happy to oblige other geeks). What I saw were the “guts” of these main session events: 5 audio staff, 3 camera operators, 1 lighting director, and at least 4 people in the video command booth up top. Not to mention that the physical framework for any set looks more like a sound stage for Mad Max Beyond the Thunder Dome than a gorgeous worship setting.

The most beautiful parts of our lives are those that have the most people behind them and, if all the lights are shining on them, are actually the ugliest.

So here’s to all the people – parents, pastors, mentors and friends – that know the most unattractive elements of our lives can be quite beautiful when set in the right context.



Just Play

[Picture courtesy of @jacobmilea]

Anthony Hoisington asked me to sit in with Brothers McClurg on two songs for worship this morning at New Life.

What a treat.

I appreciated his kindness and desire to honor our house. But I also loved his desire to just play.

Sometimes we need to just play. Because while life’s certainly about responsibilities, stewardship, faithfulness and progression, God ultimately made our lives to be enjoyed by Him, with Him and for Him.

Notice the word enjoy there. It echoes what Jesus said in John 10:10 when he was talking about the reason he came to the earth:

The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows). (Amplified)

Sometimes in life, we just need to play. For the sake of playing.

I cherish my children for encouraging – and sometimes begrudgingly provoking – this behavior in me. Admittedly, I don’t always feel like playing. But there is tremendous value in doing so: responsibilities devoid of the inevitable pursuit of play are unsatisfying.

It’s also training for heaven. One day, your only responsibility will be to play with your Father. (Better start getting used to it).


Music News: Mosaic Tonight, John Tesh in May


Jennifer and I will be performing at Mosaic tonight at 49 Green Bush St., Cortland, NY. It will be my first time back to play in Cortland County in at least 6 years, so I’m looking forward to seeing some familiar faces.

We’ll also be leading worship and I’ll be speaking in a joint service at Cortland Assembly of God Sunday morning.

Jennifer and I also found out yesterday that we’ll be opening for John Tesh at the Watertown Fairgrounds Arena on May 9th. We were approached by Amp
Entertainment last month about the idea, which we loved, and awaited John’s approval. We plan on performing some classic covers as well as some of Jennifer’s jazz originals with a three-piece band.

See you on the road!


Praise Him As If You Couldn’t


Today I live in the United States of America.

Today is Sunday.

Today I was given the chance to freely worship God the Father, God the Son Jesus Christ, and God the Holy Spirit.

I often wonder what it would be like to have been born and raised deaf, only to hear for the first time as an adult, either through a divine miracle or modern technology. Or perhaps blind, only to see later in life. The fact is I don’t cherish my hearing or my vision like that person would.

Similarly I don’t think I cherish what I have at New Life the way a Christian from North Korea would.

Today, worship the Lord as if you couldn’t. Then take note of that person and the way they cry out, lift their hands, dance, celebrate and appreciate the presence of God. Because you’ll need reminding when you forget what you have. ch: