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Entries in coral ridge presbyterian church (34)

Tuesday
Nov102015

Coral Ridge Music Releases - Chelsea Chen Live at Coral Ridge

Friends, I'm so excited to let you know about the release of a live concert recording that our young organist, Chelsea Chen, performed last year on our 7,000-pipe Ruffatti organ. There's a lot of off thinking out there when it comes to musical style in the church these days. One of those skewed ideas is that the pipe organ has no place in the modern church music paradigm. A year ago I engaged an experimental thought project about what the future of the pipe organ might be because of the shifting of the guard in old downtown historic churches, and only a few months ago, I sat at a conference table at Wheaton College with a selected handful of faculty, publishers, and artists who were all asking the question about how the pipe organ fits in the present and the future of church music. I'm thrilled to be a part of a church that is asking that question and seeking answers through generous practices like melding rock music with all of the wonderful aesthetics a pipe organ has to offer.

As we go about those explorations, we continue to be committed to supporting local, national, and international organists who are at the top of their field in our annual concert series.

When I sat through Chelsea's concert last year, I witnessed several in the audience whose preconceptions about the organ were blown away by the sounds, colors, styles, and expressions that an organ can offer when commanded by the hands, feet, intellect, and artistry of a great organist. Chelsea Chen Live at Coral Ridge is a time-stamped testimony to the continued relevance and power of an enduring instrument in the history of church music. 

The whole concert was glorious. My favorite moment was the surprising color that came from "Miroir," by modern composer Ad Wammes. Its minimalist feel with its salsa-like groove struck a particular chord with me.

Please tell all your friends about this project! It's available on iTunes and bandcamp.

Monday
Jul132015

Leading Worship Through a Major Church Crisis

It's been a while since my last post. Most of you all know what has happened at Coral Ridge, and I've personally received a lot of love, prayers, and support from so many of you. Thank you! This blog, for me, has always been a place to think out loud by wrestling thoughts to the ground, processing in real time the ins and outs of one local worship leader who is asking questions about worship and pastoring in his little corner of the globe. I've been encouraged to see that some of my thoughts have been helpful to others in their contexts. So today I turn to what will be a cathartic post. It will help me to organize the jumble of thoughts and emotions that go into trying to keep your head above water in a pastoral crisis.

I've been serving churches as a worship pastor long enough to have gone through several crises. Though none have been this large and this public, on the ground there are certain common themes that have emerged for me over and over again that I now perceive as "givens." I want to talk about these in hopes that my very immediate reflections might be of help to others. I am on the front end of this new season in our church's life, but I'm already witnessing things that, though painful and difficult, are quite predictable simply because every church is full of train-wrecked sinners like me who tend to exhibit the same types of behaviors in moments like these. So, here goes...

1. The Vacuum

Whenever there is a shakeup at "the top," it leaves a leadership hole. That vacuum tries to get filled in a bunch of ways. On the leadership side, it means that we church leaders need to rally as a team, pray and seek the Lord together, and lead strongly and visibly. In a sense, for the time being, it is our job to fill that vacuum. It means more time, more emotional energy, more prayer, more burden. This is a given.

One of the negative sides of the vacuum is that there are unhealthy ways that congregations can seek to fill it in short order. Many times, when a leader is gone, it becomes an opportunity for some to declare the things they've been holding back. These things include ministry emphases, visionary choices, but also (maybe especially) things relating to worship. This has certainly been the case for me, and based on my past experience, it won't really let up for quite some time. In fact, we're still sort of in "shock" phase, which means that as the newness wears off, people will be able to process more...which means that the best is yet to come. :)

But knowing that the vacuum always happens and will continue to cause weird things to occur is half the battle. And all this leads to the second point.

2. The church needs stability and familiarity in its worship.

In moments like these, people's concealed desires for what worship "should have been like all along" become revealed. In some cases, these desires are the worship leaders', too. (Not in my case. My senior pastor and I thankfully saw quite eye to eye on most of it.) It can be very tempting to start implementing all those desired tweaks and changes, but this is exactly the wrong time to do this. What churches need in moments of crisis is stability and familiarity in their worship. Whatever the liturgy has been, stick to it. Give them more songs that everyone knows and loves. People don't need to be raising eyebrows or tweaking their heads. They need to be crying out to God.  

3. The church needs stability and familiarity in its leadership...but not mini-Messiahs.

Every church is different, but in my context, I was one of the two faces of leadership that people were used to seeing more or less every Sunday. One of those faces is gone. Mine is the only familiar face left. It's really important that I'm there. It's really important that I'm present and undistracted. It's really important that I exhibit a non-anxious presence and display a confidence in the one and only Head of God's Church--Jesus Christ.

At the same time, I have to wrestle with very honest "Messiah complex" feelings. I am not the church's Savior. I had a moment where I started to think I was, though, when I almost cancelled my vacation plans coming up in a few weeks, feeling the burden of the fact that "the church needs me." In one sense, the church does need me. But I know my heart, and my wife knows my heart. When I started to hint at the transgression of our vacation plans, I knew that would be disaster for me (and my need for rest) and disaster for a family who needs their husband and dad. When that got some clarity, it became as simple for me as remembering that Jesus loves His church more than I do and that I'm not Coral Ridge's Messiah. Praise God for that, for my sake and the church's.

4. (1) and (2) mean that I need to find safe places off the beaten path to process my own personal pain and confusion.

Yes, I need to be a strong, stable, non-anxious leader in this time. But I still have anxiety. I still am weak. I still question my calling. Like my congregation, I'm going through my own version of the stages of grief. I need safe places to explode, to cry, to vent, to strategize, to collapse. On the one hand, it would be very "authentic" of me to do that in front of the church. But the church doesn't need that, and I actually think it would be detrimental to her health. 

But if I bottle it all up, I have no doubt that I will find myself in my own crisis in a few short weeks or months. And then I'm no good to anyone. So, I've chosen a few friends, a few safe havens. And they have been a wellspring of life for me. They have been Jesus.

5. No emotions are off limits, and we should expect (and in worship make room for) every kind. 

When churches go through crises, congregations experience the full spectrum of emotions. It brings up PTSD-like symptoms for some. Others get depressed, angry, or cynical and jaded. Some people surprise you by leaning into the church like they never did before. Others surprise you by becoming quite oppositional. Some get upset over very peculiar and specific things that happen. Others seem upset over everything. Some retreat and go into radio silence. Others are emailing, texting, calling every day.

Knowing that all emotions will come, and knowing that they are all perfectly valid ways of handling situations like these, we need to be ready for them by giving voice to them in worship. In my experience, a great place to handle this is in the church's moment of confession. I've been given to praying more extemporaneously to help give voice to some of these emotions. My prayers, privately and publicly, have sounded like this:

God, this is a very confusing time for us. We confess that we've been angry...with others and with You. We confess that we feel hurt. We confess that these moments cause us to doubt Your goodness, Your promises, Your faithfulness. We struggle at times to see the good in these moments.

We confess that some of us feel numb and cold. Some of us are finding it hard to honestly and earnestly worship You. For others of us, it's all we can cling to. We confess that we aren't the kind of people that can handle this well apart from Your grace. We're weak. Be strong for us.

As odd as it may sound, the last three weeks of worship at Coral Ridge have been sweet times of community. We're more broken open, leaning a bit more on God and a bit less on ourselves. Desperation is a remarkable catalyst for authentic, vibrant worship. And our emotions have been all over the map. I'm grateful that God has created enough of a safe culture of worship at Coral Ridge that at least some can feel free to be honest before the Lord in community. God has been faithful and good to us.

6. Care very little about what is being said "out there." Care very much about what is being felt "in here."

In all honesty, I'm paying very little attention to what's happening in the sphere of blogs and social media. So much of it is partially informed and feels distant, cold, and dispassionately clinical. It can be very distracting, though, and it can raise fears and concerns that simply don't need to be there. Through past experience, I've learned to pay attention to the flock in front of me. What are their hurts, their fears, their concerns? I don't need to answer the critics. They're not the ones God has called me to keep watch over. I need to be close to our flock, spend lots of time with them, and really listen. So I've been sending lots of emails, making lots of phone calls, and drinking way to much coffee with folks. My office has been a revolving door.

As a workaholic and a task-oriented person, I'm tempted to think that all this people time is very un-productive. (I'm not getting anything done!) I've learned, though, that such thoughts spring up more from the enemy and my own idolatrous heart than they do from any good place. My call now is to be very, very present for people that need it. I feel a bit relationally stretched thin, and I feel like some important goals are getting sidelined. But there's just a strong sense that I'm doing the right thing. So I just have to let the chips fall where they may.

7. The church needs the hope of Jesus.

Worship needs biblical lamentation, which is another way of saying that the church needs to be able to cry out "How long?" WITH HOPE. In times like this, I've found that emphasizing the following themes are important and powerful:

  • God's faithfulness generally
  • God's faithfulness specifically--His mighty deeds of the past
  • Confession & Lamentation
  • Death & Resurrection (both literally and symbolically)
  • Jesus' undying love for His Church
  • The Eschaton--the End when God will make all things new
  • The nearness of the Holy Spirit

All these things, when emphasized, become a soothing balm for the anxieties, fears, pain, anger, and sorrow of a congregation going through crisis. Thankfully, there are so many Psalms, songs, and prayers that speak right to these things, because, well, suffering seems to be one of the few givens for every human being. 

You feel it in the air of Coral Ridge right now, and I think any Gospel-oriented community would feel the same: hope abounds. This doesn't mean that everyone is feeling hopeful, but there is a kind of communal sense of hopefulness and trust when we gather. We're still smiling and laughing. And some of us are getting very energized for where God will take us as a local church in this city. 

Still, right now, we're a jumble. If you've seen Inside Out, it feels like we're in that deconstruction-reconstruction phase that characterizes most of the movie's storyline. It's an unsettling place to be, and it's a blessed place to be. I'll write more when I have something to say...and only then!

Thursday
May282015

Exciting New Projects for Coral Ridge Music

I want to share two things that we're doing with Coral Ridge Music that really light my fire. They are extensions and expressions of the way that we're trying to think pastorally about the way we write and produce music for our local church...with the hope that it will help some other churches out there, too.

A Kids' Worship EP

One of the things we felt burdened to do was to translate for kids some of the ways we're experiencing the Law and the Gospel in worship at Coral Ridge. We also want to be able to bless the young families that are a part of our community by giving them something to bump in their minivans and at home. So, we've tasked our summer interns (Scott Bajgrowicz, Dasia Canales, Caleb Koornneef, & DJ Vining) with recording a kids' EP of six songs. Some of them are simplified rewrites of previously recorded songs, like, "His Be the Victor's Name," and "Wake Up Sleeper." Others are fresh takes on some children's classics: "Jesus Loves Me" has some added verses that flesh out grace for our kids; "Father Abraham" (with a modified tune) weds some sweet covenant theology and Christological themes into a classic. Yet other songs are attempting to liturgically train our kids to experience the gospel narrative in worship, so we've written a confession song called, "I'm Sorry, God," that walks through in a simple way the "thought, word, and deed" of sin in our lives.  This is a blitz project and will be ready for our families and the broader public in the fall. Keep on the lookout for a Kickstarter campaign by our Terns! 

A "Feedback Panel" for Some New Worship Tunes

Julie Anne Vargas and I have been in the woodshed, working on new songs. I can honestly say that I've never worked so hard and put so much effort into crafting these texts and melodies. Many of these songs have been wrestled into submission. We're adding a layer, though, to the songwriting process. Tonight, we're bringing together a small swath of our congregation, along with some friends and local area worship leaders for a "Worship Night Song Panel," where we'll present these songs, talk about them, solicit feedback, and sing them together. Before we fully commit to these songs, we want to create a safe space for them to "hit" our congregation in order to see what sticks. We're anticipating that this night will give us some important insight on the traction that these songs will or will not have in our community. We'll go through six songs in a conversational, coffee house-style format and hopefully God will bless us with a rich sense of His presence among us. We want to worship our way through this experience.

These songs will travel through this process and then hopefully make it on to an EP or LP due out in February 2016.

If you all have done similar things in your churches, I'd be very curious how the process went for you...what it looked like, how successful it was, some do's and don't's you learned. Please comment!

Thursday
Feb122015

A Trinitarian Call to Worship Song

Posted yesterday over at LIBERATE was my song analysis of our opening track, "Father, How Great Your Delight in the Son" on our November EP, The Magnifcent Three.   

I wanted to write a hymn in Trinitarian shape, similar to "Come Thou Almighty King," though with a bit more focus on the roles of the Persons and their mutual delight. The ultimate goal was to give the Church a song that began worship by looking at how we join into the already-happening delight of the Trinity, pulsating through heaven and garnering earth. 

Go check out my description at LIBERATE for an inside look on the thinking/artistic process and theological vision behind it. As you listen, keep in mind that it can be sung very successfully (we sang it last night at Coral Ridge) to a 6/8 rhythm that doesn't sound anything like the recording. The recorded arrangement was more of an (attempted, at least) artistic statement.

 

Father, How Great
Your Delight in the Son

listen/buy | lead sheet | chord chart

Lyrics

1. Father, how great Your delight in the Son
Infinite joy ere the worlds were begun
The fullness of Love found in Him, with You one
Father, how great Your delight in the Son

2. Jesus, You reign at the Father’s right hand
In pleasure You rule o’er His sovereignty’s span
You joyfully follow the Father’s commands
Jesus, You reign at the Father’s right hand 

And, now called into Your delight
As we strain to gaze at Your light
With the hosts of the heavens all veiling their sight,
We cry,”Holy, holy, holy”
We cry,”Holy, holy, holy”
We cry,”Holy, holy, holy” 

3. Spirit, You light up the Father and Son
With pleasure You join their affections in One
So pour out their glory as we humbly come
Spirit, You light up the Father and Son 

So we join Your myst’ry divine
As we sing Your Love before time
And we lift up our voices midst glory sublime
And cry,”Holy, holy, holy”
And cry,”Holy, holy, holy”
And cry,”Holy, holy, holy” 

4. O worship the Father, immortal, in light
O worship the Son, at His right hand of might
O worship the Spirit, eternally bright
With saints, angels, elders, and martyrs in white 

So we join the great One in Three
In the praise that ever shall be
And in Christ, through the Spirit, our Father we seek.
And cry,”Holy, holy, holy”
And cry,”Holy, holy, holy”
And cry,”Holy, holy, holy”

Words & Music: Zac Hicks, 2013
©2013 Unbudding Fig Music (ASCAP)
Tuesday
Dec232014

Christmas Eve Lessons & Carols at Coral Ridge (2014)

I always value seeing and hearing what others are doing in worship services, especially around "unifying" times of year when much of the Church focuses on pinnacle, earth-altering events like the incarnation of the Son of God. (That's one of the reasons I love being a part of the best, most thoughtful, most collaborative worship leader group on Facebook, Liturgy Fellowship.)

One of the things I LOVE about being at Coral Ridge is their strong heritage of pouring resources into the musical arts. Because of this, I can stand on the shoulders of my predecessors and help put together amazing, diverse, expressive, and beautiful services, like our annual Christmas Eve Lessons & Carols Services, with some of South Florida's best artists. (And, this year, we're pulling in folks from New York and Germany!) For those unfamiliar, "Lessons & Carols" is nothing more (and nothing less) than a Scripture-and-song-response service format. It's a simple yet compelling structure that has a lot of flexibility to fit a lot of different styles and traditions. Here's what we're doing tomorrow night. Here's the service, with some commentary:

Gathering of God's People

Jazz Prelude

O Come, O Come Emmanuel - arr. Gasior
Little Drummer Boy - arr. Gasior

Jim Gasior is on the faculty of New World School of the Arts in Miami, and he is an amazing pianist and arranger. He arranged "O Come" for a jazz trio/quartet and "Little Drummer Boy" for full band with horns. Coral Ridge Music commissioned Jim to write these pieces and hopes to release his live Christmas jazz preludes sometime in the next year or two. 

Welcome & Opening Prayer

I pulled a simple prayer from Thomas Cranmer's 1549 Prayer Book--a collect for Christmas Day.

Almighty God,
You've given us your only begotten Son
to take our nature upon him,
and this day to be born of a pure virgin;
Grant that we, being made new by You,
and made children by adoption and grace,
may daily be renewed by the Holy Spirit,
through this very One: Jesus Christ,
our Lord and Savior,
who rules and reigns forever and ever. Amen.

Gathering Carol

O Come All Ye Faithful - arr. Willcocks, Chen, 2013

David Willcocks' arrangement has been adapted by our Artist in Residence, Chelsea Chen, for orchestra and organ. Simple, majestic, fabulous.

Lessons & Carols

Lesson 1

John 1:1-17
The Unbelievable - Sovereign Grace Music 

This year, we wanted to open the lessons with John 1 and respond with this beautiful new song from Sovereign Grace Music. It's an invitation to "believe the unbelievable." The song is filled with similar paradoxes, including my favorite lines, "He will heal the unhealable / he will save the unsaveable"...A perfect thought to begin the night. It's orchestrated much like the recording, for acoustic guitar, piano, strings, winds, horns, and glockenspiel.

Lesson 2

Genesis 3:8-19
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen - arr. Hillsong 

We wanted to pair the dark but hopeful passage about the fall of Adam and Eve with a congregational song that matched the depth and height of the text. "God Rest Ye" does that. This Hillsong arrangement for folk band (incl. banjo) and strings is an accessible and elegant, yet passionate setting.

Lesson 3

Isaiah 9:2-7
"Puer Natus Est," from Four Improvisations on Gregorian Themes (No. 1) - Everett Titcomb

A beautiful, meditative, slowly growing piece for organ that Chelsea will play. I can't wait to hear her registration choices and colors in our sanctuary and on our organ.

Lesson 4

Isaiah 11:1-9
There Blooms a Rose in Bethlehem - Sovereign Grace Music

I transcribed and arranged this wonderful modernization (in both text and tune) of "Lo How a Rose." Our choir will be singing it in a very simple SAB setting.

Lesson 5

Luke 1:26-38
A Hallelujah Christmas - Leonard Cohen / Cloverton / arr. Mortilla 

The viral video of this re-text of Leonard Cohen's classic "Hallelujah" is a telling of the Christmas story that plays with Cohen's original text and juxtaposition of earthy and lofty language...a perfect tension to explore the wonder of the Incarnation. My friend and composition student at Indiana University, Paul Mortilla, came up with a creative, complex, and beautiful orchestration for strings, organ, horns, winds, choir, percussion, and soloist. This will be a special moment.

Lesson 6

Luke 2:1-7
Hark the Herald Angels Sing - City Church Little Big Band

A terrific jazz arrangement with an Afro-Cuban feel was written by Adam Shulman, an artist connected with Karl Digerness over at City Church San Francisco. I have no doubt that some won't appreciate the setting ("Just give us the original!"), but I find the spirit and groove of the song to be refreshing, offering some new shades on the text we might otherwise miss. It's gorgeous and lively. To my ear, it sounds like heralding angels.

Offering

This is Our God (with What Child is This) - arr. Cottrell

A beautiful, lush, contemporary arrangement of a modern Christmas song woven into a classic Christmas tune. It's a tradition at Coral Ridge to do this piece, well predating me. It's powerful and climactic, with full band and orchestra.

Lesson 7

Luke 2:8-16
Meditation - Tullian Tchividjian, Senior Pastor 

Silent Night - arr. Hicks, 2012

A simple arrangment for harp and strings. We sing it as the room goes dark and the choir lights candles.

Sending of God's People

Prayer & Blessing

Joy to the World - arr. Rutter, Chen, 2013

This arrangement is our glorious finale--Chelsea Chen's adaptation of John Rutter's wonderful arrangement.

Tuesday
Sep232014

Destroying Self-Worship with Selfless Songs

Please stop what you're doing and treat yourself to this amazing post over at Liberate by a worship leader I respect and appreciate, Sam Bush. He spends some time exegeting the hymn, "Hallelujah! What a Savior," by Philip Bliss...a favorite of mine and a staple here at Coral Ridge. He hits on themes I try to bring up that I don't think enough attention is drawn to in discussions of the "aim" of worship songs.

Some quotables:

One reason why it might remain on the fringe is because it lacks any mention of Christian responsibility. There are no pledges to be faithful, no requests for teaching. The main focus, from beginning to end, stays fixed on Jesus Christ, the “Man of Sorrows,” and each verse ends with an exclaimed “Hallelujah! What a Savior!”

One of the miracles of worship is that, even if only for a moment, one’s mind isn’t focused inwardly. Martin Luther, expounding on Augustine, describes human nature as incurvatus in se, something that is “so deeply curved in on itself that it only bends the best gifts of God towards itself.” Luther admits that even worship can be turned into self-worship since our nature “so wickedly, cursedly, and viciously seeks all things, even God, for its own sake” (Lectures on Romans). 

Go read the post!

Monday
Sep222014

Four Exciting Projects in the Hopper for Coral Ridge Music

Coral Ridge is a busy place. With my own eyes, I'm witnessing a movement, a kind of new reformation, taking place in our walls, in our community, and around our region. And I'm witnessing a gospel revolution continue in my own heart and family. It's the reason I moved down here in the first place.

Coral Ridge Music is a kind of subset of the larger vision and mission of both Coral Ridge and Liberate (read my thoughts on why you should come to the conference). Its goal is to provide gospel-saturated music and worship resources for the broader church and to be a part of the culture-making that happens through the arts in South Florida. The first few projects out of the gate were our six-song EP, His Be the Victor's Name and our fabulous summer interns' EP, Faith and Love and Every Grace. Within the next six months, we're looking to roll out four more things--three albums and a concert series.

Beginning in Two Weeks: Coral Ridge Concert Series

Coral Ridge is launching our new and improved concert series in a few weeks. The aim of the series is to be a part of how the arts make and bless culture in South Florida. CRPC has had a rich past of fabulous concerts over the years, and we're continuing that legacy with our own twists. It will host everything from killer local blues-funk acts, to an organ festival, to the Naval Academy Glee Club.  It promises to be an exciting year! If you're a local South Floridian, check out the website and get your tickets. Oh yeah, and we've got Keith & Kristyn Getty coming this Christmas. :)

November 2014: The Magnificent Three EP

Several years ago, I caught the Trinity bug. Upon reading a compelling article by Lester Ruth in this book, I became pretty obsessed with helping encourage a greater overt Trinitarianism in modern worship, which led to my own chapter in this book. I also began writing songs for our congregation about the Trinity. I wrote Trinitarian songs of confession, songs of gathering, Communion songs, and on and on. The Magnificent Three is a collection of what I think are the six best songs. The album is stylistically diverse and musically quite un-cohesive. And I love it. We've got a dance-tronica track, a couple of more typical-sounding pop worship songs, a groovy, bluesy sing songy number, and a Petty-with-a-dash-of-Hendrix song produced by an amazing local talent, all headed your way. If you come to the Doxology & Theology Conference this year, you will get the album for FREE! Here are the full lyrics to the first song, a Trinitarian hymn of gathering (but it won't sound like a hymn):

1. Father, how great Your delight in the Son
Infinite joy ere the worlds were begun
The fullness of Love found in Him, with You one
Father, how great Your delight in the Son

2. Jesus, You reign at the Father’s right hand
In pleasure You rule o’er His sovereignty’s span
You joyfully follow the Father’s commands
Jesus, You reign at the Father’s right hand

And, now called into Your delight
As we strain to gaze at Your light
With the hosts of the heavens all veiling their sight,
We cry,”Holy, holy, holy”...

3. Spirit, You light up the Father and Son
With pleasure You join their affections in One
So pour out their glory as we humbly come
Spirit, You light up the Father and Son

So we join Your myst’ry divine
As we sing Your Love before time
And we lift up our voices midst glory sublime
And cry,”Holy, holy, holy”...

4. O worship the Father, immortal, in light
O worship the Son, at His right hand of might
O worship the Spirit, eternally bright
With saints, angels, elders, and martyrs in white

So we join the great One in Three
In the praise that ever shall be
And in Christ, through the Spirit, our Father we seek.
And cry,”Holy, holy, holy”...

Winter/Spring: Chelsea Chen, Live at Coral Ridge

Back in March, our organist, Chelsea Chen, played a fabulous concert of diverse music. She made the organ at Coral Ridge sound more brilliant and complex, and her repertoire spanned everything from Bach to rhythmic contemporary arrangements, to her fun montage of classic Super Mario Brothers music. We recorded the concert and are working on sweetening up the sound before we press it and give it out for the world to enjoy. 

February 2015: Come and Make Us Free EP

We'll release another six-track album at the Liberate Conference in February. Many of the songs are current Coral Ridge favorites, including the title track, which is a powerful song of confession, and our remake of an old hymn, which we call, "Christ Surrendered All."

As always, our albums will be accompanied with a host of resources--lead sheets, chord charts, and request-able Finale files. But they'll also always be available, song by song, here on my site.

Thursday
Sep112014

If You Can Only Go to One Conference This Year...

We couldn't say it ten years ago, but nowadays, there are so many great conferences to choose from. God is raising up amazing conferences on church life, worship, spiritual formation, preaching, the Christian journey, mission, and on and on. But though I will attend and be a part of several conferences over the next twelve months, one, I believe, stands out. It stands out because I've witnessed what it does to people for several years now. I'm talking about the Liberate Conference.

What is it About?

The Liberate Conference is dedicated, each and every year, to championing how the message of the gospel impacts everything. Some conferences have general themes that often feel loosely tied together by common words and phrases. This conference is laser-beam-focused on how the good news for desperate sinners like you and me teases itself out in every arena of life. This is a conference for the burned out and tired. It's a conference for people whose life and ministry feels weighed and found wanting. It's one of the few (maybe only) conferences where you don't walk away feeling more burdened with all the things you need to do to right the ship, but rather resting and restored in the fact that Jesus already did it.

This year's theme is "It is Finished." All aspects of the conference are dedicated to exploring how Christ's finished work on our behalf sets us free from all kinds of tangible, enslaving burdens.

Who's Speaking?

Tullian Tchividjian
Steve Brown
Elyse Fitzpatrick
Eric Metaxas
Paul Tripp
Derwin Gray
Sally Lloyd-Jones
Scotty Smith
David Zahl
Justin Holcomb
Jessica Thompson 

...and more (including me) 

What Am I Doing There?

1. I'm leading music throughout the conference. It was the highlight of my year last February to lead singing for a packed house full of people desperately shouting their need for Jesus. Our musicians and I (including my partners in crime: Julie Anne Vargas, Chelsea Chen, Matt Calderin and Jeff Adkins) will pull out all the stops with our own unique pipe-rock sound. :)

2. I'm speaking on liberating worship. I will be leading an hour-long breakout at the pastors' pre-conference on Thursday (2/19), at 2pm. I will be sketching what I think are the most important aspects of worship as it relates to the gospel of the finished work of Jesus. I'll talk about everything from service-structure and song-selection to how we actually pastor people in the gospel through our planning and worship leadership.

3. We'll be releasing our third EP, "Come and Make Us Free," with Coral Ridge Music. Every conference attendee gets a FREE ALBUM in their conference pack. It will include six tracks of gospel-soaked originals, including our confession song, "Come and Make Us Free," and our reworked versions of a few hymns. (If you're only noticing that we have one EP so far, that's because we're releasing another one in November.)

The Deets

Feb 19-22, 2015
Ft. Lauderdale, FL (Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church)
It's $80 for a single ticket and $65 for a group of 5+, if you register before 9/30. 
(From there, the prices go up!) 

GO REGISTER