Fresh from selling over 7500 copies of his last album ‘Nachoonga’ worldwide, internationally celebrated Indian singer-songwriter, musician and producer Sheldon Bangera is back with new album ‘Raaja Hai Mahaan.’
’Raaja Hai Mahaan’ documents both Sheldon’s personal spiritual life and also that of the Indian church in 2015. Sheldon says, “This album is a reflection of many seasons with God, some of them we’ve been singing for the last 5 – 7 years. They mark personal experiences and reflections of what God is doing with the church. They are songs of hope and I feel like the whole aesthetic of it will be a blessing to many, even people who don’t understand or speak Hindi.”
Sonically an “east meets west” vista, blending traditional Indian sounds with a western worship flavor, ’Raaja Hai Mahaan’ is a celebration of cultural diversity at its finest. Inspired by a good friend in England, Sheldon decided to write what he describes as a
‘new part of God’s bigger picture of the east meeting the west in worship.’
Bringing these two worlds together through songs on ’Raaja Hai Mahaan,’ the album has given a western audience the chance to glimpse an interesting and exciting perspective on what God is doing in Sheldon’s native home country, India. He elaborates,“COLOR! It is beautiful. In the middle of the chaos and brokenness, we see the compassion of a great and mighty God. Culturally, there is a fresh wave of Indian-ness and the belongingness and awareness of being Indian is being felt like never before.”
By Kevin Davis – NRT, Staff Reviewer
Australian-based worship band Planetshakers partnered with Grammy nominated producer Ed Cash for Outback Worship Sessions to capture a more acoustic, organic delivery of some of their best-known songs. Known for their high energy sound, this acoustically driven collection also includes the new songs “Spirit of God,” “Father” and “My Soul Longs for Jesus.”
The opening track “Like a Fire” has tender and powerful vocals, taking listeners on an emotional and spiritual journey with every lyric sung about faith in our God Almighty, our Lord and Savior Jesus. The lyrics are very stirring and convicting: “Jesus I’m desperate for You, Jesus I’m hungry for You, Jesus I’m longing for You, Lord You are all I want.”
“Spirit of God” is an emotive song crying out for God’s Presence and for an indwelling of His Holy Spirit. The standout track for me personally is “My Soul Longs for Jesus,” featuring female worship leader Sam Evans. The Ed Cash-penned song is an ethereal vertical worship ballad and modern hymn, sung with a stirring passion and filled with prayerful declarations. This is an incredible song for the Church, and you’ll express your longing for Jesus along with Sam.
Another standout moment is the worshipful prayer-song of adoration, “Leave Me Astounded.” You’ll want to sing these words with fellow believers: “Leave me astounded, leave me amazed, show off Your glory, let heaven invade, we’re waiting with worship, we’re waiting with praise, for the almighty presence of God to invade.”
“Endless Praise” is an example of being obedient to our calling to make God the object of all of our worship. This song is a great answer to that calling. One of the sections that I really enjoy in this song is the bridge: “We lift You up, up, up… We’re giving You our love, love, love for everything You’ve done, done, done.” As the Scripture and famous hymn repeat “Holy, Holy, Holy,” God often speaks to us three times. Biblical scholars consider the number three as something that is used to get our attention, draw emphasis or show completion, as God is Three in One (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). Join in with the angels and saints and sing to God “We give You all the praise.”
The beauty and majesty of our King Jesus is reverently captured throughout the album with anthem after anthem, including “Covered,” “Father” and “Made for Worship.” Every single song could be added to your worship set. More importantly, this is an album about submitting to the Lordship of Jesus and declaring that there is no other name under Heaven by which we are saved than Jesus Christ our God.
A sincere desire for the presence of God and to see His Kingdom on earth is found in every song, especially the closing tracks “This is the Day” and “This is Our Time,” which are both instantly singable prayer songs featuring declarations about Jesus, as found in the refrain “This is our time, this is our place, this is our moment to lift Your name.”
One of my favorite aspects of singing a new song to the Lord is the thought of our eternal worship in Heaven, which is an exciting picture for me. We gain glimpses of eternity from this collection of vertical worship songs. Sometimes people think that worship is something they do at an event or at church or only through music. We know from Scripture that worship is what you put your “worth-ship” in, and that a biblical definition of worship is a lifestyle of “Endless Praise.”
There are several instantly singable and worshipful arrangements that you’ll want to add to your Sunday morning set-list. I especially recommend “Like a Fire,” “Spirit of God,” “Leave Me Astounded,” “Father,” “Made for Worship,” “This is Our Time” and one of my top worship songs of the year, “My Soul Longs for Jesus.” I’m really engaged by the emotional vocals and the deep, prayerful lyrics throughout the album. All of the songs are catchy and worshipful. Outback Worship Sessions is a truly anointed set of songs for the Church, expressing a longing for Jesus.
Recording Features Top Planetshakers Songs Re-Imagined By
Grammy-Winning Ed Cash, All Geared For Corporate Worship
Cash Writes/Produces Three New Songs For Album, Two With Planetshakers’ Bj Pridham
Featured At ICRS, National Worship Leader Conference,
Rock the Universe Events, Planetshakers Also Tours S. Africa
The worship team from Planetshakers Church, one of Australia’s fastest growing churches in history, is set to release Outback Worship Sessions globally through Integrity Music May 12, 2015. What started as a project to re-craft Planetshakers’ most-loved worship anthems into a form accessible to worship teams representing the wider church body has since grown into a studio recording that is, as Aristotle might say, “greater than the sum of its parts.”
Known for its cutting-edge, joy-infused sound that is full of energy and that has sparked the young and young at heart around the globe to celebrate in worship, Planetshakers’ recent recording, THIS IS OUR TIME, immediately soared to the top of the overall charts in several countries during its first week at retail. The project, like the Planetshakers ministry, has transcended cultures, languages and geographic boundaries.
“Outback Worship Sessions is about taking our message further, sharing with as many as possible and empowering generations to win generations,” says Planetshakers worship pastor Bj Pridham. “I think as a church, we have organically reached a younger audience. We want to be intentional to reach not just one generation, but all generations.”
For the new album, Planetshakers tapped into the expertise of Grammy Award-winning, four-time Gospel Music Association Dove Award-winning “Producer of the Year,” Ed Cash. Taking Outback Worship Sessions under his wing, and with church worship teams in mind, Cash gave a new, intimate ‘voice’ to Planetshakers’ best-loved anthems. He not only brought out the best in the Planetshakers team, but also produced three brand new songs on the 11-track album.
Co-writing and producing the worldwide church anthem “How Great is Our God” with Chris Tomlin, and recently writing songs featured on albums by Jeremy Camp, Kari Jobe, Crowder, Laura Story, Hillsong and many more, Cash penned “My Soul Longs For Jesus” featured on Outback Worship Sessions. He further co-wrote “Spirit Of God” and “Father” for the album with Pridham, who is one of several featured vocalists from Planetshakers’ worship team on the album.
“The moment I began co-writing with Bj over Skype, I knew that Heaven was going to fall heavy on this project,” says Cash. “It became increasingly clear that the Planetshakers family has habitually drawn near to God, and in His matchless covenant fashion, He has drawn near to them! I pray the presence of the Lord will bless you as richly as you listen as He did me while working on it.”
In addition to the new recording, lead singers featured on Outback Worship Sessions will be in the heart of Australia’s Outback to record the brand new videos “Like A Fire,” “My Soul Longs for Jesus,” “Nothing Is Impossible” and possibly more songs from the new project.
“Set in a small church in the Outback of Australia, the videos will be recorded with a band playing in a very organic, natural setup,” explains Planetshakers Lead Singer and Music Director Joth Hunt. “There will be no flashing lights or big production elements, but we will be utilizing aerial cinematography interspersed throughout the video capturing the spectacular surroundings of the Australian Outback.”
Each of these videos will be offered free as a resource to worship leaders following the May 12 release of the album. Integrity Music will also offer a companion digital songbook for Outback Worship Sessions free of charge through WeAreWorship.com.
The full Outback Worship Sessions track listing follows:
1. Like A Fire
2. Spirit Of God
3. Leave Me Astounded
4. My Soul Longs For Jesus
5. Endless Praise
6. Nothing Is Impossible
9. Made For Worship
10. This Is The Day
11. This Is Our Time
Having led over 200,000 people at a single event in Asia and sharing new music from THIS IS OUR TIME and other favorite Planetshakers worship anthems around the world, Planetshakers will hit Cape Town, Pretoria and Durban on a 10-day tour of South Africa beginning April 24. They will also be the featured worship leader June 28-29 during several events at CBA’s International Christian Retail Show 2015 (ICRS) that will also feature Lee Greenwood, Josh McDowell, Steve Green (Hobby Lobby) and others. Planetshakers will further be featured during the National Worship Leader Conference June 23-25 and headlining along with Casting Crowns and Jesus Culture “Florida’s biggest Christian music festival,” Rock The Universe, Sept. 12.
About Planetshakers Band:
Planetshakers Band is passionate about uniting generations worldwide through worship and is known for favorites like “Like A Fire,” “Endless Praise,” “Nothing Is Impossible,” “This Is Our Time” and “The Anthem.” As Australia’s largest youth/young adult Christian movement, Planetshakers’ goal is to see people encounter God, be transformed by His presence and empowered to make a difference in their world. While they tour internationally, the team remains based out of Planetshakers Church, a multi-campus, 12,000-plus member congregation based in Melbourne, Australia that is pastored by husband and wife, Russell and Sam Evans.
In addition to the music and message, Planetshakers Church is involved in numerous community and charitable causes including prison ministry, school programs, refugee outreach, disaster relief and welfare assistance. It also partners with World Vision to assist in urgent humanitarian crises around the world, and runs Planetshakers College in Melbourne, which equips local and international students to impact their world for Christ.
A church, a movement and a gifted musical ministry, additional information about Planetshakers Church and Planetshakers Band and its touring is available at planetshakers.com, twitter.com/planetshakers and facebook.com/planetshakers, where Planetshakers has over 760,000 likes.
Raucous, award-winning band The City Harmonic, known for its eclectic modern hymns and worship anthems of longing, hope and celebration, will be the featured music guest during “Beyond A.D.”streaming on NBC.com Sunday, May 3. During the episode, The City Harmonic will reveal the title and album cover for their third full-length album, as well as play live the first single from the new recording set to release through Integrity Music September 2015. The album addresses issues of church unity, a topic also covered in this “Beyond A.D” episode by fellow guest, John Gray, Associate Pastor at Houston’s Lakewood Church. Hosted by E! News co-host Jason Kennedy and taped before a live audience at Real Life Church in Santa Clarita, CA, “Beyond A.D” is the companion digital show to NBC’s broadcast series “A.D. The Bible Continues” from executive producers Roma Downey and Mark Burnett. “Beyond A.D.” covers the historical and spiritual topics depicted in the broadcast while featuring musical performances by artists, songwriters and ministry partners of Integrity Music. Recent episodes have featured Israel Houghton, Christine D’Clario and Lincoln Brewster, with upcoming episodes to feature All Sons & Daughters, Paul Baloche and NewSong. Weekly installments of “Beyond A.D.,” which follow the 12-week broadcast series that began April 12, will be available Sundays at 9 a.m. on NBC.COM and select NBC station websites and participating NBC station distribution channels. For more show information and to RSVP to attend a taping, visit nbc.com/beyond-ad. Join the social conversation on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram using #ADTheSeries.
The City Harmonic, joined by members of Real Life Church, are pictured during the “Beyond A.D.” taping in Santa Clarita, CA April 28.
About The City Harmonic
Born out of a movement of diverse churches uniting to serve the poor in the blue-collar steel town of Hamilton, Ontario, The City Harmonic formed in 2009, having led students in worship and mission at these inter-denominational events. By 2011, the band had won three Gospel Music Canada Covenant Awards, including one for Modern Worship Song of the Year for the anthem “Manifesto,” a rallying cry for believers around the world. More Covenant Awards, a Juno Award and a Dove Award nomination followed as the band released the critically acclaimed albums I Have A Dream (It Feels Like Home) and Heart introducing the songs “Praise The Lord,” “Holy (Wedding Day),” “Mountaintop” and “A City On A Hill” to churches and radio stations. The City Harmonic is Elias Dummer, Eric Fusilier, Aaron Powell and Josh Vanderlaan… four worshipers from four small churches singing hymns and spiritual songs. All the latest detail on the band, its music and touring can be found at:
Guest blog by Kurtis Parks
Ok, I have a confession to make. There are only two types of TV that I watch – sports, and reality TV. One reality TV show is one of the dumbest concepts out there, but I can’t get enough of it. It’s a show based in a Pawn Shop, that follows four family members as they run the shop and buy/sell random items of memorabilia. Every now and then an item comes in that’s been signed by a famous actor, sports star, or musician. Without fail, the head honcho always calls up one of his trusted friends to come and AUTHENTICATE the signature. It’s amazing how many forged signatures exist out there. If the autographed items are the real deal, they receive a certificate of authenticity and they can become quite valuable. However, if the “John Hancock” turns out to be a fake, the item is not worth much at all. In fact, if an item has a fake signature on it, it actually loses value.
I think you can see where this is heading…
I wonder how many forged copies of true worship exist out there? Are we just imitating others, and skating by on the faith and passion of those we admire, or are we pushing ourselves to the limits of our own faith, and seeking God with OUR whole hearts? Sometimes, as worship leaders, just as in any other occupation, it can be easy to hit “auto-pilot” and cruise through weeks, even months, without anyone outside of ourselves knowing the difference! We can pick the right songs, play the right transitions, and even say the right words in a worship setting (of course, you might have to switch to your “prayer voice,” you know what I’m talkin about). It’s sad, but in most FORGED worship settings, most people would rarely notice that something is off. But the good news is, that’s when the Authenticator comes in. As in the TV show I described, the authenticator puts the signatures under the microscope. They study every curve and nuance of an autograph to tell if it’s real, or fake. Nothing escapes the authenticator’s eyes.
In Luke 8:17 we see a picture of the GREAT AUTHENTICATOR. “For nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light.” God sees all, knows all, and deserves all. Who we are in the unseen places of our lives will say more about us than anything seen on a stage. If you want to live an authentic life, you have to be who you are, wherever you are. If I can only love people and lead them to Christ with a microphone in front of me, I’m living a lie. I’d be committing forgery in my walk with Jesus. I had a conversation with one of our worship leaders, Chris, about this, and he said he was striving to lead worship two hours at home, for every hour he was on stage. I’m sure his wife is loving the at-home concerts!
When we live a life of worship when no one is watching, it comes pretty naturally when everyone is watching. Worship when no one is around. Sing in your car, pray in the mornings, and see a life of authenticity naturally begin to manifest. God values the real deal, and sees when we are faking it. As in the TV show, forgeries are worthless.
Blog by Josh Maze
No matter the guest, they’re the “absolute best” on the “absolute best” TV show or film. Isn’t it amazing that every. single. night… Jimmy’s “favorite” person is on the show… and we believe him? I believe him. I follow him. All the way to the desk where he is absolutely enthralled by the special guest. Completely engaged. As a matter of fact, he’s so engaged – I’m engaged. I’m engaged through him. All the sudden I find myself interested in the guest / the subject / the conversation. Through Jimmy’s excitement & passion, I find myself involved. I never knew that I could become such a fan of some random C-list celebrity… but seeing Jimmy as such a fanatic about this person, here I am. Participating.
Here are 5 things every worship leader in the world should learn from Jimmy Fallon.
1. He’s always smiling.
This may be the most important and underrated aspect of Jimmy’s career. He smiles. A lot. Like… constantly. And that’s really good because, he’s in our living rooms and our bedrooms. And we want happy / positive people in our home. Smiles break down barriers. Smiles invite you in. Every worship leader who doesn’t smile while singing about Love… Grace… Hope… Jesus… is completely missing the mark. If you’re not smiling, you’re not winning. If you’re not smiling, you probably don’t look friendly. You might even be coming across too serious, overly spiritual, or arrogant. Let’s avoid that at all cost.
2. He’s got great energy.
It’s rarely hype. It’s always excitement. He loves what he does, and it’s obvious. But check this out… Jimmy Fallon has bad days too. He’s a human being. But you may never know it. We don’t see it. He presses through and does his job… making us feel at home. People need a confident leader to bring the energy to the room. Energy is contagious. Bad / low energy is contagious. Great / high energy is contagious. Be yourself, yes. Be vulnerable, of course. But get excited about what you’re doing!
3. He’s humble.
I’ve heard a ton of different people make comments about Jimmy. “He’s awesome… He’s the best… I love him… I have a crush on him… He’s literally perfect…” (And those are just from my wife… 😉 But I have never heard anyone say anything about his ego, his pride, or his arrogance. Yet – he’s one of the biggest stars in the world. He’s self-deprecating. He knows his strengths – He knows his weaknesses. He doesn’t take himself too seriously. He’s quick to laugh at himself. That’s endearing. I like being around people like that, don’t you? With his ratings up 27% in the households & up 40% in the 18-49 demographic. Yes. You do. We do.
4. He’s prepared.
Monologues, singing, dancing, bits, sketches, dialogues, interviews… he does it all. And he’s ready. We think we have something to get ready for on Sundays? Once a week? Imagine having to be fresh, funny, smart, & interesting 5 nights a week. He nails it. And yes, he’s got a great team around him that help him prep. What can we learn from this as worship leaders? What can we take away? Very little excellence happens in life without proper preparation and planning. Let’s do our part to prepare, and let God do what only He can do.
5. He’s relevant.
‘Relevant’ isn’t my favorite word ever. But let’s remind ourselves… It’s a real word:
Relevant adjective rel·e·vant \ˈre-lə-vənt\ relating to a subject in an appropriate way
If I tried doing what we do at Highpoint at the big Episcopal church down the street, it wouldn’t work. I’d be dead in the water. You have to speak the language of the people you are speaking to. You have to relate. You have to know who is in the room and have an idea of where they are coming from. Jimmy’s show is so relevant, it’s ridiculous. The monologues are literally centered around the day’s news, the day’s gossip, and even the day’s tragedy. The interviews are centered around the film or TV show that just premiered or is about to premier. Why do so many churches miss this? We at Highpoint have decided to teach timeless truths in a timely way. That’s a Non-negotiable.
+ + + + +
So, all in all, while Jimmy is leading us in the worship of the people he adores – like Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Tom Cruise, Justin Timberlake, or Brad Pitt, we still have a lot to learn. And if we are leading people in the worship of JESUS, how much more then should we be smiling, energetic, humbled, prepared, & relevant? Jimmy, if you’re out there, I for one, am inspired to be a better worship leader. Thank you.
Josh Maze is the Worship Pastor & Creative Director of Highpoint Church in Memphis, TN. Josh grew up as the son of Jackson, Mississippi Church Planters. He’s a husband, a pastor, a songwriter, & a creative who loves old cars, new restaurants, & the Grizzlies. Josh loves God, people, & life.
NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Faithful, the highly-anticipated live worship set from GRAMMY®-nominated NewSong, debuted at #1 on Nielsen SoundScan’s Praise & Worship chart for the week ending March 15. The critically-acclaimed Integrity Music project also landed at #3 on Nielsen SoundScan’s Current Contemporary Christian chart, marking the chart’s highest debut of the week.
NewSong’s first live recording since 2005’s Rescue, Faithful released March 10 and features songwriting credits from such leading artists as Matthew West, Matt Redman, All Sons & Daughters, Elias Dummer (The City Harmonic), and Desperation Band, among others.
CCMmagazine.com says of the project, “This is a perfect variety of songs—well suited to their vocal work, smart musicianship—and proves that even after a decade since their last recorded worship offering, they are, indeed, Faithful.”
The 13-song collection was produced by Nathan Nockels (Chris Tomlin, Passion) and recorded live, in-the-round at NewSong’s home church near Atlanta. Highlighted by the title-cut and debut single, an original co-penned by NewSong’s Russ Lee, All Sons & Daughters’ David Leonard and Leslie Jordan, and Alli Rogers, the album also offers NewSong’s version of the Desperation Band-penned “Make A Way”; the original “Hallelujah (Bride In White),” co-written with The City Harmonic’s Elias Dummer; and “Keep Me Close,” a soaring prayer of surrender co-penned by Matthew West.
Faithful is available as a CD or CD/DVD combo featuring video selections filmed during the live recording, as well as exclusive interviews with members of NewSong. A standard digital album and digital “deluxe” (featuring bonus videos) is also available.
NewSong is currently performing “Faithful” at 47 Winter Jam Tour Spectacular stops around the country. Created and hosted by the band, Winter Jam—which has seen multiple sellouts to date this year—is headlined by GRAMMY® Award-winning rockers Skillet and features 10 of Christian music’s top artists.
With a career spanning more than 30 years, 19 albums, 20 #1 Christian radio singles, a GRAMMY® Award-nomination and induction into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, among numerous other achievements, NewSong is among the most respected artists and mentors in Christian music today. Their unparalleled ministry has been highlighted by such defining songs as “Arise, My Love,” “The Christmas Shoes” and “Rescue,” while the group’s blockbuster Winter Jam Tour Spectacular has ranked as Pollstar’s #1 first-quarter tour in the world for four consecutive years, providing a powerful platform for the Gospel in major arenas around the country since 1995.
Originally published by Worship Leader magazine.
It is time for your weekly rehearsal again. The music is printed and ready for your instrumentalist to receive. You have studied the music and know the flow and instrumentation of each song. You know exactly how you will lead your music team through the rehearsal. But, have you considered how you will pastor them in your rehearsal?
We must prepare for the music on Sunday morning! It must be excellent, but does our pursuit of musical perfection get in the way of our ability to really care for the souls of those that God has placed on our teams? More often than I care to admit, I have been more concerned about the quality of music that has been produced by those I have lead. A few years ago I knew something needed to change in the way that I was leading rehearsals, but I didn’t want to make changes at the expense of being musically prepared for Sunday. Therefore, I committed to these four practices which have helped our teams be better prepared for Sunday and given me greater opportunity to lead them pastorally during the rehearsal time.
1. Be Prompt
While it seems simple, being on time is a pastoral issue. This is a substantial way that we can communicate to the team that we care about them. Being on time doesn’t mean a leader is simply present when the rehearsal starts; it means he is ready. Nothing is more frustrating for a team or threatens the worship leader’s pastoral integrity like a group of musicians watching him set up his equipment while they are ready to rehearse. Being on time means being ready on time!
2. Be Prepared
No one should be more prepared at a rehearsal than the leader. After all, it is hard to lead a team that is more prepared. Preparation takes time, so we should budget for that in our weekly responsibilities. The more comfortable we get with our team the greater the temptation will be to just “wing-it” in the rehearsal, but we must fight this temptation because our lack of preparation can also communicate a lack of care for our people. If we are prepared and structured with our time, we will allow for more time to address spiritual issues.
3. Be Intentional
One of the most difficult challenges to overcome in pastoring a team during the rehearsal time is budgeting time for pastoral moments (devotion, prayer, etc.) and time for perfecting the music for Sunday morning. However, perhaps we don’t have to separate the two categories as much as we might think. There are many pastoral moments within and around a rehearsal, but we will need our pastoral antennas up to notice them – we must be intentional. Many of these happen before rehearsal begins and after it ends. If you arrive early and stay late you will have many more opportunities to serve your team members. Also, being aware of the lyrical theology in the songs that you are leading can provide an opportunity for saying a brief word about the Gospel truths that the church will be singing on Sunday.
4. Be Authentic
We can lead and serve our teams by living openly before them. They need to know that we are sinners who have been saved by the same grace that they have experienced. This doesn’t mean that we confess a litany of sins to begin each rehearsal, but that we live openly and authentically – with wisdom – before them. It is our human condition to want others to think more highly of us than they ought, but we must fight against this this desire for honor. While we may have more education than many on our team or may be more musically skilled, we are just as sinful and just as saved. We need to believe that and live authentically before them.
It ought not be that we fail in our pastoral responsibilities at the expense of producing good music. Let’s be resolved to serve and lead our people while also producing good music. This investment is sure to produce fruit that extends beyond the rehearsal.
Andrew Lucius is the Associate Pastor of Worship at Throne of Grace Community Church and Instructor of Church Music and Christian Worship at Boyce College of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He is married to Rebecca and is the father of Molly (2) and Matthew (9 months).
Recently, I was sitting in our office thinking about what to share at our next Team Night. I had gone in early so I could get some space. If you’re like me, solitude is about your only chance to hear a thought. With 6-year-old twins and a 3-year-old at home, life can feel a bit like an acrobat hoping the bar shows up at the right time. It’s a rush. It’s rewarding. It’s a passion, but it teeters on death! Ok, so that was dramatic, but I think you get my point. So, as I sat there with a blank screen looking at me with condescending emptiness, I realized something that has now had extraordinary impact on our team and me.
Look at Luke 18. Jesus tells a provocative story about a woman, widowed and in need of protection. She shows up everyday at the courthouse and makes a scene. She needs rescue, and her best hope is a corrupt judge to hear her plea. She doesn’t have an appointment. She’s disruptive. She’s persistent. Her need is real, and her heart is pure. So the basic laws of manners and etiquette will just have to take a back seat. Eventually, the judge gives her what she desires, not because he’s moved with compassion about her situation but because he’s annoyed by her constant disruptions. Jesus tells his people that because of her persistence, she got what she desired. Of course, he then highlights the good Father who is not corrupt but will surely come to our rescue. Now here’s the stinger. He says, “BUT how much of that kind of persistent faith will the Son of Man find on the earth when he returns?” (Luke 18:8 MSG)
I’m not one to blame the culture or world we live in for our difficulties, so what I’m about to say is not a finger-pointing situation but rather an observation. With the amazing free-market-world we live in, what are the things that hold us? What keeps our attention? It’s the newest, sexiest, coolest product that not only delivers something great but it also convinces us that what we once held in our hands is old, dated, and really uncool.
I sat there and had to confess something to myself and to God. With 50-60 volunteers under my care, I have fallen into the same thinking a marketing guru would have about selling the newest phone. I must wow, woo and lead this team into the great and wild unknown with reasons why it’s better, sexier and worth following. Now don’t get me wrong, we have an amazing team of musicians, singers, and creative and they didn’t put this on me. I was putting it on myself.
Though I LOVE vision, direction and leadership, I began to wonder if my approach was creating “consumers” in the worship ministry by constantly encouraging NEW vision, NEW direction, NEW breath. So there I sat, looking at the empty page when I realized that the vision I had pumped into our team started feeling old because it was articulated a month ago. Then I looked at the question Jesus was asking, “…Will I find that type of persistent faithfulness on the earth upon my return?”
I shut down the computer. Not because I didn’t want to prepare but because I knew I wouldn’t need notes for this. In front of our team, I shared about the persistent widow and confessed my own temptation to re-sell everyone in the room each time we gathered. My vulnerability invited something into the room. We felt it.
Then I said, “We’re gonna get back to beating the drum of persistent faithfulness.” We started to awaken as we thought about prayers we once prayed as a team or individually that we stopped praying because the answer wasn’t quick enough. We leaned in as the Father beckoned us to get back to those prayers. Our role is to beat the drum of persistence and not stop. We will be the persistent ones he finds faithful.
The prayer that I had stopped praying publicly was the one I shared with our team: Let us pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit to refresh, heal, and renew. We did just that. The rest of the meeting was an emotional rush of the team leading out, praying for things that have not been uttered for too long. The innocence and simplicity was stunning.
I’m a vision guy. I just love it. I won’t stop promoting vision, but by the grace of God, I pray I never forget what this woman at the courthouse taught us.
To anyone reading, pick up the prayers on the bookshelf that have sat there for years collecting dust. The good Father wants to hear them. Be faithful with your prayers and watch the faithfulness of God remind us that we are alternative people. The world may need something every other day to capture their attention. Let us never forget that we need to beat the drum of faithfulness, and that takes time.
Thanks to Hallels.com for the review of NewSong’s “Faithful” release!
Prime Cuts: This Beating Heart, Keep Me Close, This I Believe (The Creed)
Way back in 2001, after being in the Christian music business for over 20 years, NewSong suddenly exploded far beyond the Christian music scene and became a worldwide phenomenon with one little song called “Christmas Shoes.” Originally released as a bonus track on their 2000 CD “Sheltering Tree,” little did NewSong realize this festive song had a way of topping the Billboard Adult Contemporary Chart for three weeks, zoomed right up the country singles chart and caused a stir on the pop chart. Many a lesser artist in the shoes of NewSong would have exploited their expeditious fame to venture into more verdant forays of recording a hit country or pop record. But not NewSong; the passion of these Godly men has never been for greater fame but steadily proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus through their music. 10 years after their last worship album, they have partnered with Integrity Music, the imprint that has made it their mandate to charter worship songs for the church, for the release of “Faithful.”
Recorded live at the First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Georgia, NewSong’s Integrity Music debut “Faithful” is a bombastic stadium-filling worship rifled with enormous electric loops and propulsive sounding drums. And partly to thank for such a big sound is the involvement of veteran producer Nathan Nockels (Chris Tomlin, Passion). “Faithful” is an album that will easily gain traction with the casual listener because there is a sandwich of old and new songs. Instead of blasting at us with a surge of new tunes, NewSong respectfully eases us into the worship experience with the familiar sounds of a state-of-the-art rock rendition of the hymn “Doxology.”
Other covers that are interspersed with the newer compositions include Matt Redman’s “This Beating Heart.” What is most satisfying is the short spoken introduction before the song which functions as an apt way in drawing out the song’s meaning with greater perspicuity. Though their version of Hillsong’s “This I Believe (The Creed)” sounds like a sonic twin of its original, it’s still one of the more theologically meaty songs out there balanced with a stately well-crafted tune. Two thumbs up are in order for their cover of Desperation Band’s “Make a Way,” a big power ballad that has so much Biblical echoes from the stories of the Exodus and the new Exodus in Isaiah.
As for their originals, the highlight is the intimate spartan-sounding pop ballad “Keep Me Close,” which was co-written by Matthew West. Co-penned by NewSong frontman Russ Lee and All Sons & Daughters’ David Leonard and Leslie Jordan, the lead single and title cut “Faithful” finds the focus rightly placed on God whose faithfulness is what keeps us alive. Though “Angels” recycles every clichéd troupes imaginable in worship songs, such as the “ooo-ohhh” riff, the meshing up of stanzas of an old hymn in a new song (in this case it’s “Amazing Grace”), and the “pause for the congregation to clap along” move, it’s still an undeniably catchy song that will get us singing along.
As far as this new album is concerned, “Faithful” isn’t just an adjective used in reference to God, but they have kept abreast with the grand themes of the Gospel, and they have “faithfully” executed them in ways that are loud, memorable, and catchy.
Read more at: www.hallels.com