Monday, 24 September 2007

This Blog Has Moved

There will be no more posts made to this site.

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Sunday, 16 September 2007

Redemption Church, Stevenage, Herts, 16/09/2007

This week I led the whole of the worship service, as my co-pastor & worship director (Ali Loaker) was preaching. This had a practical implication for the band because it meant we were a musician down (we're not yet in the place where we have "spare" musicians that can cover absenses). Ali normally plays a Gibson Les Paul, whereas I play either a Fender Telecaster (which compliments the Les Paul sound nicely, but is in no way going to fill the sound in the same way), or I play a Takamine acoustic.

The set list this week was as follows:

Evermore (Hillsong United)
Kingdom Come (Mike Ellis)
How Great is Our God (Chris Tomlin)
From The Inside Out (Hillsong United)
Facedown (Matt Redman)
Passion (Mike Ellis)
Love So Strong (Mike Ellis)

During the first two songs I used the Telecaster and for the rest of the set I used the Takamine.

Having to compensate for a missing electric guitar meant changes. Firstly, we had to tweak my amp settings to thicken up the sound of the electric - which was especially required for "Kingdom Come", where we start with a distorted Em chord "chugging" over bass & kick. Secondly, it meant changes to the way we played some songs. So for example, in "From The Inside Out", there was no electric guitar riff leading into the verses, and the solo was taken by our flautist instead.

Along with these changes, we were having to meet in a different hall to normal (we hire a building for our Sunday services & the hall we normally use for church was being let out to another organisation). The new hall was across the corridor from the old, but all of our equipment (PA, chairs etc.) was stored in the old and had to be moved back and forth. We are going to be meeting in the new venue for another 3-4 weeks. What was it I said last week about "blessed are the flexible..."?

Anyway, (for me personally) this week didn't feel as though the worship flowed particularly well - that is the time we spent worshipping before Ali brought the word ("The pursuit of holiness" - whoa!). The fact is though, the songs we sang all fitted with the theme (I had heard from God & brought what He wanted); and there were people in the congregation who engaged in the worship and gave themselves to it. When it comes down to it, worship is not about how I feel, it's about how worthy He is. In the words of Matt Redman, Paul Oakley (& others I'm sure) - "It's all about You, Jesus".

Even King David told himself, "Why are you cast down, oh my soul and moan within me? Hope in God; for I shall praise Him for the salvation of His face." (Ps 42:5); He also told himself, "Bless the Lord oh my soul..." (Ps 103:1,2). Note to self - don't trust your own feelings, they can deceive you; and certainly don't be led by them. Put them in their proper place - sometimes you just have to tell them what to do!

The pinnacle of the whole service came after the word, when the congregation were invited to respond personally to the call to holiness (the purpose of which is to share relationship with a holy God - motivated out of love and not of works). During this time, we were gently playing the chords to "Love So Strong" in the background (just keyboard & acoustic). After a short while, as I began to sing the first part of the lyric...

A love so strong that spans all time
And reaches out into this heart of mine
That sets me free, now I can sing
Of all You have done for me, my gracious King

It makes me cry Holy, Holy are You Lord
And I cry Holy are You Lord could really sense God's manifest presence as He and his people were doing some very real business.

As I write this, I'm reminded of the scripture in the book of Proverbs, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths" (Prov 3:5-6) - which includes directing your worship service.

Friday, 14 September 2007

Redemption Church, Stevenage, Herts, 09/09/2007

In this section I intend to publish reviews of our worship services (whether they be the regular Sunday morning services or other events). This will include the set list and also the highlights or any other points of interest. So, here goes the first one.

The planned set list for this week was as follows:

God of Wonders (Third Day version) Mike
Here is Our King (David Crowder Band) Mike
Love So Strong (Mike Ellis) Mike
Thousand Miles (Ali Loaker) Ali
Who is There Like You (Ali Loaker) Ali
Lord You Have My Heart (Delirious) Ali

I say "planned", because things changed part way through the service. The first two songs were amazing; by the second song, I could see some people in the congregation punching the air as they chanted "Here is our King, Here is our Love, Here is our God..." etc. There was a real sense of excitement & passion that filled the hall.

The next song we were due to sing (Love So Strong) is a more worshipful song, but it wasn't right to go into worship at that point. In fact, one of our senior pastors approached me and said, "I think we're supposed to praise some more". So, we quickly put in Ali's song, "It's A New Day" (which has a straight ahead rock feel, in the key of A) and Hillsong United's, "The Time Has Come" - minus the long guitar intro (we normally play the intro when we use this song, but it wasn't right for this occasion).

Now we were ready to worship, so we started with my song from the planned list, "Love So Strong" - which flew! We ended up spending a while around this song. The tag at the end of this song says, "I could sing for all my life of how you set me free", which we repeated for a while before going into a time of free worship (over the same progression). It was powerful!

We went from that into Ali's song from the planned list, "Who Is There Like You", which is a passionate, minor sounding song with an anthemic chorus of, "Holy, You are Holy, You are Holy Lord". Normally I'm on electric for this song (playing second guitar - adding riffs & melodies), but my B string broke during "The Time Has Come" and so I had to stay on my accoustic. The song still worked though.

We certainly had church this week! I like it when we hear God & follow His lead (even if it means messing with the set list) - especially if we've heard right. Blessed are the flexible for they shall not break (even if their guitar string does).

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Not A Lifestyle

I was in church this Sunday when our Senior Pastor made the following statement during his teaching, "Jesus is not a lifestyle!". It got my attention. It also reminded me of another statement, "worship is a lifestyle". Since then, those two thoughts have been rolling around on the inside of me.

There is a whole lot of motivational teaching about these days (both christian & secular). In fact, the majority of it is based on principles which God established that will work for you whether you know God, or you don't (but that's a whole other subject). Incidentally, I wholeheartedly agree that Jesus wants His followers to be blessed, whole, healthy, prosperous, victorious; He wants them to reach their full potential and fulfil their destinies - in short, to be "successful". Jesus himself said, "...I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." (John 10:10).

There is a danger here though of letting these blessings, or "by-products" of salvation become the focus of our attention. It is easy to see how we could fall into the trap of treating our faith as a lifestyle enhancing add-in. This form of thinking keeps us at the centre of our lives ("What's in it for me?") and demeans Jesus' position as Lord.

Jesus is so much more than that. He is referred to as "the Prince of Life" (Acts 3:15); Psalm 36:9 says, "with You is the fountain of life"; Jesus said of himself, "I am the bread of life" (John 6:35 & 48); He is "the Author & Finisher of our faith" (Heb.12:2); John 1:3-4 says, "All things came into being through Him, and without Him not even one thing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men." Jesus is not a lifestyle - He is Life!

We owe everything to Him - all that we have and all that we are. Paul said, when he was in Athens (Acts 17), "The God who made the world and all things in it, ...He is Lord of Heaven and earth" (v24); "He gives life and breath and all things to all" (v25); "in Him we live and move and have our being" (v28). Paul also stated (in v26 & v27), "He has made all nations of men seek the Lord". Surely, the truth of all the above should inspire us to want to seek Him and to live a lifestyle of worship.

Worship needs to be more than just an event that occurs on a Sunday morning (though that is part of it). Worship must be a heartfelt expression, filled with love & gratitude, and given in response to a living God who has freely given us "all things" (Rom 8:32); surely, the least we could do is to freely give Him all that we have & all that we are, all that we do & all that we think - every day. This expression of worship should permeate every part of our lives; the outworking of which should naturally cause us to live a life of obedience and submission to the Lord of Life.

Let all that Jesus is and all that He has done cause you to live a life "worthy of the calling" (Eph 4:1); a life that glorifies the King of Kings & Lord of Lords; a lifestyle of worship.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

For the Audience of One

I can't remember where I first heard this expression, but it's one that has stuck!

I was sat in my lounge recently - with my guitar, worshiping - just me & God. During that time, I was gently reminded again of why it is I do what I do; you see, I had forgotten.

There is a lot of preparation that goes into a Sunday service; choosing the songs, communicating the list with the rest of the team, practicing the arrangements; then getting to church early, setting up the stage, PA & instruments, tuning & sound checking, then final rehearsals; all before we pray & get changed, ready to start the worship service.

Of course, once the service starts there is a whole new set of "balls to juggle"; listening to God (trying to find the "flow"), communicating any spontaneous changes in song structure with the rest of the band (as they happen), trying to ensure the congregation know where we're going; making sure the children leave in time for their ministry & worship is finished to give the Senior Pastor (or whoever's preaching) their allotted time.

In amongst all of the mechanics of making a Sunday service happen, I had lost my primary focus. So, as I sat in my lounge with my guitar, worshipping with tears on my face, I remembered that first & foremost, my worship is "for the audience of One", that is Jesus Christ.

I want to encourage you (whatever your involvement in the worship service), to never lose site of why you are there, or who it is you're there for. Let all of your service overflow from the abundance of having spent time with Him. To those involved in leading worship especially, begin by leading your own heart - at home, when no-one else is looking. So that whether you find yourself "all alone, or in a crowd", your worship will firstly be "for the audience of One".

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Sing Praises With Understanding

Psalm 47:7 says, "For God is King of all the earth; sing praises with understanding."

The Hebrew word for understanding means to carefully consider, to be well thought-out and consequently to be intelligent, having wisdom.

Let's look at this verse from two perspectives. Firstly, I believe that as we carefully consider God, who He is and all He's done, our only possible reaction must surely be to "sing praises". There can be no other response than to give praise and to glorify the God who "is King of all the earth". So we begin to understand (as far as our minds can) the God we praise.

Secondly, I believe that the praises we sing, or the act of worship itself should also be carefully considered and intelligent. So we begin to understand our expression of praise; how, why and when we sing, shout, clap, raise our hands, kneel, dance (whatever the expression).

We were made in the image of an intelligent, creative God. Lets offer Him intelligent, creative praise!

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Why Blog?

The reason for this blog is to begin to capture my thoughts related to worship. I've been involved in the worship ministry for over 20 years (with more than 15 of those years involved in leading worship).

If you're involved in the worship ministry in any way and have any thoughts or want to comment then please do!

In the meanwhile, if you want to know more about
me or the church I attend just follow the links: MySpace ShoutLife

I look forward to hearing from you.