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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 | 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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True Worshipers Arrives Today

Today Crossway is officially releasing my new book, True Worshipers. It’s been a long time coming. My first book, Worship Matters, was published in April 2008. It was supposed to be aimed at a general audience. But after reading my first draft, my pastor and friend C.J. Mahaney wisely observed that I was trying to address pastors, music leaders, musicians, church members, and non-Christians, all at the same time. To say it was scattered would be kind. So I narrowed my focus. I imagined sitting across the table from a 20 something individual who wanted to serve the church with his musical gifts but lacked theological training. Worship Matters was the result. True Worshipers is the book Crossway wanted me to write seven years ago. It’s for anyone who wants to understand more biblically how the worship of our meetings relates to the worship of our lives. It’s for those who want to be the kind of worshiper God says He’s seeking. A Few Misconceptions True Worshipers isn’t meant for musicians. I mean, hopefully musicians will read it, but it’s really for anyone. For years I’ve been struck by the fact that millions of Christians (or so it seems) equate worship with singing. And yet in the conversation where Jesus defines what it means to be a “true worshiper,” music is nowhere in sight. Maybe worship encompasses more than we thought. We often think of “worship” primarily as what we feel and do, then evaluate ourselves and others on our performance. Were we passionate enough? Did we get the liturgy right? Were our emotions appropriately stirred? Did we sense something other worldly?  True worshipers see worship more as God’s gift of Himself to us rather than an effort to win his favor or justify ourselves. In True Worshipers I talk about the essence of worship, which I believe is exaltation. Along with breathing, worship is the most natural thing we do. We’re always looking for something or someone to fulfill us, comfort us, satisfy our longings, or make us happy. Athletes exalt their strength or agility. Scholars and philosophers exalt their intellect. Politicians exalt their savvy. Scientists exalt their rationality. Billionaires exalt their financial security. Actors and rock stars exalt their fame. But no one is more exalted than God. No one. Every knee and every thought will one day bow before the blazing glory of Jesus Christ. Which is why true worshipers look for every opportunity to magnify, lift up, make much of, and exalt Him now. It Never Gets Old For those who’ve read Worship Matters, True Worshipers will feel like familiar territory. I’m not breaking any new ground in this book. But that’s okay. The ground of God’s glory in the gospel of Jesus Christ is worth digging into deeper and exploring with endless delight as we mine the riches of being numbered among the worshipers of God. In light of our increasingly isolated and independent culture, I try to build faith for gathering together with the church, pointing out the inconsistency of worship being “just me and Jesus.” We look at the horizontal aspects of gathering, especially singing, and I suggest ways we can expect to encounter the presence of God’s Spirit without losing our biblical moorings. The book ends with an extended meditation on what awaits us in the new heavens and the new earth. Those Jesus has redeemed from every tribe, language, people, and nation will be home. Not one will be missing. All our arguments, philosophizing, questions, musings, and wonderings about worship will be over. And all that will be left is wonder – that we’re standing “blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy” (Jude 24). Every pain, temptation, sadness, trial, sickness, and sin – gone. Forever loved by our God and Savior whose beauty, goodness, and wisdom far exceed our wildest imaginings. Yes, we’ll have cause for GREAT joy. And thinking about that day and what God did to insure we’ll be there is meant to bring us great joy now. Which is a primary reason I wrote this book. True worshipers. If God is seeking them, I want to be numbered among them. I trust you do, too. And because of the lavish mercy and grace He’s shown us in Jesus Christ, we can be.      

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What Pastors Wish Their Worship Leaders Knew

This past week I had the privilege of participating in the Cutting it Straight conference in Jacksonville, led by H.B. Charles, Jr. and hosted by Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church. H.B. started this conference, now in its second year, specifically to influence African American pastors to preach expositionally. I was invited to be part of the worship track. H.B., along with his music pastor, Joe Pace, hopes to see more black churches singing songs that are theologically rich and gospel-centered. Not gospel like “black gospel,” but gospel like “Jesus bore our sins on the cross to purchase our forgiveness” gospel. While our cultural backgrounds are different, we share a passion to see the Word of God proclaimed in song in the power of the Spirit, and to see churches singing songs that enable the word of Christ to dwell in us richly. For two of the seminars I was assigned the topic of “What Pastors/Worship Leaders Wish Their Worship Leader/Pastor Knew.” It was a little challenging because pastors and musicians vary widely in terms of their theology and practice. But here’s my attempt to pinpoint “What Pastors Wish Their Worship Leaders Knew.” Although this post highlights areas that might be problematic, pastors should regularly communicate support and evidences of grace in their worship leader before pointing out things that could be better. For the sake of this post, I’m using the term “worship leader” to describe a non-elder who leads the music during the gatherings of the church. 1. Pastors, not worship leaders, will give an account to God for the people in their church. (Heb. 13:17) Pastors are ultimately responsible for the teaching and song diet of the church. Pastors should know in advance what songs will be sung, and should play a part in choosing them. If you want a pastor’s trust, you’ll have to earn it. 2. God’s Word to us matters more than our words to God. (Is. 66:2; Ps. 19:7-11) Music ministry is Word ministry. Don’t underestimate the value of proclaiming God’s Word passionately. Seek to know your Bible better than your instrument. Lead us to sing the Word, hear the Word, see the Word, and pray the Word. 3. We are what we sing. Therefore, choose our songs and lyrics wisely. (Col. 3:16) You are discipling the congregation through your song choices and words. For better or worse, our churches will remember more words from our songs they sing than from the sermons they hear. Build a repertoire of songs that enable us to express the many varied aspects of God’s glory and the many appropriate responses, and make sure we’re singing them. 4. While song introductions can be helpful, the worship leader is not the preacher. Your primary role is to enable the word of Christ to dwell in us as we sing, not to preach. When speaking, typically less is more. Choose good songs, and let the songs do the teaching. 5. Prayers are corporate conversations with God, not filler. Don’t pray simply because you feel awkward or don’t know what else to do. Use your prayers to speak for the congregation, not just yourself. Model what theologically informed, engaged, Christ-exalting prayer looks like. Don’t mix up the members of the Trinity, and don’t pray as though God has forgotten his name. 6. Your job is to support congregational singing, not overwhelm or replace it.  (Eph. 5:18-19; Rev. 5:9-10) Make sure your sound man knows the value of the congregation’s voice. If you constantly sing harmony, some of us will have a hard time knowing what the melody is. Don’t assume your instrumentalists have to play constantly. Pull back from your vocal mics sometimes, stop playing your instruments, and let us sing a cappella. 7. Truth matters more than tunes, but that doesn’t mean we should sing great theology to bad melodies or accompaniment. Choose songs the congregation enjoys singing and can sing. Occasionally try changing the arrangement, tempo, or feel of a song so the congregation can […]

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Only One Week Away from Sooner Count the Stars

On Wednesday, Sept. 30, we’re releasing the newest Sovereign Grace Music album, Sooner Count the Stars: Worshiping the Triune God. We’ve been thinking about producing an album focused on the Trinity for some time. I have to admit, the depth of the topic has made it a bit daunting. But in one sense, every album of congregational songs should be Trinitarian, expressing praise to the God Who has revealed Himself to us as Father, Son, and Spirit. As theologian Herman Bavinck said in The Doctrine of God, “In the confession of the Trinity throbs the heart of the Christian religion. Every error results from, or upon deeper reflection, may be traced to a view of this doctrine.” Get the Trinity wrong and you get Christianity wrong. That reality (plus the fact that I recently led two conferences called TRIUNE), persuaded me we should go ahead with it. But we wanted to avoid having a bunch of songs that sounded like musical systematic theology. Accurate but clunky. The Trinity is not a puzzle to be solved but a relationship to enjoy. Our aim was to write songs that helped us not only think rightly about God, but to love Him more. So at the Sovereign Grace songwriters retreat last January, I asked Mike Reeves from the UK to join us on Skype for a session. I had been affected by his book, Delighting in the Trinity and thought he could speak to us about writing Trinitarian songs that would not only bring theological clarity, but move people’s hearts. My notes from that time include these words of wisdom: Bad Trinitarian songwriting is trying to insert Father, Son, and Spirit where you can. If you just wedge in the word without those words doing anything, you’ll reinforce the idea that the Trinity is irrelevant…To be truly Trinitarian you have to be Christ-centered…You don’t need to say everything in every song…Don’t simply dump down bare facts. Show people the beauty and glory of this God. So that’s what we tried to do: show people the beauty and glory of God. Seven months later we ended up with Sooner Count the Stars and I’m pretty excited about the result. The title and opening track (see the video below) reminds us that we could “sooner count the stars than number all Your ways,” and contains the line, “Though I only know in part, that part exceeds all praise.” There will always be mystery in our relationship with God (Is. 40:18; Rom. 11:33-36), and the doctrine of the Trinity makes that abundantly clear. But that doesn’t keep us from worshiping God as He has revealed Himself to us. The songs on the album incorporate Trinitarian thought in different ways. Some emphasize the unity of God while others have Father/Son/Spirit/God verses. One is a hymn to the Lamb of God. Two songs are prayers to God’s Spirit. One song highlights the work of the Father, Son, and Spirit in proclaiming the gospel. Another expresses a humble desire to cling to Christ even as He clings to us. Still another reflects a holy awe that the triune God has saved us. In other words, we tried to write songs that reflect the way the New Testament talks about God. At times all three persons are referenced (Mt. 28:19; Heb. 9:14), at other times two (2 Thess. 2:16-17; 1 Cor. 6:11), sometimes just one (1 Jn. 3:1; Acts 7:59; 1 Cor. 2:4), and often the Bible speaks simply (profoundly?) of God (Rom. 11:33). And Christ and his substitutionary sacrifice on the cross are always central. Like our last album, Prepare Him Room: Celebrating the Birth of Jesus in Song, this project was produced by Neil DeGraide, a good friend and part of Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville. His rich musical textures, creative instrumentation, and fresh arrangements make for a number of special moments on the album. Most of the musicians are from Sovereign Grace, assisted by a few musical friends from Louisville. You can check out Sooner Count the Stars at iTunes, Amazon, or Bandcamp. Lyrics can be found at the Sovereign Grace Music website. Here are a couple preview videos. Enjoy!

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Songs and Sermons from WorshipGod15: TRIUNE

In the next couple days I’ll be posting my thoughts on WorshipGod15: TRIUNE, which just finished this past Saturday. One of the joys of hosting the WorshipGod conference is introducing new songs and modeling liturgy. While a conference isn’t a Sunday morning gathering, we try to put together songs, Scriptures, and prayers that reflect the rhythm and flow of the gospel. I’ve listed below what we did this year at WorshipGod15: TRIUNE, including three songs from our upcoming album, Sooner Count the Stars, due out Sept. 30. I’ve also provided links to the audio and video of the main messages. Clicking on the linked titles will take you to various URLs (YouTube, SongSelect, Sovereign Grace Music, etc.). Wednesday PM [Bob & Devon Kauflin & Band] Praise God Eph. 1:3-14 This Is Our God Our Only Hope Is You My Hope Is Built Jude 20-21 Great One in Three Behold Our God Why the Trinity is so Delightful (And Why it Matters) – Jeff Purswell (AUDIO • VIDEO) Great One in Three Thursday AM [Michael Bleecker] Look and See O God of Our Salvation Come to Me [Devon Kauflin & Band] Holy, Holy, Holy Nicene Creed This Is Our God Grace Alone Not in Me Undone (link coming soon) He Will Hold Me Fast The Triune God and the Cross (Why The Gospel Has to be Trinitarian) – Jared Mellinger (AUDIO • VIDEO) Before the Throne of God above Thursday PM [Kristen Gilles] God of All Comfort Chase Away My Unbelief [Matt Boswell & Band] Romans 11:33-36 Doxology Come Thou Fount 1 John 1:6-9 How Rich a Treasure Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name All I Have Is Christ Worshiping God the Father (Understanding the Miracle of Adoption) – C.J. Mahaney (AUDIO • VIDEO) O Fount of Love Friday AM 1 [DOXA] Ps. 34:1-3 Bless the Lord Neh. 9:6 You Alone Are God Holy, Holy, Holy Titus 3:3-7 I Come by the Blood Mk. 11:9-10 Hosanna The Unique Role of the Holy Spirit (Getting to Know the Third Person of the Trinity) – Ray Ortlund, Jr. (AUDIO • VIDEO) All I Have Is Christ Friday AM 2 The Power of the Gospel in Multi-ethnic Congregational Worship – H.B. Charles, Jr.  (AUDIO • VIDEO) Friday PM [The Modern Post (Dustin Kensrue)] Rejoice God is Good Rock of Ages Grace Alone Singing and Praying to a Triune God (How to Celebrate Trinity Sunday Every Week) – Bob Kauflin (AUDIO • VIDEO) [Devon Kauflin & Choir] Come Praise and Glorify This Is Our God He Who Is Mighty Here Is Love (Matt Giles) O Great God Saturday AM [Bob Kauflin & Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville Band] All Creatures of Our God and King Great One in Three Grace and Peace He Will Hold Me Fast Be Thou My Vision Living before the Triune God (Bringing it All Together) – Rick Gamache (AUDIO • VIDEO) Grace Alone

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Planning Sunday after an Unexpected Tragedy

Last Thursday at 10:06 AM, Brian Chesemore, a pastor at Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville, texted me and the other pastors. He informed us that one of our members, 42 year old Wade Stephenson, had been in a “very bad car accident” and was on his way to the hospital. An hour later Brian simply texted: “He’s with the Lord.” I wept uncontrollably. Wade was a gentle, grateful, generous, godly man, a musician and leader who was loved and respected by everyone who knew him. He left behind his dear wife Rebecca, three young daughters, and a soon to be born son. The tragic news spread quickly throughout our three year old church plant and rocked our world. But in the midst of profound grief, the gifts of the Spirit were on full display. By nighttime a Facebook page, Loving the Stephensons, enabled church members and friends to sign up to minister to Becca and her family in numerous practical ways, including financial gifts. The response was overwhelming. A Change of Plans We had already planned Sunday, but as CJ Mahaney has often told me, “The Holy Spirit helps us plan, but our plans are not the Holy Spirit.” So at the hospital on Thursday morning, we started over. We would point people to the gospel from God’s Word as always, but Wade’s death brought a fresh immediacy to the truths we proclaim every Sunday. People would be grieving. How could we comfort them with the hope of the gospel without sounding shallow or callous? How could we keep Sunday from becoming a memorial service, and yet still weep with those who weep (Rom. 12:15)? We ended up planning the meeting by email, and were nailing down final decisions Sunday morning. Being in pastoral ministry for decades teaches you there are no formulas to care for people’s souls. I thought it might be helpful, though, to share what we ended up with, and the thought process behind it. The Sovereign God Who Sees and Knows We started the meeting with a call to worship from Ps. 31:7: I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul. I said something like, “Sometimes we come into a Sunday gathering with little or no desire to sing God’s praises or be with God’s people. We’re in a time of affliction. Our souls are distressed. And yet God calls us to rejoice in him because he sees our affliction. He knows the distress of our souls. And he assures that in Jesus Christ, his steadfast love is unchanging and unending. Let’s praise the God whose faithfulness never fails us.” The first song was Great is Thy Faithfulness.  We wanted to start with a familiar and reflective song that reminded us who God is and what he’s done for us in Christ. We then sang God Moves, my 2005 adaptation of William Cowper’s hymn that uniquely explores the mystery of God’s sovereignty. I edited a few lines and added a chorus that expresses a confident trust in God. Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust Him for His grace Behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face So God we trust in You, O God we trust in You When tears are great and comforts few We hope in mercies ever new We trust in You Following the song, Jeff Purswell shared how we had opportunity to trust God’s sovereignty as a result of this past week’s events. He referenced Wade’s death and reminded us that our grief can be hope-filled because Jesus has overcome the grave. He then read John 11:17-27, the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Turning Our Hearts to the Gospel We then sang It Is Not Death to Die, another Sovereign Grace Music hymn adaptation. The musical tone was still subdued, but we began to turn our hearts to the hope we have in the gospel. Death is our foe and a result of the fall, but for the Christian, death is a doorway not a destination. It is not death to die, to leave this weary road And join the saints who dwell on […]

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Doxa Coming to WorshipGod15: TRIUNE

A few years ago I heard about a church in Philadelphia that was clearly proclaiming the gospel in the midst of the city, right near my alma mater, Temple University. It was called Epiphany Fellowship, and Eric Mason was the senior pastor. It excited me to think that the “city of brotherly love” was benefiting from one more solidly evangelical, gospel-preaching, servant-hearted church. It wasn’t until later that I heard about the music they were singing and producing. It was theologically informed but combined elements from gospel, jazz, neo-soul, R&B, and CCM (Contemporary Christian Music). That got me interested. While I’d love to see Sovereign Grace Music writing and producing the praises of the Lamb in a variety of tongues and musical styles, I’m grateful when God raises up others with a similar heart whose background, experiences, and musical cultures differ dramatically from my own middle-class, white upbringing. Epiphany Fellowship is one of those “others.” Over the past few years I’ve been Skyping with Aaron Johnson, the musical mind and leader of DOXA, to learn more about their history and vision. It’s been a joy to hear experience his humility, passion for serving the church, and love for the Savior. As a result of our conversations, I invited Aaron to bring some of the members of DOXA, which includes his wife, Tiffany, to lead us at WorshipGod: TRIUNE, July 29-Aug. 1, in Louisville, KY. They’ll be leading on Friday morning right before Ray Ortlund, Jr. and H.B. Charles, Jr. speak. Should be an exciting time, in the best sense of the word! As it turns out, DOXA released their first album, Centered, this past January. It’s energetic, brilliantly arranged, and most importantly, filled with biblical truths, gospel richness, and faith-filled aspirations. It contains a few originals (You Alone Are God, Our Treasure is Christ, etc.), some well known songs (Hosanna, To Him Who Sits on the Throne), hymns (Oh The Deep, Deep Love of Jesus, The Power of the Cross), spoken word (Trinity),  and even a Sovereign Grace song, Nail My Glory. Which, I might add, is slightly different from our version. I appreciate that the album also features comments from Epiphany’s pastor, Eric Mason, grounding us in the meaning of the songs and pointing our affections to Christ. I’d encourage you to check out DOXA’s album, Centered in iTunes of Amazon. And if you can, I’d love for you to join us at WorshipGod: TRIUNE. Online registration ends this Sunday July 12. If you can’t come for the whole time day and session passes will be available at the door. Hope you can make it! And here’s a video that introduces the group and the album:

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Why You Should Come to WorshipGod15: TRIUNE

If you read WorshipMatters regularly, you most likely help plan or lead the music in your local church. First, THANK YOU for serving God’s people! I thank God for your faithfulness in contexts that most people will never even see. Second, I know there are a gazillion conferences every year that you can go to. I wanted to give you a few reasons why you should consider registering for WorshipGod15: TRIUNE. 1. We’re local church musicians serving local church musicians. Sovereign Grace Music isn’t a conference production machine.We’re all part of local churches and are serving in local churches. We get the day in day out challenges you face with lack of resources, changing personnel, and your own issues. We don’t spend tons of money on technological wizardry, lighting effects, or stage designs. You won’t be overwhelmed by hundreds of vendors.  You won’t get tips on developing your “worship career.” While it can be helpful and exciting to go to a huge conference to hear people that everyone knows, we think it’s even more exciting to go to a conference where our one goal is to help you grow spiritually, theologically, and practically. 2. Conferences are better than YouTube. In a tech savvy world, with massive amounts of information at our fingertips, what makes a conference like WorshipGod worth investing time and money in? Why not just listen to the messages after the conference, download the outlines, and read my reflections post after the conference? It’s because none of those can replace what God does through interacting with other leaders and musicians, spending extended time away with your team, and encountering God together as we worship him in song and the Word. I’ve lost track of the number of people I’ve spoken with over the years whose heart, ministry, or direction was significantly impacted by what God did at WorshipGod. 3. The Trinity matters. For many Christians, the doctrine of the Trinity is one of those embarrassing aspects of our faith we’d rather not talk about. It’s confusing. It’s problematic. It’s mysterious. It’s irrelevant. I’ve had all those thoughts in my 42 years as a Christian. But in recent years I’ve come to understand how God’s being Father, Son, and Spirit, while not always at the forefront of our conversations, should underlie everything we think and say about God. God being Triune is something we should know, it’s a truth that should thrill our souls and leave us breathless in delight. If that’s not your response to God being a Trinity, WorshipGod is just for you. 4. The speakers. I’m pretty excited about the people you’ll get to hear at WorshipGod. Jeff Purswell speaking on delighting in the Trinity, Jared Mellinger on the Trinity and the cross, CJ Mahaney on knowing God as Father, Ray Ortlund, Jr. on the unique role of the Holy Spirit, H.B. Charles, Jr. on why our unity is Trinitarian, yours truly on singing and praying to a Triune God, and Rick Gamache on living in light of the Trinity. In addition, the seminar speakers include Bruce Ware on the glory of God, Don Whitney on getting more out of your Bible , Jim Hamilton on worship and Revelation, Doug & Sheri Gould on tech and vocals, and Dustin Kensrue on arts and culture. 5. The musicians. This year, I’ll be leading a few of the sessions musically along with my son, Devon. My good friend, Matt Boswell, from Providence Church in Frisco will take a session, and Aaron Johnson and DOXA from Epiphany Fellowship in Philadelphia will be with us. I”m grateful for the role they’re playing in seeking to provide gospel-driven, theologically-informed music to the African American church. We’ll also be hearing from songwriters Dustin Kensrue, Michael Bleecker, and Bobby & Kristen Gilles, who will each be sharing some of their songs in the main sessions. 6. Practical training. We’ve put together 28 seminars and and six pre-conference intensives (guitar, bass, drums, leader, songwriting, and choir) that will deepen your doctrinal understanding, sharpen your leadership and musical skills, and stir your heart with passion for God. 7. Free stuff. We love to give away stuff at WorshipGod conferences. It’s one way we can remind ourselves and others […]

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How Exciting Should Our Sunday Meetings Be?

Not too long ago a friend who leads the music in his church mentioned to me that his pastor wanted their meetings to be more exciting. Webster’s says exciting means “causing great enthusiasm and eagerness.” Certainly, nothing should cause greater enthusiasm and eagerness than meeting with the church to recount what God has done to save us from his wrath through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. All our sins are forgiven! We have been adopted into God’s family! Jesus has triumphed over sin, death, and hell! We are new creations! We are part of God’s  unstoppable, unchangeable, unrelenting plan to have a people on earth who will display his glory, truth, righteousness, love, and compassion! What can be more earth-shattering, soul-shaking, and EXCITING than rehearsing and reveling in those realities? Boring or Exciting? And yet, I didn’t sense that’s what my friend’s pastor was asking for. He saw that people were drifting and he wanted the worship leader to do something about it. I understand the aversion to boring meetings. I’ve participated in them and led them. Awkward silences. Monotone speakers. No evident progression. Dull, disengaged repetition. People covertly checking their watches every five minutes. No sense of expectation. Or even interest. In response, an increasing number of churches have sought to add elements to their gatherings that will make them more “exciting.” Meeting countdowns. Fast-paced videos. Engaging dramas. Creative humor. Breathless, energetic emcees. More upbeat songs. Smoke machines. Light shows. And a mindset that views dead space as the supreme excitement killer. Getting the Goal Right But our lives aren’t an unending string of exclamation points. Our meetings shouldn’t be either. (Neither should our emails, but that’s another topic). Strictly speaking, God never says the goal of the church gathering is excitement. It’s edification for God’s glory. We meet to stir up one another to love and good works, not simply to have an emotionally electrifying time. We meet to behold God’s glory in Christ through his Word, responding in ways appropriate to his self-revelation (Heb. 10:24; 2 Cor. 3:18). That doesn’t mean gathering as the church isn’t meant to be a soul stirring event. We have every reason when we’re together to be excited about what God has done for us in Christ. But that’s not the same as aiming for adrenaline-pumping, professionally produced, high energy, exciting gatherings alone. That approach leaves little room to engage in expressions normal for elect exiles on our way to a new home (1 Pet. 1:1-2). Expressions like disorientation (Ps. 42:1-5). Sorrow for sin (Ps. 38:1-8). Grief (Rom. 12:15). A humble awareness of our creatureliness before our Creator (Ps. 95:6-7). Not to mention reverence and awe (Heb. 12:28). Our greatest need when we gather is not simply to feel excited, but to encounter God: to engage with the certainty of his sovereignty, the reality of his authority, the comfort of his mercy in Christ, and the promise of his grace. We need to be strengthened for the battles against the world, our flesh, and the devil that will confront us the moment we wake up Monday morning, if not before. Mere emotional excitement, however it might be produced, won’t be sufficient. We need God’s Word clearly expounded, God’s gospel clearly presented, and God’s presence clearly experienced. We need well crafted, intentional liturgies that cultivate God-honoring, Christ-exalting thoughts and desires (See Rhythms of Grace and Christ-Centered Worship for more on that). Our efforts to make our meetings exciting can actually end up obscuring what our congregations need the most. Towards a More Profound Excitement The alternative to making our meetings more “exciting” isn’t trying to bore people. But Sunday mornings aren’t New Year’s Eve celebrations. They aren’t rock concerts. They aren’t pep rallies. They aren’t World Cup finals. They’re something much more mundane, and at the same time something much more eternally and cosmically significant. Our plans, lights, smooth transitions, technology, videos, sound systems, visual effects, and creativity don’t make it so. Christ dwelling in the midst of his people through his Holy Spirit makes it so. That’s why if we understand what’s going on, sharing the bread and cup during communion can be one of the highlights of our week, transcending the greatest […]

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Reflections and Resources from WorshipGod UK: Gathering Around the Gospel

Before we get too far away from WorshipGod UK, I wanted to share a few thoughts on our time together in Bath. About 300 folks came from 15 nations and 135 churches for 2 1/2 days of fellowship, singing, prayer, teaching, seminars, laughter, starting and renewing friendships, and having our eyes opened wider to the glories of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ. There were a number of things about our time together that made me very grateful. 1. I’m grateful that Sovereign Grace Music partners with local churches to serve local churches. The driving force behind WorshipGod is Nathan Smith and the church he pastors, Grace Church Bristol. To borrow a phrase I learned in Bath, they’re the “dog’s body” of the event (ask a Brit). The conference wouldn’t have taken place apart from their planning and participation. But our goal wasn’t just to put on a great conference. On the last day I told the group someone had said, “The conference has been good, but it’s made me want to be at my home church even more.” Those are sweet words and reflect our hope for every conference we host. As one individual commented on their evaluation form, “The combination of rich theology, engaged worship, and wonderful fellowship was a great blessing. I found myself in church on the following Sunday, singing with more joy and delight as we praised God as a result of the conference.” Amen. 2. I’m grateful for the increasing number of gospel partners we have in the UK. We were blessed to have Mike Reeves, Tim Chester, Dave Gobbett, Ben Shaw, and Matt Searles serve us through teaching main sessions or seminars. Phil Short, from Christ Church Mayfair, spontaneously joined Patrick Anderson for his electric guitar seminar. In addition, almost 70 pastors attended the pastors day on Thursday and resonated with our passion for building and serving gospel-centered, theologically-informed, community-impacting churches. 3. I’m grateful for lesser known songwriters God is raising up to serve the church. At the start of four of the sessions, I asked different UK songwriters to share two of their songs. Matt Richley, Michael Morrow, Ben Slee, and Rob Spink all participated. Others I appreciate but who weren’t featured include Matt Searles, Matt Giles, Philip Percival, and the folks from Resound Worship. There are many more and I’m looking forward to knowing them better in the days to come. 4. I’m grateful that “worship” is ultimately about the gospel and God’s Word, not music. While music was certainly featured at the WorshipGod conference, it wasn’t the main point. Songs and music that aren’t governed by God’s Word and aimed at helping people glory in the gospel will tend to encourage shallow thinking, emotional immaturity, and divisiveness rooted in musical preferences. That’s why we called the conference “Gathering Around the Gospel” and not “Gathering around the Music.” That focus enabled us to serve not only musicians, but pastors, service leaders, songwriters, and tech personnel, reminding them of the reason we do what we do. Please be praying about future plans for the UK. We’re excited to see what God may have in store. If you’re interested, below is the list and links of the songs we sang at the conference, as well as links to the main messages. Main Session 1: Bob & Devon Kauflin & Band Come Praise and Glorify Come Thou Fount Grace and Peace He Will Hold Me Fast Before the Throne of God Above Gathering to Behold – Mike Reeves Behold Our God Main Session 2: Bob Kauflin & Grace Church Bristol Band All Creatures of Our God and King Shine into Our Night Now Why This Fear He Who Is Mighty Jesus Paid It All Gathering Around the Word – Kevin DeYoung Speak O Lord Main Session 3: Matt Richley You Are the Rock Hallelujah for the Cross Gathering to Rehearse (the Gospel)- Jeff Purswell Before the Throne of God Above Main Session 4: Michael Morrow Come Let Us Sing for Joy If I Have Fled to Jesus Devon Kauflin & Band Holy, Holy, […]

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A Call for Musically Gifted Pastors

In 2008, I suggested in Worship Matters that the title of “worship leader” needed to be defined to be helpful. So I defined it this way: A faithful worship leader magnifies the greatness of God in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit by skillfully combining God’s Word with music, thereby motivating the gathered church to proclaim the gospel, to cherish God’s presence, and to live for God’s glory. I still like that definition, but I’m less sure the term “worship leader” is serving us. It’s taken on a life of its own and continues to be associated with stardom, predominance, the spotlight, good looks, hipster-ness, and in some cases, the ability to mediate God’s presence. It can refer to someone who leads full time, part time, or on a volunteer basis. Most people I talk to fall into the last category. They faithfully serve their church week after week for free or for a small stipend, and are being used by God to lift up the name and glory of Jesus in song. If you’re among that group, I thank God for you. But an increasing number of musicians have full time worship ministry in their sights. They hope that one day they’ll be able to make a living playing their instrument, leading people in songs of praise. That’s a great goal. But I’m not sure it’s the best one. If you believe God’s called and gifted you to serve the church with your music vocationally, I want to suggest that you consider whether God’s calling you to be a pastor as well. A musically gifted pastor. Of course, not every musician who leads congregational singing should or will be a pastor. But if you hope to join a church staff some day, I want to suggest six reasons why preparing to be a pastor who’s also a musician is better than simply aiming to be a worship leader. 1. Your job description is actually in the Bible. A worship leader might describe someone who plays a guitar on Sundays, a musician with a traveling concert ministry, the person on stage with the loudest voice, anyone in the band, the senior pastor, or someone who sings Christian songs. In contrast, God tells us what a pastor is supposed to do. He’s responsible to shepherd God’s people, lead them, teach them, protect them, equip them, and be an example to them (1 Pet. 5:1-3; 2 Tim. 4:2-3; Eph. 4:11-12; Acts 20:28). That’s why when I’m asked what a worship leader should study beyond music, one area I suggest is biblical counseling. Leading worship in song is an opportunity to care for people’s souls, to teach them how the gospel addresses their sin, to protect them from the deceptions of the world, and to display the heart-transforming glory of Jesus Christ. In other words, to do the work of a pastor. While singing is an emotionally expressive activity, leading congregational singing is a pastoral function before it’s a musical one. 2. Your character requirements are clear. We tend to attribute deficiencies in worship leaders to the fact that they’re musicians. They’re supposed to be self-centered, disorganized, and easily offended. That’s why standards for worship leaders can vary widely. Some churches opt for anyone who seems to be a Christian and can play a guitar. But Scripture’s qualifications for a pastor are clear. A pastor is to be “above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.” He must manage his household well, not be a recent convert, and be well thought of by outsiders (1 Tim. 3:2-7). It’s easier to fudge on character standards when we aren’t specific about them. 3. You’ll know your Bible better than your instrument. Being an emotional bunch, musicians can tend to live in the world of fleeting impressions, deep feelings, and theological vagueness (I should know). But Jesus said the truth will set us free, not music. So rather than seeking to […]

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