Why isn’t the Church singing?
This is the question worship leader and Integrity Music recording artist Travis Ryan started asking. The question was sparked after he began reading countless arguments about personal worship style preferences and after experiencing passionless praise within his own congregation.
“We’re comfortable. We can so easily be complacent, and that can show itself even on a Sunday morning,” Travis concedes, adding, “Who cares about your theology if we live a stale life.”
Travis often compares fans’ reactions to seeing their favorite sports teams out on the field to the sometimes dead worship experiences in churches. “When it comes to Sunday morning, we are singing to the greatest Creator, God, who has made the heavens and thought of the earth and breathed it into existence. Why is it that our worship is actually more similar to a funeral than it is to a soccer game?” he observes. “When you see the King of Kings for who He is, you see the worship of heaven happening. Our worship should look the same… I believe the Church isn’t singing because they don’t see Jesus for who He truly is.”
This belief became the impetus for his full-length project, Until My Voice Is Gone, produced by Michael Farren as well as Grant Pittman and Travis’ brother, Brandon Collins. The album is the follow-up to his 2012 debut, Fearless, and 2015 EP, You Hold It All, and was recorded live across two nights with his home congregation at LifePoint Church, right outside of Nashville, Tennessee. “The songs really take you on a journey,” he explains. “It’s a set list we’ve done at LifePoint, not once but numerous times. These songs have really become the lifeblood that flows through our congregation.”
A prolific songwriter, Travis insists that he’s only a steward of his songs. “I don’t consider any song I write to be my song,” he contends. “When you write a song, I believe that the Lord is already the One who’s singing it. It says in Zephaniah 3:17 that He’s singing over us. I believe that we’ve got to listen really closely, and then we pen His song.”
Perhaps this philosophy is most evident in the story of “We Believe,” which Travis wrote for his church, along with fellow worship leaders Matt Hooper and Richie Fike. The track was recorded by Newsboys and went on to become a No. 1 smash hit at Christian radio. No stranger to the CCM arena, Travis has opened for everyone from MercyMe, Steven Curtis Chapman and Jeremy Camp to Delirious, The City Harmonic and Paul Baloche. In addition, as an in-demand songwriter, he’s co-written with some of Christian music’s finest, including Matt Redman, All Sons & Daughters, Phil Wickham and Tim Timmons, among others.
“We Believe” sets the tenants of the Church to music. “It’s the Nicene Creed, the Apostles’ Creed—it’s just foundationally what we believe as a church,” Travis explains of the KLOVE Fan Award winning and Dove Award nominated worship anthem.
Celebratory anthem “Your Love Set My Soul On Fire,” written by Travis alongside Dylan Thomas, Jordan Merritt and Brandon Collins, also follows suit, recounting the truth these four songwriters stake their lives on. “We just wrote the gospel,” Travis explains of the track that he debuted at his church’s youth camp where it became an instant hit with the students. Soon after, he introduced it to the congregation at large and began to see transformation take place.
“We had a dance party on Sunday morning,” he says. “You can’t help but dance—to get off your seat—because of the life, the freedom that is felt.”
Cornerstone track “You Hold It All,” which Newsboys also recorded for their blockbuster release, Love Riot (Fair Trade Services), remains a pivotal part of the new collection as well. Beyond commercial appeal, this song—and others on Until My Voice Is Gone—has already had a profound impact on numerous members of LifePoint and particularly on Travis and his family as they walked through a devastating miscarriage and his mother being diagnosed with brain cancer.
“The Goodness of the Lord” was a song also born out of loss and one that Travis never thought would make the record. It was written five years ago as a tribute to his late grandfather. As his grandfather’s health diminished, Travis brought his guitar and began to sing hymns over him in his hospital room. As he strummed the chords to “It Is Well,” he began to reflect on his grandfather’s legacy. A man who had been a rebel his entire life, his was a story of genuine life change. Two years prior, he had given his heart to the Lord, and Travis had the honor of being part of his baptism.
“My grandfather, he was the storyteller in our family,” recalls Travis. “We, as kids, would just love to sit and listen to Grandpa Bill. So, as I was writing, I thought, ‘What was my grandfather’s story… what would he want to be sung about him?’ The truth that God is good.”
After his grandfather passed, he sent the rough chorus written by his bedside to his friend and fellow songwriter Richie Fike, who added the verses. Travis sang “The Goodness of the Lord” at his grandfather’s funeral a few days later. As he and Farren began to dig into his back catalog for songs to record for Until My Voice Is Gone, they rediscovered this special cut. With his mom’s cancer battle as an added inspiration, Travis changed the bridge to “When my future has been stripped away, My God is on my side.”
“It was interesting to see how God, who gives us all songs, was not done writing that song,” Travis offers. “He wanted to finish it with my mom and use that moment of her cancer to bring to the surface a lyric that needed to be written.”
God’s faithfulness has been evident in the life of Travis’ church as well. Powerful cut “You Never Give Up On Me” is a testament of the Father’s unrelenting pursuit of His children and the result of a season of healing at LifePoint Church. When a staff member came forward and confessed a moral failure, he was asked to step down from his leadership role. However, instead of shunning him, the church took a different approach—one of Christ-like compassion. They walked with this man and his family through a long, challenging journey toward healing and restoration.
“Most churches today, when a moral failure happens, they just run away, and they claim God’s faithfulness until it begins to get ugly,” Travis maintains. “But grace is messy. It’s a messy, messy thing, and we’ve got to show it to the world.”
Throughout the process, Travis encouraged this fellow church member to put his emotions on paper, to document God’s work in his life knowing that, one day, his story might minister to others. Those thoughts would eventually become “You Never Give Up On Me.”
I don’t deserve Your goodness / You welcome me with Your kindness
You found me in my darkness and my shame / I don’t deserve Your mercy
Yet You cover me in Your glory / You saw me and You loved me just the same
The congregant began working to rebuild his marriage and over a year into the process, he and his wife actually led worship at a recent LifePoint service in celebration of all that God had done in their lives. The first song they sang? “You Never Give Up On Me,” which Travis calls a “beautiful story of redemption.”
It’s a story woven throughout his own life. Today, Travis and his wife have three children: Hudson, 7; Jude, 4; and one-year-old Scarlett, their baby daughter born after the couple suffered the miscarriage. This fall, they’ll add a fourth baby to their family. His mom has undergone a series of cancer treatments and is slated to finish her final round of chemo by the end of the year.
Throughout the beautiful and tragic circumstances of his own journey and the unfolding narratives of his friends and family, Travis knows his God to be steadfast. He only hopes the songs on Until My Voice Is Gone stand as a shining testament to His faithfulness and give the Church reason to sing.
“There’s so much redemption that is yet to be heard through some of these songs,” he predicts, having seen God already use them tremendously in his own life. “At the end of the day, God’s not going to say, ‘Congratulations, Travis, you’ve recorded five albums. Welcome to heaven’,” he concludes. “I hope He says, ‘You were faithful with what I gave you.’ And I believe these songs are an important part of that.”
Twitter & Instagram: @travisryan
Integrity Music announces the North American release of Outrageous Love, the first live recording from UK-based worship leader Noel Robinson. Signed to Integrity last year, Robinson is a veteran musician known for his genre-bending, prophetic style of worship. Already a best-seller in stores throughout the United Kingdom and Europe, the 14-track Outrageous Love hits Christian retail stores in the U.S. and Canada on January 22. At that time, the project will also be available globally through any region served by iTunes and Amazon with an 18-track “Digital Deluxe” already available through iTunes in some regions.
Recorded live at House On The Rock in north London, Outrageous Love was produced by Robinson and Goziam Okogwu, mixed by the renowned John Jaszcz (“The Yoshman”) known for his work with Kirk Frankin and Marvin Sapp, and mastered at Abbey Road studios. The album features cowrites with Israel Houghton (“Let The People Say”), Matt Redman (“He Holds Everything”), and Christine D’Clario (“Revival In Your Name”) among others, and includes a duet with UK worship leader Lara Martin on “I Worship And Adore You.”
Robinson, who also has five studio albums to his credit, describes himself as a “revivalist at heart,” and his passion for spiritual revival and renewal within the larger Body of Christ and individual believers is reflected throughout Outrageous Love.
“One of the components of revival is unity, and we have successfully and intentionally brought together worshippers from different cultural expressions,” says Robinson of the international and interdenominational representation found in the recording.
“We have begun to see many testimonies and incredible feedback,” he continues. “So many of the songs are starting to be used in local churches… we are hoping that listeners will have a sense of the songs as powerful tools, as backdrops in their personal worship settings.”
One of the songs featured on the album and most often heard in churches is “Rain,” which Robinson describes as a “heartfelt cry from the Bride” directly inspired by Acts 2, Zacharias 10:1 and Hosea 6:1-4.
In relation to the title track, Robinson adds: “The cross and our redemption through Jesus is a completely outrageous act of love… and all who accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior are the recipients of the Father’s outrageous love. Realizing that must stir up our hearts.”
About Noel Robinson:
Noel Robinson grew up in the Church of God of Prophecy in England, following in his father’s footsteps as a musician at his local congregation. As a teenager, Robinson also took on the added role of itinerate musician, serving other congregations that did not have a music program. By his late teens, he had become the music director for the denomination’s London district and eventually would serve as its national music and communications director. Today, Robinson and his wife, Tanya, attend City Gates Christian Center in Ilford, an Elim Pentecostal congregation where Robinson serves as a worship team member. He also leads worship regularly at Kensington Temple in London and at other congregations and events around the world. Last fall, he led worship for the “Empowered21” conference in Jerusalem. Most recently, he led for a Morris Cerullo crusade in California before returning home to England to lead at “Festival of Praise” in Manchester alongside Israel and New Breed.
Additional information about Noel Robinson and the Kingdom Worship Movement ministry that he founded is available at http://noelrobinson.com.
Integrity Music announces the signing of soulful worship duo, husband/wife Seth & Nirva, and their forthcoming major label debut, Never Alone, a studio album produced by Israel Houghton and set to release globally in March 2016.
Known for delivering worshipful, vertical songs that blend pop, R&B and gospel influences, Seth and Nirva Ready are each extraordinarily talented artists in their own right. Nirva, who is a Chicago native and daughter of Haitian immigrants, is a backing vocalist in TobyMac’s Diverse City Band, with whom she has been performing for over a decade. Similarly, Seth has served as a backing vocalist for some of Christian music’s leading names including Kirk Franklin, Chris Tomlin, Donnie McClurkin and CeCe Winans.
It was while Seth and Nirva were each performing with other artists at a Billy Graham Crusade that the two met. Now, over nine years into their marriage, they are based in Tampa, Florida, where they attend The Crossing Church at which Seth served as Young Adult Pastor for over three years. Before signing with Integrity, the couple released an independent EP, I Need You, and most recently they appeared with Houghton on Integrity’s multi-artist project Blessed Assurance: The New Hymns of Fanny Crosby, in addition to their ongoing studio work for other artists.
“I’ve been friends with Nirva for many years and have been familiar with hers and Seth’s music for quite a while,” says Integrity Music A&R Director Chico Gonzalez. “I’ve always been impressed by their heart for worship and how they take a crowd from being listeners to participants. No matter what ‘genre’ they are working in, or artist they’re working with, they worship with their whole hearts and they are passionate about helping others do the same.”
Lending their perspective, Nirva explains: “Worship leading is a passion for us because living a life of worship unto God is what we were made for. We were created for God, His will, and His pleasure. He is showing me that it’s bigger than music. Worship flows from a heart that draws life from the One who gave it. Leading people into that understanding is an honor we don’t deserve, but we do out of love and reverence for Him.”
Seth adds: “Being connected to the local church as we have been throughout our marriage provides us with first-hand knowlege of what people are dealing with, and our work as artists often flows directly out of these experiences.”
Nirva is currently on a U.S. tour with TobyMac that includes appearances in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia, Maryland, Georgia, Florida, Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina. Additional information on Seth & Nirva is available at http://sethandnirva.com and https://www.facebook.com/sethandnirva.
“Don’t Sing, Just Receive”: New Life Worship Releases SOAK Instrumental Album For Times of Prayer, Devotions
Integrity Music announces the new global release of SOAK, a 12-track instrumental album from New Life Worship, the team behind worship favorites like “Strong God,” “Overcome,” Great I AM,” “My Savior Lives,” and “I Am Free.” Based at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the team originally created SOAK for their own congregation, crafting the album for use with devotionals and for moments of prayer and reflection.
“Throughout Scripture, we see the gift of music used to prepare our hearts, to bring rest and healing,” explains New Life Worship Pastor Jon Egan. “David played his harp over Saul and evil left. Musicians played before Elisha prophesied over a nation.”
“Where words cannot speak to hurting hearts, music can,” he continues. “That is our prayer for this project, for you to be still and just soak in the presence of God and then hopefully hear from Him. Don’t sing, just receive.”
Together with co-producer and multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Moos, Egan and the New Life musicians deliver atmospheric versions of songs like “Strong God,” “Ascribe,” and “Make A Way,” along with new music written for the project, including “Lament” and “City of Light.” Additional information is available at http://www.newlifeworship.com/soak-why-we-made-an-album-of-all-instrumental-music/.
SOAK is available through all major digital service providers, including iTunes and Amazon.
Planetshakers have carved out a unique space in the worshiping community through songs of energetic celebration and passionate praise like “Nothing is Impossible,” “The Anthem,” “Made to Worship” and “Endless Praise.” Following their critically acclaimed live cd/dvd This Is Our Time, Planetshakers have released Let’s Go! Recorded live in Melbourne, Australia with thousands of worshipers from around the globe, Let’s Go! delivers the same high-energy worship that we have come to love… a true celebration of our great God!
Planetshakers has been greatly impacted by North America, connecting with and resourcing local churches across the U.S. and Canada. Building on those relationships, the team returns to the U.S. this summer & fall for events including two American “awakening” conferences. they will also lead worship for the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) in Orlando and the National Worship Leader Conference in Kansas City.
The international Planetshakers ministry, under the leadership of senior pastors Russell and Sam Evans, has also launched its first worldwide tv show! for more information, click here.
THE CITY HARMONIC’S WE ARE ALBUM RELEASES AMIDST ACCLAIM
“WE ARE” COMMUNITY EVENTS LAUNCH SEPT. 11
NEW DOCUMENTARY, MULTIPLE STORIES OF CHURCH UNITY SHARED AT WWW.WEARETHECITYHARMONIC.COM
Raucous, award-winning band, The City Harmonic, known for its eclectic modern hymns and worship anthems of longing, hope and celebration, releases globally its third full-length album, WE ARE, amidst acclaim and through Integrity Music. The band has also released online its We Are The City Harmonic documentary, and is taking the album and documentary’s message of unity all across North America with the help of local churches.
Composed by The City Harmonic members Elias Dummer (lead vocals, keys), Eric Fusilier (bass), Josh Vanderlaan (drums) and Aaron Powell (guitars), and produced by Jonny Macintosh, WE ARE (#WeAreTheCityHarmonic) features 11 authentic expressions of worship and unity that is garnering wide critical acclaim:
“You’ll experience the majestic nature of God in the music of The City Harmonic…this exceptional alternative rock worship album, [is] one of the best of the year…Every song is emotionally stirring and rooted in the Truth of God’s Word.” – NewReleaseToday.com
“The City Harmonic brings another album filled with great musicality… a fantastic tool for your personal worship time.” – Worship Leader Magazine
“If you don’t have time to sort through all the new music that comes out and need to skip right to the good stuff, WE ARE by The City Harmonic is one you can pick up right away…It’ll inspire you and make you want to set aside what you’re doing and just worship God.” – AXS.com
“The New album WE ARE from The City Harmonic will leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. The songs are upbeat, the lyrics worshipful, and the overall message one of hope, love and unity.” – HollywoodJesus.com
“The City Harmonic are one of those bands that seem to get it right time and time again…Have a listen to this album and I’m sure by the end you will be clapping, singing, dancing and crying along to some of the best songs around.” – LouderThanTheMusic.com (5-Star review)
In addition to the new album, The City Harmonic reveals how small churches of various denominations in Hamilton, Ontario, calling themselves TrueCity, joined together to change their city for the good in the 45-minute-long We Are The City Harmonic documentary that can be viewed now at www.WeAreTheCityHarmonic.com.
“We have seen firsthand how the Church unified can change a city,” says The City Harmonic collectively on the website. “We believe that we’re better together. This site exists to share and inspire stories of transformative Christian unity–beginning with our own.”
Already inspiring people from all over North America and beyond to respond with their own stories of unity, Emily, from Windsor, ON, writes at www.WeAreTheCityHarmonic.com, “For the past couple of years, churches in Windsor, ON have been invited to participate in an event called, We Love Windsor Day. This is our way to show love and appreciation for the people of Windsor as a community of believers.”
Someone from Indianapolis shares, “Thousands gather on the footsteps of Monument Circle in Indianapolis to pray for their city, birthing a movement called ‘City Mosaic,’ [which is] churches in partnership praying for peace and justice to make Indianapolis a better place to live.”
A Simcoe, ON-based writer says, “Since 2009, a partnership of diverse churches has led to an annual day where churches gather to bless the community. A total of 236 volunteers representing 15 churches participated in last year’s event, which was widely hailed as a resounding success.”
Taking the message of unity and music from WE ARE on the road, The City Harmonic launches the “We Are” events beginning Sept. 11 in Gulf Shores, AL. Joined by label mate, Travis Ryan, the events are bringing together local churches for a time of worship, prayer and fellowship as the band encourages cities to unite to serve their communities. With 20 events planned so far (see event listing below), all the latest cites and details can be found at www.WeAreTheCityHarmonic.com.
The City Harmonic “We Are” Event Cities include:
September 11 – We Are Gulf Shores | Gulf Shores, AL
September 12 – We Are Alpharetta | Alpharetta, GA
September 13 – We Are Statesville | Statesville, NC
September 14 – We Are Giles | Pearisburg, VA
September 15 – We Are Williamsport | Williamsport, PA
September 17 – We Are New England | Cranston, RI
September 18 – We Are Rochester | Webster, NY
September 22 – We Are Sabetha | Sabetha, KS
September 26 – We Are Kokomo | Kokomo, IN
September 29 – We Are Enterprise United | Enterprise, AL
October 6 – We Are Arlington | Arlington, TX
October 7 – We Are Jackson | Ridgeland, MS
October 21 – We Are Bend | Bend, OR
October 22 – We Are Reno | Sparks, NV
October 23 – We Are Vacaville | Vacaville, CA
October 24 – We Are Lodi | Acampo, CA
October 25 – We Are San Jose | San Jose, CA
October 27 – We Are Eureka | Eureka, CA
October 29 – We Are Exeter | Exeter, CA
October 30 – We Are Las Vegas | Las Vegas, NV
For additional information related to The City Harmonic, visit www.thecityharmonic.com,
Dove Award nominated international worship artist Christine D’Clario presents her long awaited live Spanish Worship album titled ETERNO,recorded live at the Coliseum of Puerto Rico, before a diverse audience of 10,000 worshippers and streamed live to over 100,000 people,which created the popular hashtag #EternoLive that trended onTwitter. Christine is widely considered to be the future of Latin CCM,with millions of young followers on her social networks and a sold-out worldwide tour.
Eterno LIVE is out now, available everywhere
BORN OUT OF A MOVEMENT OF CHURCHES WORKING TOGETHER IN THEIR HOMETOWN, THE CITY HARMONIC IS NOW LEADING A MOVEMENT AND PROVIDING RESOURCES TO BRING GREATER UNITY TO CHRISTIAN CHURCHES EVERYWHERE
WE ARE ALBUM RELEASES SEPT. 4, “WE ARE” COMMUNITY EVENTS LAUNCH SEPT. 11.
NEW DOCUMENTARY AVAILABLE AT WWW.WEARETHECITYHARMONIC.COM
When the steel industry abandoned Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, the city’s churches united under the banner TrueCity to help revitalize a dying community. Four worship leaders from separate churches at the forefront of this movement, Elias Dummer (lead vocals, keys), Eric Fusilier (bass), Josh Vanderlaan (drums) and Aaron Powell (guitars), joined forces to become The City Harmonic, a reflection of Jeremiah 29:7’s command to “seek the peace of the city.” This raucous, award-winning band has since seen the power of unity first-hand in Hamilton and internationally.
Launching their “Manifesto” anthem in 2010 that quickly became a rallying cry for believers around the world, the band is now leading a new charge, using recorded music, community events, a documentary and the internet’s global reach to bring unity to a divided world beginning with the Church.
“Do you want less division and more unity?” asks The City Harmonic members as they invite the Church to participate in a worldwide unity movement. “There is good news: we are one in Christ! And we, the Church, have a job to do as His body. We truly believe–and have seen first-hand–that communities can change for good as we work together in unity like a family. It’s a small step with an enormous impact. It starts with us.”
Giving more than “lip service” to this dream, The City Harmonic is providing resources to churches, beginning with the creation of a documentary that details the story of the unity movement in their hometown. The piece includes interviews with local church and city leaders about the process and model they followed while also sharing the amazing transformations that occurred amidst a unified Christian response. The documentary is available for viewing at www.WeAreTheCityHarmonic.com where visitors can also share their own unity stories to encourage one another.
In addition, the band hits the road this fall for “We Are” events that bring together local churches for a time of worship, prayer and fellowship as the band encourages cities to unite to serve their communities. These events include “We Are Gulf Shores” (AL), “We Are Jackson” (MS), “We Are Lodi” (CA) and “We Are Las Vegas” (NV), with 18 events currently planned and more being added weekly. (An updated schedule with event details can be found at www.WeAreTheCityHarmonic.com.)
While on the road, The City Harmonic will share songs, including radio single “We Are One,” from their new album, WE ARE, which releases September 4 through Integrity Music and is available for pre-order now at iTunes. The band will also be joined at each “We Are” event by their labelmate Travis Ryan, writer of the Newsboys’ No. 1 hit “We Believe” and worship pastor for LifePoint Church in Smyrna, TN.
“We’ve seen first-hand how powerful it is when the Church works in unity,” says Elias Dummer. “Christ changes us every day and Christ is changing our hometown… if we can somehow inspire the Church around the world to do the same… that’s more than we could ever have hoped or imagined.”
For additional information related to The City Harmonic, visit www.thecityharmonic.com,
Integrity Music artists, songwriters and ministry partners were recently honored with eight Gospel Music Association (GMA) Dove Award nominations in categories that ranged from Worship Song of the Year and Long Form Video to Spanish Language Album of the Year and Southern Gospel Recorded Song.
Leading the list is All Sons & Daughters who picked up three nominations, including Worship Song of the Year for “Great Are You Lord” and Worship Album of the Year for their critically acclaimed project All Sons & Daughters. The Franklin, Tennessee-based duo of Leslie Jordan and David Leonard also received a nomination for Inspirational Song of the Year for “Christ Be All Around Me” as recorded by Michael W. Smith. Jordan and Leonard are sharing these songs and others this summer and fall on The Neighborhood Tour, a 3-day worship/conference event meant to encourage and equip local worship teams.
The Melbourne, Australia-based band Planetshakers received a nomination for Long Form Video of the Year for their deluxe CD/DVD This Is Our Time, marking the band’s second nomination in that category following last year’s nomination for Endless Praise. Planetshakers is sharing songs from both projects, as well as songs from its new #LETSGO album releasing Sept. 11, during a global tour that includes stops in the Philippines, U.S., Canada and the United Arab Emirates. NewSong also received a nomination for Long Form Video of the Year for their deluxe CD/DVD Faithful and will be sharing songs from that project, including radio single “This Beating Heart,” during their October Beating Heart Tour.
Songwriters Travis Ryan, Richie Fike and Matt Hooper received a nomination for Pop Contemporary Song of the Year for “We Believe,” the No. 1 radio hit as recorded by the Newsboys. Fellow Integrity writers Israel Houghton and Michael Farren were also honored, with Houghton receiving a nomination for Traditional Gospel Song for “How Awesome Is Our God” and Farren receiving a nomination for Southern Gospel Song for “Pray Now.”
Integrity’s publishing partner, Gateway Worship (Gateway Church) also received a nomination for Spanish Language Album of the Year for Gloria A Dios.
The 46th Annual GMA Dove Awards show will take place October 13 in Nashville, TN. Additional information, including a complete list of nominees, is available at http://doveawards.com.
Guest Post From Paul Baloche
Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. (I Corinthians 9:19-23)
Being “all things to all people” can sound like unhealthy, people-pleasing behavior. How many of us have tried to please everyone in our congregation through song choices and music styles, only to realize that you can’t please everyone. Yet Paul gives us the context for his attitude and actions. “I do this for ‘the gospel’s sake’”—a beautiful declaration of his motivation and love for Christ and the good news.
The upcoming issue of Worship Leader magazine is on worship around the world in order to challenge and inspire us to reach beyond the four walls of our church or traditional bias. How do we connect globally in ways that are meaningful, that are biblical, and congruent with spirit and truth? How can we embody the heart of the gospel message: welcoming the stranger, living out mercy and justice, knowing that in Christ the walls that divide have been broken down?
On a local level, I found it fascinating over the years that for the most part, Sunday morning church was segregated along racial lines. There were several Spanish-speaking churches, Korean churches, Black churches, etc. For over 20 years we tried various approaches to create gathering places that were welcoming to “all peoples.” A few times, we simply invited one of the local Black churches to come and lead us in our sanctuary as they would normally do in their own building. This was a small but significant step in a rural part of Texas where race was an even bigger issue in generations past. Our invitation was not to patronize but to humbly acknowledge our need to get to know our neighbors. It affected our congregation each and every time. Humbly asking and sincerely honoring other cultures into our communities is a first step in experiencing the reality of Ephesians 2:14 “For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation.”
While speaking at a recent predominantly White worship conference, someone mentioned that a team of 25 members of a Bronx, African American church were in attendance. I couldn’t resist inviting them up, handing over our instruments, and asking them if they would lead us in the way they’re accustomed to. To my surprise, such a genuine moment of community broke loose, as many of us yielded to a style that was much different yet so similar in it’s intent. Worship, joy, laughter, clapping, singing, and praise to our God rose up. Genuine tears and emotions flowed down as we asked their worship pastor to pray for racial healing in our land and in our churches. Teams from every denominational background cried out in prayer to “The Only God our Savior” (Jude 1:25). “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” (Ps.133:1). Of course, when the weekend was finished, we all went back to our somewhat segregated communities, but we were changed nonetheless. Once we experience moments like that, it’s hard to just go back and “do church” the way we always have. There is a yearning for connection with those who are different than what we are used to. Different and yet so similar in our hope in Christ, our trust in His Word, and our reliance upon His Spirit.
Language and Culture
In the last few years, we’ve recorded two French-speaking worship albums (find them here) in an attempt to interact with a remnant of leaders who work in such a spiritually dry land. Seeking out and inviting next-generation worship leaders to be part of these recordings became a way of breaking down language and cultural barriers. We have since followed up the recordings by doing several tours throughout France, Switzerland, and Quebec. These areas are typically underserved and yet so hungry for Christian ministry.
Learning a few songs in Dutch served us well when the power went out at an outdoor festival of 20,000 worshipers. What could have an awkward moment of silence turned into a rousing, spirit-filled a capella chorus of “How Great Thou Art” in the Dutch language, which then led to several other choruses until the power came back on. It was one of the most glorious worship moments of my life.
Finally, in a series of outdoor worship events throughout India recently, I was struck by a group of teenage girls, dressed in traditional garb, dancing together as they sang out. Their synchronization and choreographed movements were so unique and worshipful. Towards the end of the evening, I invited them up on the platform to sing and dance for us as we sang our last few songs. Again, what could have been potentially awkward, turned into the highlight of the evening—a breakthrough of sorts—as we came to find that each one of these girls were rescued out of Hindu Temple prostitution. As the band played very simply in the background, I asked a few of the girls to take the microphone and lead us in prayer for their nation.
These are “God moments.” They happen when we’re willing to take small risks in our planning and leading of corporate worship. Whether on a local-church level or on a missions outreach, let us prayerfully discern how we might be instrumental in creating an environment that is welcoming and respectful to all backgrounds and styles of Christian worship.
Paul Baloche is an Integrity Music artist, worship leader, and singer-songwriter.
Find out more bout Paul Baloche and his ministry at leadworship.com.
Original Source: http://worshipleader.com/culture/breaking-sunday-segregation/