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Something Close To My Heart

Dear Friends,

As many of you know, when I was 14 years old, I lost my daddy to cancer.  God used that event to drastically change my life.  I wrote the song, “Mosaic of Grace” in 2008, reflecting on that dark and painful season of my life.

For the past decade, as I have traveled the country serving in ministry and sharing my music with all of you, it has been one of the sweetest joys to hear how this song has connected with your hearts and ministered to the deepest parts of your souls.

As we approach Father’s Day, I am so thrilled to be able to share this new video with you, where I unpack the deep pain that God used to birth my ministry.  Here is the story behind the song, “Mosaic of Grace”.

Enjoy!  I hope and pray this is life-giving and encouraging for you in whatever season of life you find yourself this very moment!

Brand New Songs for Easter 2017

SHELLY E. JOHNSON RELEASES NEW EASTER SONGS

‘Victory’’ by Nationally Known Worship Leader Releases Today

March 10, 2017 (Atlanta, GA) – Lifeway Worship’s 2012 Songwriter of the Year and nationally known worship leader Shelly E. Johnson announces today’s release of “Victory” and “Weight of the World”, two brand new Easter anthems for the Church.

Produced by Sean Hill from Uphill Studios in Atlanta, “Victory” is a hopeful worship anthem, penned by Johnson and other fellow worship leaders Sean Hill, Joe Leaphart and Caitlin Gutierrez, that celebrates the overcoming hope we have because of what Christ accomplished at Calvary.  This powerful, uplifting ballad is a welcome addition to any Easter Sunday set list.

“Weight of the World” is a darker, heavier, soul-stirring, somewhat film-score “esque” musical offering, wrapped in a simple, yet emotional landscape of grand piano and lush strings, that tells the story of the moment Jesus was on the cross, bearing the weight of all the world’s sin.

“A few years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the other side of the world and work with missionaries serving girls trapped in brothels,” Johnson said.  “We walked the streets at night, passing one brothel after the next, and I’ll never forget the faces of the girls sitting in the window.  It was the darkest, most evil place I’d ever seen or experienced.  It gave me a whole new perspective of the phrase “weight of the world” and the depth of burden and evil that Jesus must have experienced on the cross.  It wasn’t just the physical agony He felt as He was dying – it was the emotional and spiritual battle He was fighting for us, on our behalf, that was the greatest fight of all.  Nothing shows His love for us like that moment.”  Johnson, alongside cowriter Sean Hill, penned “Weight of the World” to convey the heart behind what could have motivated Jesus to endure such a penalty for us.  This song is a musical masterpiece that would add a meaningful moment to any Good Friday or Sunday worship service.

Known for writing the powerful worship anthem “Power of the Cross”, which has been recorded by Natalie Grant, Steve Green and is being used in churches worldwide, Johnson has served as worship leader alongside Beth Moore, Tony Nolan and Andy Stanley, and has toured North America with renowned Irish hymn writers Keith and Kristyn Getty.

After graduating from Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, in 2007, Johnson’s songs began garnering the attention of the Christian music industry, as “Power of the Cross” was awarded Song of the Year by the Gospel Music Association at the 2008 Music In The Rockies Conference.

In the years since, Johnson has released several studio projects, her most popular to date being “Mosaic of Grace”, released independently in 2009.  In February 2011, Johnson signed her first publishing and recording deal with LifeWay Worship.  In August 2012, her debut EP, “Power of the Cross,” was released in partnership with Maranatha! Music, with the lead off single “All Things Beautiful” impacting Christian radio formats.

As God continued opening more doors nationwide for Johnson to minister through her music, her full-length worship album “Your Kingdom Come” was released worldwide in September 2014 in partnership with LifeWay Worship and Elevate Entertainment.  Less than two years later, in January 2016, Johnson followed up that release with “Measureless”, a five-song EP featuring new anthems and modern hymns for the Church.  Just six months later, in June 2016, Johnson released her first ever live worship EP entitled Christ Be Everything LIVE, recorded and filmed at 1971 Sounds in Atlanta, GA.  

Johnson and her husband Jack live in Woodstock, GA along with their daughter Mary Carson, where Johnson currently serves as a worship leader at North Point Community Church campuses.

For more information about Johnson, visit shellyejohnson.com. Like on Facebook at facebook.com/ShellyEJohnson. Follow on Twitter and Instagram @shellyejohnson.

“Measureless” Story Behind the Song

One of my favorite aspects of church music is the history. Some Sundays we sing songs that were written a year ago or a decade ago. And some Sundays we sing songs that were written centuries ago.  We get to be part of this beautiful history of God’s people singing God’s story, generation after generation.

There’s an “old hymn” that I have been surprised to discover is largely unknown amongst many of my worship leader friends. It’s called “The Love of God”, and it was written in 1917 by a guy named Frederick Lehman.  Frederick was dealing with some major financial issues and found himself working in a packing factory in Pasadena, California, moving thirty tons of lemons and oranges a day.  Despite his circumstances, he was in awe of the goodness of God and began writing a song to describe the limitless love of God.  He wrote the lyrics and melody but was still in need of a third verse.  It was then he remembered these beautiful words he had heard quoted recently:

Could we with ink the ocean fill and were the skies of parchment made,

Were every stalk on earth a quill, and every man a scribe by trade,

To write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry,

Nor could the scroll contain the whole though stretched from sky to sky.

Those lyrics were written on the wall of an insane asylum by an unknown inmate, but the words originally came from an eleventh-century Jewish poet from Germany named Meir Ben Isaac Nehorai.

As a songwriter who also happens to be a worship leader, I am passionate about writing songs that speak deep, profound truth.  It’s been so sad to me that these beautiful lyrics have been somewhat forgotten, especially by my generation.  And I find it almost tragic that this hymn is rarely sung anymore in many churches.

That is the very thing that prompted me to write “Measureless”.  One day, my friend Sean and I were on video chat trying to figure out what kind of song we wanted to write. I had just been reading through these lyrics, and the word “Measureless” jumped off the page.

I said to Sean, “What if we could breathe new life into this old hymn?  We could change some of the old English to more common language that’s easy to understand, write a fresh new melody that’s easy for people to sing and maybe add a bridge or something.”

That turned into the next two to three hours chasing ideas and crafting what would become “Measureless”.

I hope churches can really embrace this song because I believe its concept is timeless and life-changing.

Many of us may find ourselves in a similar state of desperation as the patient in that asylum who wrote those lyrics on his cell wall. And what’s so beautiful is that 100 years later, those words still ring with truth and application for our lives today.

God’s love for us is absolutely unfathomable.  If we could truly grasp it, we would never even think of pursuing all the empty things this world has to offer.

I am so excited to finally share with you this brand new song, “Measureless”! Enjoy!

 

MEASURELESS

Original Hymn Text by Frederick Lehman (1917)

New Words & Music by Shelly E. Johnson & Sean Hill

 

Verse 1

The love of God is greater than

A tongue or pen could tell

It reaches to the highest star

Beyond the depths of hell

 

Verse 2

If we could fill the seas with ink

Make pages of the sky

To write the love of God above

Would drain the oceans dry

 

Chorus

Oh, the love of God, How rich and pure

How boundless, oh how strong!

Forevermore it will endure

How measureless is His love

 

Verse 3

The sons of Adam lost in sin

By God’s great love were found

When on the cross, He fought for us

To win us Glory’s Crown

 

Chorus

Oh, the love of God, How rich and pure

How boundless, oh how strong!

Forevermore it will endure

How measureless is His love

 

Bridge

Beyond the highest of heights

Beneath the depths of the sea

Nothing on earth can contain

His endless love for me

 

Verse 4

When earthly things have passed away

And the sting of death is gone

The love of God will still remain

All measureless and strong!

 

Chorus

Oh, the love of God, How rich and pure

How boundless, oh how strong!

Forevermore it will endure

How measureless is His love

 

Why ?

No doubt today finds you busily pouring into the work of your hands – whatever work that may be.  Each of us has a special “work” God has called us to, the tasks He has placed before us.  And, as is often the case with anything related to work, we can become so consumed with the items on our to-do list, that we forget the “why” behind what we do.

Why do we do what we do ?

The answer to that question is what inspired us to write and record the songs on this new album Your Kingdom Come: To help us all remember the “why” behind the “what”.

I’m convinced that everything that’s gone wrong in this world is directly rooted in this one word:  Kingdom.  Every decision we make — the values we hold, how we view the world and our place in it, how we treat others, the way we manage our time, money and resources, and the endeavors we pursue — is a direct result of the kingdom to which we belong.

There are two kingdoms to choose from:  one’s own kingdom or The Kingdom of God.

If we choose to spend our lives building and growing our own little kingdoms – trying to build our own agendas and plans – we will discover no greater frustration, futility and ultimate emptiness.  But when we choose to spend our lives building and growing the Kingdom of God – the only Kingdom that will stand when all is said and done – we will discover no greater joy, fulfillment, and ultimate satisfaction.

Every song on this New Album tells One Story about One Kingdom.  Our prayer is that these songs will spark courage in your hearts and inspire you to seek first the Kingdom of God above all else.  For it is this one decision that shapes the whole of our lives.

Check out the Videos Page to watch tons of new videos & resources highlighting the new songs!

– Shelly

Press Release

Worship Leader Shelly E. Johnson Releases New Album ‘Your Kingdom Come’

Available Online and in Stores September 23

ATLANTA (September 16, 2014) – From Shelly E. Johnson, the writer of “Power of the Cross,” comes the long-awaited album ‘Your Kingdom Come’ featuring new anthems of worship for His Church. ‘Your Kingdom Come’ is released by LifeWay Worship in partnership with Elevate Entertainment Distribution and is available in stores and online September 23.

“I truly believe God inspired me to write the songs on this album for such a time as this,” said Johnson. “We are living in a unique time in history, and our culture is influencing the Church in many ways, both positive and negative. Throughout my travels and work in the local church, my eyes have been opened to some of the issues that are challenging our churches today. It breaks my heart to see the division these challenges are causing among the Body of Christ. God has used this to fuel a renewed passion in me to encourage unity and oneness among His people.”

Featuring worship-filled ballads and uplifting lyrics, ‘Your Kingdom Come’ includes 12 fresh tracks penned by Johnson, Sean Hill, and Jason Dyba. The album is produced by Michael Farren.

“This album is a turning point in my life and ministry, and in many ways, has become the catalyst for the new work God is stirring in my heart,” added Johnson. “My prayer is that these songs would spark courage in the hearts of listeners and worshippers, so that we can all live and thrive in the hope and Truth of the Gospel.”

 ‘Your Kingdom Come’ Track List: 

1. Kingdom Come

2. Sound of Heaven

3. You Deserve

4. Passion of our Hearts

5. He Is Good To Us

6. Power of the Cross

7. Love of Christ

8. Hallelujah to the King

9. We Bless Your Name

10. Church Arise

11. Open Hands

12. Overwhelmed

LINKS

Website:  www.shellyejohnson.com

Facebook:  www.facebook.com/shellyejohnson

Twitter & Instagram: @shellyejohnson

ABOUT SHELLY E. JOHNSON

Worship music is not a career choice, it’s a calling, and it’s one that LifeWay Worship’s 2012 Songwriter of the Year Shelly E. Johnson has embraced with joyful surrender. She has a gift for writing songs that can lift a congregation closer to the Throne, and a heart for serving God that makes her one of the most anointed young worship leaders of her generation. Most well-known for writing the powerful worship anthem “Power of the Cross,” which has been recorded by Natalie Grant, Steve Green and is being used in churches worldwide, Shelly has served as worship leader alongside Beth Moore, Tony Nolan, Andy Stanley, toured North America with renown Irish Hymn-writers Keith and Kristyn Getty, and currently serves on staff as a worship leader at First Baptist Woodstock, a 15,000+ member multi-campus church north of Atlanta.

Let The People Sing!

It’s the age-old question that perhaps every worship pastor and worship leader wrestles with at some point in their ministry.  A question with no clear-cut answer, no formulaic solution.  It’s up for debate and strong arguments could be made on all sides.

Actually, it’s not just one question.  It’s several questions:

How often should we introduce new songs to our congregation?

What should those new songs be?

How do we know which songs are connecting and which ones aren’t?

How do we know when a song is becoming “burnt-out” to the point it’s time to give it a rest?

How often should we repeat or rotate songs from week to week?

The list goes on.  I know I’m not the only worship leader who wrestles with this.  In fact, I wrestle with it so much that I’ve analyzed it to death.  I’ve built spreadsheets and tables and charts listing every song we’ve used every week, kept a tally of how many new songs we introduced this past year, and how often each song was used in services throughout the year.  What can I say?  There is an inner nerd in me who loves details and data and information and finding ways to use all that wonderful research to improve what we do and how we do it.

On any given Sunday, our church will host approximately 6,000+ worshippers at our three north-Atlanta area campuses.  That’s a huge responsibility, but the fact of the matter is, whether it’s thousands, hundreds or tens of people gathered, this is a responsibility that should never be taken lightly.  And that is why I am driven to ask such questions.

Our worship staff has had many meetings, conversations and group discussions about this whole “song usage dilemma”, and while there is no clearly defined answer to any of the questions listed above, I have come to my own personal conclusion:

Let the people sing.

As simple as that may sound, I believe this to be the main goal of music in The Church.

Let. The. People. Sing.

As worship leaders, we can get so bogged down in the day-to-day “work” of planning and preparing for upcoming services, that we can no longer see the forest for the trees.  We can become so consumed with songs and styles and tempos and relevance and who’s leading this or who’s playing that to the point we are totally missing the point.

The answers to the above questions are not what ultimately matters.  Rather, our goal as church staff and worship leaders is this:  to create an environment for people to worship Jesus with all their hearts.  Period.

We do this by engaging people’s hearts and imaginations, eliminating outside distractions and pointing their attention to Jesus.

Every day that we live and breathe on this earth we are incessantly attacked by the worries, frustrations, stresses and trials of everyday life.  They bombard us and weigh us down, to the point we start to forget the goodness of God.  We start to doubt His faithfulness and His unfailing love for us.

That is why we gather with His people.  To remember.  We all need to be reminded regularly, lest we forget the wondrous things our God has done.

It is because of this great tendency to forget that we must sing.  We don’t sing because we feel like it.  We sing so that we will feel like it.  Sometimes we must use our minds via our mouths and our songs to remind our hearts how to feel.  Psychological studies have proven that it is not our emotions that determine our thoughts and actions; quite the contrary.  It is our actions and thoughts that determine our emotions.  When you choose to worship, despite how you feel, you will in fact begin to feel differently as a direct result of your act of worship.  When we sing truth about God or sing words of adoration to God, we are telling our hearts how to feel.  We are changing our perspective.  We are willing ourselves into thinking, acting and feeling differently.

This is why singing is so important.  God Himself considered it of such importance that we are commanded to “sing praise unto God” at least 209+ times throughout the Bible.

What matters most is not how many new songs we use or how often we rotate songs or whether we lead them in hymns or even a Gregorian chant if that’s what floats your church’s boat.  What matters most is that we let the people sing.

When I put a worship set together, I ask myself, “Will they sing this?  Will they know this song well enough to truly sing this?”  Or, if we’re introducing a new song that week, then the question is, “Is this song accessible enough for them to learn it quickly so that they can sing this?”

I have yet to find a sound more encouraging, energizing and inspiring than the sound of a crowd of Jesus-lovers singing together.  There is nothing else like it on earth.  It’s a small glimpse of eternity.  I mean, really:  what greater accomplishment could we as a worship leader have than to fill people’s hearts and imaginations with a glimpse of eternity?

Let the people sing!

God Doesn’t Need My Music

The other night, I was in Nashville and had some free time, and it worked out for me to grab dinner with David Hamilton.  For those of you who haven’t had the privilege of knowing him, David is a world-class producer, arranger, songwriter, musician extraordinaire who has spent the last twenty years creating some of the most beautiful music ever written, working with artists such as Amy Grant, Vince Gill, Michael W. Smith, Sandi Patty, Steve Green, just to name a few, and oh yeah, traveling frequently to Abbey Road Studios in London to record orchestra music for Disney World and all kinds of other projects and world-renown artists.  I met David at church when I was in college.  Shortly after I graduated college, bright-eyed and clueless about the music industry, David for some reason decided to hire me to be his personal assistant, and I spent the next two years managing all aspects of his music world.  Talk about being thrown into the deep end of the pool.  Without floaties.  I learned more about the music business in that first month working for David than I did during my four years at Belmont University.

David naturally became a dear friend and valuable mentor, and even though I don’t work for him anymore, it’s always great to catch up whenever we have the opportunity.

As we sat at Cracker Barrell visiting on a rainy music-city night, he said something that hit me between the eyes, and I have not stopped thinking about it since:

“God doesn’t need your music; He just wants you.”

BAM.  I’ll be chewing on that for a while.  And by a while, I mean years.  Perhaps the rest of my life.

Here’s the thing about music world.  People hire you, book you, buy your products, listen to your music, or come to your concerts all based on whether or not they like what you do.  Never mind who you are; you are valued – or not valued – based on what you do.  If people don’t like what you do, you have no career in music.  Your success in the music industry is based entirely on how people feel about what you do.

And while that is certainly logical – because who in their right mind would hire someone who delivers bad work? – it is the root of a serious epidemic among us musical, artsy, creative types.  Here’s why:

It doesn’t take long for the line between who I am and what I do to become blurry.  If I’m not careful, I begin to find my value in what I do and in whether or not people like what I do.  And if they don’t like what I do, then based on this line of logic, I can take it so far as to think I have no value.  If I don’t have a certain number of Twitter followers or Facebook likes or YouTube views, then that must mean I’m not important.  God can’t use me.  I have no purpose in life.  I can contribute nothing to His Kingdom.

That is how the world seems to view things.

But, what if, when I stand before Jesus one day, I realize He never cared about the numbers?  What if I discover He never cared about what I did for Him, but rather who I was while I did it?  What if all He cares about is that I was faithful with whatever He gave me?  What if He’s most concerned with the quality of person I am becoming on this journey of life, and whether or not I am striving to be more like Him?  What if there is one person in the world I am supposed to show kindness to, and that is all that matters?  Forget the songs.  Forget the music.  Forget what I do for a living.  What if none of that really matters at all?

I’m not saying there’s no value in numbers.  And yes, I believe God cares about the work of our hands, and He desires to use the work of our hands for His glory. But the breakdown happens when we become driven by and consumed by the numbers.

David’s publishing company is called “Gratia Music”.  The word “gratia” is a Latin word meaning “thankfulness”.  When something is done “ex gratia”, it means it is “done voluntarily out of kindness or gratitude”.  David chose that name because he wanted all of his musical endeavors to be done out of pure gratitude and nothing else.

Ever since he told me that many years ago, I have carried it with me.  It changes everything.

I want to love God and enjoy Him forever.  I want to be faithful to steward the gifts He’s given me and enjoy every bit of it, because I believe that’s when He is most pleased.  Or as John Piper so beautifully stated it, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him”.  I want to be driven by gratitude, not by numbers or hype or status.

Because after all, a lifetime of singing and writing songs and recording albums and touring and leading people in worship is just not enough to adequately say “Thank You” to Jesus for all He’s done for me, and more importantly, who He’s been to me.

Sure, I work hard and have great ambition and take the work of my hands very seriously, but if I’m not careful, that ambition can lead to a nasty drive and turn me into a nasty person in the process.  And should I “gain the whole world” but fail to become the person God desires me to be, then I don’t think He will be pleased.  I can’t help but echo the lyric of one of my favorite songs, “Give me Jesus, give me Jesus, You can have all this world, but give me Jesus”.  Oh, how I long to hear Him say someday, “Well done, my good and faithful servant”……

It is freeing to know that God will do what He wants with the work of my hands – my job is just to enjoy Him through it all.

God doesn’t need my music; He just wants me.

Baby Steps

Four years ago, I was working as an assistant for a producer in Nashville, buried in the chaotic logistical world of touring, staying up til the wee hours of the morning packing orchestra envelopes for Michael W. Smith’s symphony Christmas tour.

Tonight, I’m actually one of the ones going on the tour.  Hymns For The Christian Life Tour with Keith & Kristyn Getty.  6 weeks.  25 cities.

To say I’m excited would be an understatement.  There are few writers of songs of the Faith that I respect more than the Gettys, and they also happen to be dear friends of me & Jack.  I’ve been to at least a handful of their concerts, and have yet to make it through one without crying.  All that to say, I’m a HUGE Getty fan, so to be invited to go on tour with them is an honor.

In all this, I am reminded of the principle of baby steps.

I’ve been out of college for six years, and have been pursuing God’s call on my life as a songwriter and worship leader full time since then.  The road of music world can be a daunting one – discouraging at times, marked by twists and bends you never expected and seemingly long detours in strange directions.

But if I’ve learned anything these past six years, I have learned that twists and bends can end up being blessings in disguise, and seemingly long detours end up leading you to places you never would have found otherwise, and after the fact you find yourself grateful to have stumbled upon them.

Like babies do.  They find their way one small step, or stumble, at a time.  When they fall, they get back up and try again.  Putting one foot in front of the other.  One step at a time.  One door at a time.

When I look back over the past six years, I never would have written the journey this way, but I am overwhelmed with gratitude by all that God has done.  The people He has allowed me to encounter, the places He’s allowed me to visit, this crazy, maddening and beautiful journey He has me traveling.  And despite all the craziness, the joys far outweigh the tears, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So… I’ll keep taking one baby step at a time, and keep enjoying the journey.

Next stop?  Myerson Symphony Center in Dallas Texas with a band of Irish musicians, a few toddlers, and two of my favorite songwriters on the planet.

Gonna be fun!

www.gettymusic.com

IMG_1426

 

Clear The Stage

A good friend shared this video with me over the weekend.  It was Saturday mid-morning, and Jack and I were getting ready to go to a birthday party.  The text came through while I was brushing my teeth.  I clicked the link, began watching and was immediately captivated.  I found my way to the closet floor, holding my phone, watching, and the tears began to flow.  (yes, toothbrush was still frozen in place in my mouth).  When the song ended the first time, I ran to the sink to complete my toothbrushing routine, then raced back to the closet floor and watched it again.  This time, sobbing.

This song WRECKED me:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6smGew7dGto&sns=em

I live, lead, work and spend much of my time in “worship leader world” – have for a few years now – and there have most definitely been times I have wanted to “clear the stage and set the sound and lights ablaze” in much the same manner that Jesus did when he cleared the temple.  Don’t worry, I’m not a raving lunatic (at least on most days), and I very much love the Church and have a deep passion for leading God’s people to worship Him.  I am not burned out with ministry – grateful I haven’t reached that point yet, and I pray to God I never do – but what I am completely fed up with is this “epidemic” in our present-day church culture that worship must look and feel a certain way to be considered “good”.

And what’s even more sickening to me is how predictable the stereo type of “worship music world” has become:  Dude wearing a collared, flannel button-down shirt and jeans (skinny jeans if he’s real artistic) (or a deep V-neck tee to accentuate his cool factor) holding an acoustic guitar, belting his brains out and fist-pumping to the latest Passion or Hillsong hit, backed up of course by a full-fledged band, who are also wearing a similar wardrobe.  And if the church is really “with-it”, there will be blazing, colorful lights swirling around the room, smoke & haze, and of course, don’t forget the trendy coffee shop worshippers will pass on the way into the worship center with some clever Biblically-referenced name like “Holy Grounds” or “He Brews” or … well, I’ll stop there.

I am not trying to be mean, and I am certainly not saying there is anything wrong with coffee, fist-pumping, stage lighting, Passion songs or skinny jeans;  I actually own a pair myself and wear them often, and yes, I do fist-pump quite a bit while leading worship, and yes, I am a huge fan of the amazing songs being birthed out of the Passion camp these days and lead them regularly.

None of this is the point.

The point is, in my humble opinion, all these things are a bigger deal than they should be.

Church staff want “better worship” in their services.  So they bring in a worship leader that fits the above description, build the coffee shop, install the lighting, and think that by doing so, the thousands of hurting people outside the walls will start pouring in in droves.  Then months later, when the numbers have plateaued and it doesn’t seem to be working, they are all scratching their heads, and scheduling more staff meetings trying to figure out what’s wrong.

This video wrecked me because I don’t ever want to think that way.  I believe that more than anything what people really need and really want is Jesus.  And my desire as a worship leader is to find ways to lift Jesus high and create an environment for people to encounter Him.  For when they encounter Him, they are moved to worship Him.  And when they truly worship Him, they are forever changed.

A producer friend told me once, “Art inspires, but worship transforms”.

The Church is not confined to a place or a building – it is the global body of Christ-followers – but oh, how I hope and pray that in our places and our buildings, we as worship leaders and church staff would strive to not “put on” moments of artistic inspiration to wow and draw people, but more than anything, we would humbly and vulnerably lead the hurting people God has entrusted to us by creating real, honest, safe environments for people to truly encounter Almighty God.  For only then will they be utterly and completely transformed, and only then will they start pouring in in droves.

That is the job of a church staff – to continually be finding ways to create such an environment.

It sounds extreme, but it may not be a bad idea one Sunday to actually clear the stage and set the sound and lights ablaze … hmmm.

Screen Shot 2013-08-20 at 11.21.30 AM

 

Why Is Modern Worship Music Important?

I was recently asked to share some thoughts in response to the question, “What is the value of contemporary Christian music in our worship experiences?”

Here was my response:

The story of God is ever-unfolding, developing, ongoing in our lives.  He is constantly and consistently at work in and through us, in the hearts and lives of believers all around the globe.  He worked personally and supernaturally in the lives of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and in the same way, He is at work in the lives of us today in 2013.  While the Israelites were wandering in the desert, experiencing first hand the miraculous deliverance of God from trials of every kind, new songs of faith burst forth, moments of inspiration and gratitude that became songs of worship from the people of God.  Through the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, the same thing continued to happen.  The people of God experienced the works of God in their lives, and as a result, hymns and songs of worship and gratitude burst forth.

We still sing many of those hymns today, a few hundred years later.  For example, just last Sunday, I led our congregation in the beautiful hymn “It Is Well With My Soul”, which was written in 1873 by Horatio Spafford, a Chicago-based attorney heavily invested in real estate who in a span of two short years lost his entire business & fortune in a fire, watched his 4-year old son die of scarlet fever, and shortly after lost all four of his daughters in a tragic shipwreck.  After being reunited with his wife who was rescued from the wreckage, he sat in his cabin weeping and penned the words to this great song, which the global Church is still singing today, 140 years later.

So, it would only make sense that as God is continually moving and working in our lives today, new songs of worship would continue to burst forth.  That is all “modern worship” really is – new songs of the faith.  At some point in history, “Amazing Grace” was a new song, a “modern song” for the people of its time.  “The Old Rugged Cross”, “How Great Thou Art”, “Be Thou My Vision”, “Blessed Assurance” – every song we describe today as a “sacred hymn” was at some point a brand new, “modern worship song”.

So, why is it important to use “contemporary worship music” in churches today?  Because someday, these “new” songs of today will become the sacred standards of the future church.  Songs like “In Christ Alone”, “10,000 Reasons”, etc will continue to be sung and used in churches 100 years from now.  I firmly believe people will talk about the Gettys and Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman in the same way they talk about Charles Wesley and Fanny Crosby.

If the Spirit of God is at work in the lives of His people, the song of His people should reflect that.

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