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Bob Kauflin

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Bob Kauflin is the Director of Worship Development for Sovereign Grace Ministries, a family of 80+ churches led by C.J. Mahaney. His responsibilities include equipping pastors and musicians in the theology and practice of congregational worship, and contributing to Sovereign Grace CDs. He was a writer and arranger for the group GLAD from 1976-2006, and is one of the worship leaders at Covenant Life Church, in Gaithersburg, MD, led by Josh Harris. His first book, Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God was released by Crossway in April, 2008. He writes a blog at and hosts the bi-annual WorshipGod conference ( He and his wife, Julie, have six children and ever growing number of grandchildren.

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Planning Sunday's Songs-Plan Contextually

Bob Kauflin | January 18, 2011 | Categories: Blogs | Tags: , , ,

The context for choosing your songs includes background details such as the sermons that have been preached, your congregation's demographic mix andlevel of spiritual maturity, plus weekly variables such as special occasions or events. More

Focus on Projecting Lyrics

Bob Kauflin | January 12, 2011 | Categories: Blogs | Tags: , , , ,

If your church doesn't use hymnals or songbooks, the person handling the projection of lyrics plays a crucial role in enabling people to engage with truth about God. If they're frequently late in putting up lyrics, show the wrong verse, leave a blank screen, or project misspelled words, that can counteract whatever good leadership you might be exercising. That's why I want that person to be humble, trained, and faithful. It also helps when they More

Music Should Display Variety

Bob Kauflin | January 11, 2011 | Categories: Blogs | Tags: , , ,

What did Paul mean when he encouraged us to sing “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Colossians 3:16; Ephesians 5:19)? No one's completely sure.Most scholars agree he seems to be encouraging diversity in the songs we use to praise God. “Psalms” might be referring to the Psalter, “hymns” to songs that praise Christ, and “spiritual songs” to more spontaneous expressions. If that's the case, Paul is encouraging us to sing all our More

Hearing Familiar Words in a Fresh Way

Bob Kauflin | January 10, 2011 | Categories: Blogs | Tags: , , , ,

Musical variety enables us to hear the same words with different effect. “Amazing Grace” has a different emotional impact when it's accompanied by a black gospel choir, a large orchestra, a sustained synthesizer chord, or a lone acoustic guitar. Hymns are especially suited for innovative treatments that help us hearthe words from a new perspective. Moving beyond traditional tunes and arrangements shouldn't bother us too much since most hymns were More

Planning Sunday's Songs-Plan Selectively

Bob Kauflin | January 8, 2011 | Categories: Blogs | Tags: , , , , ,

We have more songs available to sing than anyone in church history. That means we don't have to settle for those that “kind of” say what we want, orsongs that are boring, or songs whose music is more memorable than their lyrics. And we certainly don't have to use songs just because they're popular. Great songs come from a variety of sources. We've used hymnals,worship web sites, independent band CDs, nationally known worship artists,quarterly More

Planning Sunday's Songs

Bob Kauflin | January 8, 2011 | Categories: Blogs | Tags: , , , ,

Every worship leader knows the feeling, the pain, the anxiety, the utter discouragement. Your song list for next Sunday is due in thirty minutes,and you have no idea what to do. Or maybe next Sunday is tomorrow morning. It's late. You're tired. You're staring at a blank computer screen surrounded by stacks of CDs, three hymnals, your worship songbook, and a list of what you've sung for the past five months. Nothing's helping. You pray. And you start More

Selecting Sunday's Songs-Plan Creatively

Bob Kauflin | January 7, 2011 | Categories: Blogs | Tags: , , , , ,

Effective leadership involves more than coming up with a song list. For one, we can vary the way songs are sung. A soloist can sing one verse or a whole song, we can use a choir, or the church can sing responsively with the leader or in groups. Singing congregationally isn't the only way of fulfilling God's command to address “one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:19). We can also change arrangements, tempos, and song More

Planning Sunday's Songs-Plan Progressively

Bob Kauflin | January 6, 2011 | Categories: Blogs | Tags: , , , ,

  First misconception: Playing a song faster will make people worship God more passionately. Not necessarily. Usually it just means they'll have a harder time thinking about the words. Try recording your version of an up-tempo songand comparing it with the recorded version. You'll see what I mean. Speed doesn't equal spiritual impact. If you're not playing to a click track, take your time setting the tempo. Thewrong tempo can hinder a song's effectiveness. More

Planning Sundays Songs-Plan Thematically

Bob Kauflin | January 4, 2011 | Categories: Blogs | Tags: , , , ,

Our unchanging theme every week is the grand story of deliverance that God accomplished for his people through the life, death, and resurrection of JesusChrist. We want to remember this, rehearse it, celebrate it, and respond to it. More

Adjust Your Musical Arrangements and Volume

Bob Kauflin | December 13, 2010 | Categories: Blogs | Tags: , , ,

Most play-by-ear musicians think that being up front means you should alwaysbe playing. Wrong. Varying when we play, how loudly we play, and what we play affects how people hear the words. More

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The Leader

Bob Kauflin | December 31, 2008 | Categories: Blogs, Videos | Tags: ,

Truth and Music

Bob Kauflin | September 9, 2008 | Categories: Videos | Tags: ,

Motivating Congregations to Worship

Bob Kauflin, Sovereign Grace Music | July 1, 2008 | Categories: Videos | Tags:

Right Relationships

Bob Kauflin | June 26, 2008 | Categories: Videos | Tags:

The Leader

Bob Kauflin | June 21, 2008 | Categories: Videos | Tags: ,

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From the Archives: Sentimentalizing, Sanitizing, and Spiritualizing Christmas

It’s difficult, if not impossible, to overstate the significance of the Incarnation. Writers, philosophers, poets, and composers through the centuries have searched in vain for words that adequately capture the wonder, mystery, beauty, and power of Jesus as Emmanuel, God with us. The miracle and meaning of the Incarnation can be so difficult to grasp that we can give up and start to view Christmas in ways that leave us impoverished and unimpressed with the real story. Even in the church our songs and reflections about about Christmas can fail to leave people gasping in amazement or humbled in awe that God would come to dwell among us. Sometimes we sentimentalize Christmas. Sentimentalism is focusing on the sights, sounds, and smells of Christmas that give us good feelings. Dazzling decorations, fresh baked sugar cookies, poinsettias, family get-togethers, gift shopping, twinkling lights, Christmas carols, cards from friends, tree-cutting expeditions, wrapping presents. Of course, all these Christmas traditions are an expression of common grace, for which we can joyfully thank God. My family has developed a few of our own over 30+ years and I look forward to them every year. But man-made traditions aren’t the whole story, or even the main story of Christmas, and they fail to solve our deepest problems or fulfill our deepest needs. Sometimes we sanitize Christmas. We sanitize Christmas when we only present a picture-perfect, storybook rendition of what took place in Bethlehem 2000 years ago. Kind of like the picture above. The straw in the manger is fresh and clean. There’s no umbilical cord to cut and no blood. It’s a “silent night.” The surroundings are strangely free from the pungent odor of manure. Joseph and Mary are calm, cool, and collected. Everyone gets a good night’s sleep. There’s no controversy or gossip surrounding the birth. It’s a pleasant, appealing way to think about Christmas, but obscures the foulness, uncertainty, and sin that Jesus was born into. We forget that rather than coming for the put-together, well-to-do, and self-sufficient, Jesus identified with the rejected, the slandered, the helpless, and the poor. Sometimes we spiritualize Christmas. Spiritualizing Christmas is ignoring Christmas as earth-shattering history and using it simply to promote general virtues like brotherhood, peace, joy, generosity, and love. And tolerance, of course. Again, it’s evidence of God’s common grace and a reason to give thanks that our culture sets aside a time of year, however commercialized it might be, to celebrate and commend loving your neighbor. But the fruit of Christmas is impossible to achieve or sustain apart from the root. We understand what love is by looking not to ourselves and our good deeds, but by considering Jesus, who came into the world to lay down his life for us (1 John 3:16). Preaching or singing about peace without recognizing our need for the Prince of Peace is a shallow peace indeed. By this time, most of us have already made our choices about what Christmas means to us and how we’re going to present it to others. But Christmas comes every year. And it’s not too early to start thinking about next year. More importantly, the glory of God becoming man was never meant to be marginalized to a few weeks. It means something cataclysmic every day. Jesus, the eternal Son of God who before time was worshiped by countless angels, set aside his glory and entered the world through the birth canal of a young woman he had created. He came not into a 21st century environment with trained doctors, sterilized instruments and fetal monitors, but into a 1st century cave filled with flies, animal excrement, and filth. The fullness of deity took of residence in the body of a baby gasping for its first breath. The one who spoke the universe into existence lay silent, unable to utter a word. He came by choice and with the sole intention of redeeming a […]

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O Come, O Come Emmanuel [Studio Sessions]

Here’s the fifth installment of studio session videos from our Christmas album, Prepare Him Room. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel has a rich and varied history. The tune originated somewhere in 15th century France, while the lyrics have their origins in the centuries old O Antiphons, sung or recited by some Catholics and Anglicans at Vespers from December 17 to December 23. Each verse of the carol focuses on a different title for Christ. Depending on which version you sing, we hail Christ as Emmanuel, Rod of Jesse, Dayspring, Key of David, Desire of Nations, Wisdom, and Lord of Might. The most common version of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel was translated by John Mason Neale in 1861 for Hymns Ancient and Modern. As I’ve sung it throughout the years, I’ve often wanted the song to reference what Jesus has accomplished, even as we wait for his return. So for Prepare Him Room, my good friend, Steve Cook, and I set about working on lyrics that focused on Jesus’ role as prophet, priest, and king. We wanted to capture the “already and not yet” dynamic of our salvation. Here’s what we ended up with: O come, O come, true prophet of the Lord And turn the key to heaven’s door Be Thou our comforter and guide And lead us to the Father’s side Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall by His word our darkness dispel O come, our Great High Priest, and intercede Thy sacrifice our only plea The judgment we no longer fear Thy precious blood has brought us near Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Has banished every fear of hell O Come, Thou King of nations bring An end to all our suffering Bid every pain and sorrow cease And reign now as our Prince of Peace Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come again with us to dwell When we sang this version at Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville a couple weeks ago, I was moved by the increasing hope each verse instilled in our hearts as we sang. The video features Rebecca Elliott on piano and vocal, Devon, my son, on acoustic and vocal, Jared Torrence on drums (who since this video broke his hand…), Noah Welch on bass, Neil DeGraide on electric (also the producer of Prepare Him Room), and Emily Donovan on violin. And if you haven’t seen it already, check out the accompanying Prepare Him Room family devotional by my good friend, Marty Machowski. (Image courtesy of Renata Sedmakova from

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Help Us Translate Worship Matters into Spanish!

Since my book, Worship Matters, first came out in 2008, I’ve been greatly encouraged and humbled to hear how God has used it in the lives of planners, pastors, leaders, and musicians to promote singing in the church that is theologically aware, gospel driven, emotionally engaged, Spirit-empowered, and life changing. The core of the book unpacks a definition for a “worship leader.” While I don’t think God has a specific job description for that role in Scripture, the almost universal use of the term led me to come up with a definition I trust is faithful to the Bible. I blogged on it years ago here, but eventually landed on this definition: A faithful worship leader magnifies the greatness of God in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit by skillfully combining Godʼs Word with music, thereby motivating the gathered church to proclaim the gospel, to cherish Godʼs presence, and to live for Godʼs glory.  Since the book came out it’s been published in Portuguese, Indonesian, Chinese, Korean, and Russian. But for some reason, we haven’t been able to find a Spanish publisher willing to take it on. It hasn’t been for lack of trying. I have numerous friends, especially Mauricio Velarde, who have been working on it to no avail. Crossway’s policy is that they’ll only give translation rights to a publisher, not an individual. It’s been my prayer that Worship Matters could be published in Spanish for a number of reasons. We’ve been producing Spanish albums for a number of years. Sovereign Grace has a church in Juarez, Mexico led by Carlos Contreras, that has been faithfully translating and singing our songs for decades. We’ve also been working with our good friends at La IBI, led by Miguel Nuñez, in the Dominican Republic, to produce two Spanish albums, El Dios que Adoramos, and the soon to be released, La Salvación es del Señor. All the while, we’ve wanted to serve our Hispanic brothers and sisters not only with worship music, but theological training. I was starting to think we’d never have a Spanish version of Worship Matters. But this past year, my son, Devon, made contact with Seth Magnuson, who works for The Gospel Coalition. Seth told us about The Gospel Coalition International Outreach and something called Relief Projects. They raise money to publish books in other languages to address the famine of theological resources that exists throughout the world. Through a series of conversations with Crossway and The Gospel Coalition, Relief Projects graciously agreed to take on Worship Matters as one of their books. I was honored and thrilled. They’re seeking to raise $11,000 to produce 5000 Spanish copies of Worship Matters. These will all be given away in various contexts to targeted individuals and ministries. People can also sign up to take copies of the book to Latin countries they’ll be traveling to through Packing Hope. At some point, the translation will be made available online for download or viewing. It’s also possible a publisher might eventually pick up the translation. Why am I telling you this? If you’ve benefited from the English version of Worship Matters, or even this blog, I’m asking if you’d consider giving towards the costs of producing a Spanish version. If 1100 people gave $10 each, we’d reach our goal. To find out more about the project and/or to donate go to the (Spanish) Worship Matters Relief Project page. And whether or not you can give, please pray that God enables the Relief Project to be a means of great blessing to the Church throughout the world for the sake of the gospel and the glory of our great Savior.

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Join Us at WorshipGod UK 2015!

Last year we were thrilled to have our first WorshipGod UK conference in Bath, Called to be Faithful, hosted by Nathan Smith and Grace Church Bristol. It was a joy to link arms with other UK churches and ministries that are pursuing theologically informed, gospel-driven, Spirit-empowered singing in local congregations. Attendees came from more than 10 different countries and over 100 churches to learn, fellowship, sing, pray, and encourage one another. In response to many requests, WorshipGod UK is coming back to the Bath Forum, 7th-9th May, 2015. The theme will be Gathering Around the Gospel. When the church meets, there are a hundred things we can focus on or be distracted by. Political issues. Personal preferences. Making people feel good. Drawing crowds. But there is nothing more crucial for us to do than rehearse, expound, and revel in than the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the power of God and of first importance (Rom. 1:16; 1 Cor. 15:3-4). When our vision for what we’re called to do is clear, there are no ordinary Sundays. Every week is an opportunity to deepen our relationships with God and his people through the gospel. WorshipGod UK is a partnership between Sovereign Grace UK, Grace Church Bristol, and Sovereign Grace Music. But we’re excited about the relationships that have formed and deepened since our first conference. Our guests this year include Kevin DeYoung, Mike Reeves, Tim Chester, Jeff Purswell, Dave Gobbett, Rick Gamache, Matt Searles, Simon Brading, Christian Wegert, and Devon Kauflin. We’ll also be featuring various songwriters and music leaders from the UK. WorshipGod UK isn’t just for musicians. It’s designed to serve anyone who plans, leads, or cares about the gatherings of the church. That includes pastors, worship leaders, service leaders, instrumentalists, singers, songwriters, and tech personnel. But we think anyone who wants to deepen their relationship with God through his Word and the gospel will benefit from coming. The main sessions of the conference will address different aspects of what God calls us to do when we meet as the church. We gather to behold God, study the Word, rehearse the gospel, sing, edify one another, and be commissioned. While attendees can attend any seminars they’d like, we’ll have tracks for pastors, service leaders, songwriters, musicians, tech teams, and general issues. Topics include Encountering God’s Presence, Shaped by the Psalms, Leading Your Church Through Change, Worship in Light of the Trinity, and much more. To make it possible for more to attend the conference we’re starting on Thursday night and ending on Saturday at 5pm. In addition, pastors and their wives are invited to an all day conference on Thursday from 10am-5pm, featuring Kevin DeYoung, Jeff Purswell, and Rick Gamache. On Thursday afternoon from 1:30-5pm, Bob Kauflin will lead a pre-conference seminar for music and service leaders and Steve and Vikki Cook will lead one for songwriters. Registration rates go up 1 Dec, so you’ll save money if you sign up before then. For more info to register go to the WorshipGodUK website. We hope you’ll join us! And in case you missed it, here’s an overview of WorshipGodUK 2014. Sovereign Grace Music on Vimeo.

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The Songwriting Process – Prepare Him Room

A few weeks ago, I sat down with Neil DeGraide, Steve Cook, and my son, Devon, to talk about different aspects of our new Christmas album, Prepare Him Room. One topic we discussed was the songwriting process. Songs rarely come instantaneously. And that can be an encouraging thought for someone currently in the midst of writing a song that sounds remarkably mediocre. When we hear a song on an album we have no idea of the dozens of hours of labor, thought, editing, prayer, conversation, and study that went into it. We only hear the finished product. So in the video below we take time to talk about some of the things that went into the songs on Prepare Him Room. We cover our songwriting retreat, adding additional verses to carols, having a conversation with your song as you write it, co-writing with your spouse, why writing sometimes takes months, and more. The conversation is interspersed with a couple clips from our Prepare Him Room preview sessions. If you’re wondering why Devon doesn’t say anything here, he’s saving up some great thoughts for some of the other videos. Stay tuned. A unique aspect of Prepare Him Room is that the songs on the album are paired with lessons from Marty Machowski’s Advent devotional Prepare Him Room, published by New Growth Press. If you’re a family with younger kids, looking for a new Advent tradition, I couldn’t recommend Marty’s book highly enough. It’s also available as a curriculum. As always, guitar charts, lead sheets, and piano scores for the album are available for free at the Sovereign Grace Music website. You can purchase physical copies (a GREAT Christmas gift to give someone on Thanksgiving) at the Sovereign Grace store, and download it from iTunes, Amazon, or Bandcamp. Also, we’re selling orchestrations for O Come, O Come, Emmanuel and Prepare Him Room on our Bandcamp site.    

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“O Holy Night” Revisited

A few years ago, my friend, Kevin Hartnett, wrote two new verses for the classic and well-loved carol, “O Holy Night.” We ended up recording his version on our new album, Prepare Him Room. We called it O Holy Night (Hear the Gospel Story). Any time you mess with a “classic and well-loved” carol, you’re bound to get some questions. Why change something that has been popular for so many years? Why fix what ain’t broke? The original lyrics for “O Holy Night” were written in 1847 by Placide Capeau, a Frenchman, at the request of his parish priest. The author was so encouraged by what he had written that he asked his Jewish friend and composer, Adolphe Adam, to set the lyrics to music. The result,”Cantique de Noel,” was immediately received by the church. But Cappeau was a wine merchant by trade and not a regular churchgoer. He eventually joined a socialist movement and stopped attending church altogether. In response, his song was banned in France for two decades. But across the Atlantic, the song gained momentum through a translation made by the Unitarian minister and abolitionist, John Sullivan Dwight. To see how much the song changed from the original, here is a literal translation of Cappeau’s lyrics: Midnight, Christians, it is the solemn hour, When God as man descended unto us To erase the stain of original sin And to end the wrath of His Father. The entire world thrills with hope On this night that gives it a Saviour. People kneel down, wait for your deliverance. Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer, Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer! May the ardent light of our Faith Guide us all to the cradle of the infant, As in ancient times a brilliant star Guided the Oriental kings there. The King of Kings was born in a humble manger; O mighty ones of today, proud of your greatness, It is to your pride that God preaches. Bow your heads before the Redeemer! Bow your heads before the Redeemer! The Redeemer has broken every bond: The Earth is free, and Heaven is open. He sees a brother where there was only a slave, Love unites those that iron had chained. Who will tell Him of our gratitude, For all of us He is born, He suffers and dies. People stand up! Sing of your deliverance, Christmas, Christmas, sing of the Redeemer, Christmas, Christmas, sing of the Redeemer! It’s not difficult to see that Dwight moved the emphasis of the song away from the Incarnation as God’s means to redeem men from sin. Instead, his lyrics stressed the universal longing for peace and justice which God’s Kingdom inaugurated. Here’s how Kevin processed all this: I felt that Adam’s wonderful melody and the beautifully poetic and longing content of verse one by Dwight (albeit a poor translation of the French) deserved companion verses that better explained the “thrill of hope” that sinners find in Jesus—the evident theme of Cappeau’s original poem. Verse two, then, was composed to succinctly explain the gospel while verse three was written as an evangelistic appeal.  Jesus is the doorway to eternal life; a “new and glorious morn” await all who sincerely call upon Him as Savior and Lord. Altering hymn lyrics is a practice that is centuries old. One of the more well known examples is Crown Him with Many Crowns, originally written by Matthew Bridges, a Catholic, then later modified by Godfrey Thring, an Anglican. The version most churches sing today combines lyrics from both authors. The traditional lyrics to “O Holy Night,” as Kevin points out, lack any clear reference to the meaning of that glorious night. The verses he added can be found on his website, and we adapted them slightly to end up with this: Humbly He lay, Creator come as creature Born on the floor of a hay-scattered stall True Son of God, yet bearing human feature He entered earth to reverse Adam’s fall In towering grace, He laid aside His glory And […]

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Prepare Him Room Giveaway Contest Winners!

Thanks to all those who participated in the Prepare Him Room giveaway contest. I learned a few things along the way. 1. People can have a hard time counting to 50, or else the joy of commenting on a post can cause a person to wax eloquent and ignore silly contest rules, e.g., a 50 word limit. 2. O Come, O Come Emmanuel is a really popular Christmas song. 3. I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day has more content than I thought. I had forgotten how meaningful the words are: “Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: ‘God is not dead, nor doth He sleep! The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men.’” I picked five winners for their creative entries. Here they are: From Aden: Labor of Love (Andrew Peterson) There in a hole in a ground, there was a manger. It was a filthy hole, a hole full of oozy smells. No Hobbits dwelt here, or would ever want to. There was agony, a foreshadowing of what was to come later on a tree. Blood and tears flowed mingled down onto the straw floor. But amongst the first screams of the newborn, hope had finally breathed it’s first breath as well. This is the True Tall Tale of the Birth of Christ. From Aryan Kevin Catalnan: it is A song about the Newborn kinG, it is an Elegantly Lovely Song. FROM its simplest, it is about THe angEls heRalding this great news about thE infAnt in the manger who wilL eventually be our Mighty Savior. cOme Forth and join in GLoriously wORshipping Yeshua the newborn king. From Luke: One of my favorites is “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence”. And yes, I also appreciate the irony of calling people to worship with a song that calls for silence. From Tim Sharpe: My juvenile humor one first — I always enjoy I hear a recording of “What Child is This?” because I try to guess what words they’ll use for Verse 2: Why lies he in such mean estate
Where ***** and ***** are feeding? Current favorite of this would be Chad Lister, who forsakes the ox and the lamb and the donkey, and just goes with “Where animals are feeding.” Makes me chuckle like an immature middle schooler. Joe I’m hoping for a random selection. And the following people were selected by the Random Number Generator, whose every decision, of course, is determined by the Lord (Prov. 16:33). Christine John Grubb Nathan Mike Chambers Josh Scott Thanks to everyone who participated! You’ll be receiving an email shortly with your download code. And if you’re still up for a contest, you can go over to Twitter and try to win an album there! In the meantime, please help us get the word out about Prepare Him Room – Facebook, Twitter, iTunes or Amazon ratings and reviews… I think this is one of the best projects Sovereign Grace Music has produced and would love to see as many people as possible benefit from these songs that highlight the glory of the Savior who was born an infant to redeem us from our sins and reconcile us to the Father. (Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

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Win a Free Download of Prepare Him Room!

In another post I shared the story behind our new Christmas album, Prepare Him Room. Now you can be one of ten people who can win a free digital copy. Here’s the deal. Leave a comment below telling us your favorite Christmas carol and why in 50 words or less. You can enter three times. I’ll pick some of the most creative answers as winners and the rest at random. How many random comments I pick depends on how many creative responses I get! You have until midnight on Tuesday, Sept. 30 to enter. I’ll announce the winners around noon (EST) on Wednesday, October 1. We’ll contact the winners by email with your download code. And if you don’t win, you can always help support Sovereign Grace Music by getting a copy from Amazon, iTunes, or Bandcamp. You can also order them directly from our online store beginning October 6. (Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

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Prepare Him Room Releases Today!

In June of 2013 I received an email from my friend, Marty Machowski. Marty serves on the pastoral team of Covenant Fellowship Church, a Sovereign Grace Church near Philadelphia. He has writes children’s books and devotionals, most notably The Gospel Story Bible. Marty asked me if Sovereign Grace Music wanted to produce an album to accompany an Advent devotional and curriculum he had written for New Growth Press. I was instantly intrigued by the idea. Our first and only Christmas album, Savior: Celebrating the Mystery of God Become Man, came out in 2006 and I thought we were long overdue for another Christmas project. Marty’s devotional had 13 lessons, each based on a particular Scripture. He had already picked traditional carols for each lesson, but some weren’t a great match, and others lacked any clear reference to the gospel. He wondered if we could come up with a mix of traditional, altered, and original Christmas songs that could not only accompany what he had written but could stand on its own as a Christ-exalting Christmas album. After a number of phone conversations, face to face meetings, a songwriting retreat, 200+ emails, numerous Skype sessions, many hours in the studio, and a lot of prayer, we have an album: Prepare Him Room: Celebrating the Birth of Jesus in Song. And I couldn’t be happier with the result. From the start I wanted us to produce an album that “sounded” like Christmas. It had to have intimate moments as well as celebrative ones. It would be an album you’d want to sing along to as well as listen to. It would feel familiar and fresh at the same time. Most of all, it would help us focus on the joy, awe, mystery, and wonder that God becoming man should produce in our hearts. J.I. Packer wrote: The Word became flesh’ (John 1:14); God became man; the divine Son became a Jew; the Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, unable to do more than lie and stare and wriggle and make noises, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child. And there was no illusion or deception in this: the babyhood of the Son of God was a reality. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. (Knowing God, p. 53) That’s what we tried to communicate through these songs. Staggering mercy, amazing grace. We ended up with six Christmas carols and eight originals. Of the six carols, “What Child is This” is the only one that remained untouched. “Come All Ye Faithful,” “Joy to the World (Our God Reigns),” and “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” received some minor melodic variations and lyrical additions. We wrote three new verses for “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” and Kevin Hartnett, a NASA scientist and poet, contributed two new verses for “O Holy Night (Hear the Gospel Story).” As the title implies, the new lyrics take us into the redemptive meaning of that holy night: Humbly He lay, Creator come as creature Born on the floor of a hay-scattered stall True Son of God, yet bearing human feature He entered earth to reverse Adam’s fall Here’s a sample of lyrics from some of the original songs: He Who is mighty has done a great thing Taken on flesh, conquered death’s sting Shattered the darkness and lifted our shame, holy is His name (He Who is Mighty – Rebecca Elliott & Kate DeGraide) One still night, while Joseph dreamed, he saw a vision within his troubled sleep One small child, his bride would give, Deliverer delivered, to save us from our sin (One Still Night – Neil & Kate DeGraide) And who would have dreamed or ever foreseen That we could hold God in our hands? The Giver of Life is born in the night Revealing God’s glorious plan to save the world (Who Would […]

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The Gathering: Coming to New Orleans Next Weekend

In 2011, Sovereign Grace Music recorded The Gathering, a collection of 15 songs that walk through the flow of the gospel and our response to it. Among others, the album included Greater Than We Can Imagine, Shine Into Our Night, Show Us Christ, and All I Have is Christ. The idea for the project had its origins in Bryan Chapell’s excellent book, Christ-Centered Worship: Letting the Gospel Shape Our Practice. Chapell makes the case from Scripture, history, and our personal need that, “Corporate worship is nothing more, and nothing less, than a re-presentation of the gospel in the presence of God and his people for his glory and their good.” While the gospel can be “re-presented” in different ways, rehearsing and reveling in God’s salvation each time we meet. For Christians, that means we focus on the gospel and its implications. Our songs, sermons, symbols, and structures should all reflect the fact that the holy God has reconciled a people to himself through the substitutionary death of Jesus on the cross, and that our lives are meant to be a Spirit-empowered grateful response to that reality. Since we recorded the album, we’ve had a number of opportunities to lead similar evenings in Orange County, Indianapolis, Phoenix, Philadelphia, Sydney, and the Philippines. Next weekend, we’ll be in New Orleans for a Gathering event co-sponsored by Lakeview Christian Center and First Baptist Church of Kenner. Erik Schmaltz and Ron Laitano have been doing the lion’s share of work to pull the weekend together. The event begins Friday night at 7 PM with Gathering Around the Gospel. I’ll share a brief message on why the gospel is meant to be at the heart of our gatherings, followed by 90 minutes of singing, praying, and Scripture that propel us deeper into the joys, realities, and implications of the gospel. Our goal will be to understand better how the gospel is central to our gatherings and how we can insure people leave our times together with a greater love for God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ. Saturday will run from 9am-5pm and will include teachings on The Quest for Humility and Why Do We Sing? We’ll also have a session of band evaluation and a Q&A panel. Throughout the weekend, I’ll be joined by Devon, my son, and musicians from the sponsoring churches. This will be a great event for pastors, leaders, and teams to attend together. Of course, you can come by yourself, too. The cost is only $20 and you can register online or at the door on Friday night or Saturday morning. If you’re from East Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, or the Florida panhandle I’d love for you to come and join us for 24 hours of glorying in the Savior who is the best news the world has ever heard. And if you’re around Sunday morning, Devon will be leading the music and I’ll be preaching at the 10 AM service of Lakeview Christian Center. (New Orleans image coutersy of Shutterstock)

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