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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 www.worshipmatters.com and hosts the bi-annual WorshipGod conference (www.worshipgodconference.com). 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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Tim Chester Reflects on WorshipGod UK

I first met Tim Chester a few years ago at the Word Alive conference in Wales. Since then he’s become a good friend, and I’ve even written a song with him. Tim is one of the humblest, kindest, most prolific authors I know. He was with us for WorshipGodUK last year and I’m thrilled he’ll be joining us in Bath for WorshipGod UK, 7-9 May, 2015, to speak in a breakout session on “Cultivating a Fruitful Life in the Word.” He took some time to answer a few questions about his life and his involvement in the conference. 1. What is your history of leading in the church, musically or pastorally? I’m one of the pastors of The Crowded House with particular responsibility for word ministry. In the early days, when we were just a handful of people, I played the guitar or piano to accompany our sung worship. It was something of relief (all round) as  over time I could hand on responsibility for music to others. But I’m still involved in selecting and writing songs. 2. What encourages you about what is happening in gathered worship in the UK and Europe? I think in the past we’ve divided into those for whom worship meant singing, those for whom it meant the word, and those for whom it meant life and mission. I see these streams coming together more and more with an emphasis on capturing the affections of the heart for Christ through our corporate worship so that our lives might be lived for his glory. 3. What weaknesses do you see about what is happening broadly in gathered worship in the UK and Europe? The main weakness I observe is a performance mentality. In churches with the resources to pull this off, the congregation is left mumbling along as the band performs at the front. And the attempt to replicate this in other churches can be painful! 4. How do you think WorshipGod in general and your role there in particular might serve folks as they seek to serve in their local congregations? I love the fusion of congregational music and grace-filled theology that Sovereign Grace and WorshipGod represents. I loved last year’s mix of Bible exposition, practical seminars and inspirational worship. I’m looking forward to the same combination of encouragement and equipping this year! In my seminar on engaging with God’s word I want to explore how we can enjoy communion with God through his word. I want to encourage people to see the Bible not simply as an encyclopaedia of information, but as a living word that brings us into a living relationship with the living God. WorshipGod UK is intended for pastors, musicians, service leaders, tech personnel, songwriters, and anyone involved in planning or leading congregational worship. We’ll also be offering a pastors day on Thursday 7th May, from 10am-5pm. For details email info@worshipgod.org.uk.

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Interview with Matt Searles

I met Matt Searles via email a few years ago after hearing his album, Now and Not Yet, acoustic renditions of various Psalms. It was biblical, singable, and moving. Since then he’s also recorded From the River to the Ends of the Earth, another collection of Psalms, only this time with a full band. I was delighted to meet Matt in person at WorshipGod UK last year, and since then have hosted him in my home in Louisville, KY. He’ll be joining us again for WorshipGod UK, 7th-9th May, in Bath. Matt will be teaching a seminar at the conference entitled Shaped by the Psalms. He graciously took time to answer a few questions for us. 1. What is your history of leading in the church, musically or pastorally? Until fairly recently I was an Assistant Pastor at Dundonald Church in London, involved in preaching, leading services, evangelism, discipleship, and other pastoral ministry roles. In recent years I have also been songwriting, seeking to serve the church by putting the Psalms to music in an accessible and contemporary way – though music has never been a formal part of my role in church. Currently I lead a ministry training course in Oxford, seeking to equip people in basic Bible handling and ministry skills, through a 2 year course of one day a week study. 2. What encourages you about what is happening in gathered worship in the UK and Europe? Its hard to speak generally as there is so much variety in different contexts. I am encouraged that in churches I have been in, church is seen as a family, rather than a ‘show’. The loudest musical instrument is generally the collective voices of the congregation, and there is a right sense of the corporate nature of what we are doing – mutual edification rather than individualism. A commitment to expository preaching and being Christ centred in what we do means that even a small, under-resourced church with very few musicians can still be a place of profound encounter with God where the Spirit is deeply at work. I think most churches also work hard at being accessible for those who aren’t Christians, with evangelism high on the priorities list. There is training for church musicians taking place now in the UK that would not have been happening a few years ago – Music Ministry being the one I have personally benefited from, though I know there are others. Let’s also not forget that Matt Redman, Tim Hughes, Stuart Townend, the Fellinghams and the Gettys are all British… 3. What weaknesses do you see about what is happening broadly in gathered worship in the UK and Europe? Again, its hard to generalise. In some circles, music has often been seen as somewhat incidental or even unimportant, such that it is either ignored, or only given energy and resources for pragmatic reasons of drawing a crowd. Thus, perhaps unwittingly, music is divorced from theology – and the Bible holds them very closely together! I am also somewhat concerned about how accessible church is for those who are feeling broken – is there acknowledgment in our services of brokenness, sin, failure and doubt? If by what we do in church, we convey the message that church is only for those who are ‘sorted’ and feeling joyful, then  we can either encourage a pretence where people wear a mask of ‘holy happiness’ to church, or people simply stop coming if their life is falling apart. In so doing we in fact undermine the very gospel of Christ, who came for those whose lives are a mess! For this reason I’m delighted to have been asked to lead a seminar at the conference looking at the Psalms and their extraordinary wide range of emotion and feeling, and seeking to see how these can shape us personally, as well as shape the songs we write for our churches. 4. How do you […]

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My Favorite Books of 2014

At the end of each year I look forward to hearing what books people enjoyed over the past 12 months. My good friend Jeff Purswell posted a great list for pastors at the Sovereign Grace website, although anyone could benefit from them. I also appreciated these lists from Kevin DeYoung and Tony Reinke. I read fewer books than I had hoped to in 2014 but these three stood out. 1. Job: The Wisdom of the Cross – Christopher Ash In recent years I’ve intentionally read through Job 5 or 6 times each year, making notes as I go. I’ve learned a great deal about suffering, about God’s sovereignty, and how not to counsel those who are going through difficult times. But this commentary, recommended to me by C.J. Mahaney, shed light on passages I didn’t even know were dark! Three things I most appreciated about this book. First, Ash walks through every verse in a thoughtful, contextually sensitive manner. He’s done the hard work of making connections you’d easily miss while staying on firm exegetical ground. He also helps us see where Job got it right and where he got it wrong. I especially appreciated his explanation of Leviathan as the worst Satan can throw at us. Second, he writes pastorally, exposing the misguided comfort of Job’s counselors and pointing us to true, God-honoring wisdom. Third, and most importantly, Ash consistently helps us see how Job prefigures Christ, the truly innocent sufferer. I don’t think I saw before how important the book of Job is to the story of redemption. A few favorite quotes: We need to be on the lookout not only for the wrong teaching Bible teachers give but also for vital Biblical ingredients they habitually omit. p. 94 If there is no undeserved suffering, there can be no redemptive suffering, no sacrificial substitutionary suffering. And if there is no substitutionary suffering, there can be no grace. p. 138 When we listen to Job’s speeches, we need to bear in mind the distinction between Job’s perception and Job’s heart…We will hear Job say some things that are plain wrong, and yet we hear him say them from a heart that is deeply right. p. 139 It is utterly stupid, and deeply hurtful, to suppose that we can deduce from someone’s situation in this age the true state of his or her heart. A bad person may enjoy a good life, and a good person may suffer the pain of a bad life. Only the end will reveal the heart. p. 234 Three is not one inch of strange wildness that lies outside the counsel of God. p. 396 2. Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God – Timothy Keller I actually finished this book in 2015, but wanted to include it. Reading books on prayer is like reading cookbooks. You might be fascinated by what you read, but you don’t know how good the book is until you actually follow the directions. Reading Keller’s book both motivated and equipped me to press into prayer more thoughtfully and biblically. It’s changing the way I pray. Here’s what I wrote on my Amazon review: I’ve read numerous books on prayer through the years, seeking to inspire a greater passion, consistency, and depth in my own prayer life. This is without question one of the best I’ve read. It is at once insightful, motivating, and practical. One of the things that makes Keller so helpful is his breadth of reading which gives clarity, depth, and variety to his own thoughts. Most of all, he constantly roots practical application in the gospel and Scripture, avoiding the twin errors of experiential mysticism and dry orthodoxy. A few of my favorite quotes, with Kindle locations: The life of true faith cannot be that of cold metallic assent. It must have the passion and warmth of love and communion because communion with God is the crown and apex of true religion. loc 240 We are so used to being empty that […]

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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 Shutterstock.com)

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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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