This week's Low Five (more like Late Five am I right?!?), came to a halt when on Sunday I closed the page without saving what I had. So here I am, Monday starting from scratch. Believe me when I say it was the best post I've ever done. It saddens me that it will never see the light of screen.
96. Only Wanna Sing
This week is the week of upbeat, synth heavy songs. AKA my kryptonite. Except....I like this song. This one surprised me. Until recently, I had been leading worship for students the past year. I avoided Hillsong Young & Free at all costs. I blamed it on the lack of a full band most weeks, but really I just couldn't stand what I had heard.
Would I play this? Probably not, but it's probably their most listenable song I've heard. Maybe I had you wrong all along Young & Free.
97. Do What You Want To
Nooooooo, another happy, upbeat song!!! Okay, that's a little dramatic. This song is fine.
98. Faithful To The End
This is the only song on the list that I've actually played in a church service. I think it's a great song and it's a lot of fun to play. There are some chord changes going into the bridge that for some reason really tripped me up. Let's be honest, for the most part, worship songs can be pretty basic when it comes to the arrangement. "What's this one? 1, 4, 5? Perfect. Next one? Oh also 1, 4, 5, but I can put a capo on so I never put my hand in a different position? Perfect." The fact that this song tripped me up, really just motivated me to start practicing my guitar more than just preparing for the weekend's songs.
99. Grace Like A Wave
I'm a sucker for Elevation Worship. I was on board with this song, until about 38 seconds in. Another one for our upbeat, synth heavy, happy song list. Bleh, I hate happy songs. Okay, maybe hate is a strong word. They've also released an acoustic version of the song that I really like. Thanks Elevation! You can do no wrong.
100. My Lighthouse
Alright, I know the last time this song was on the list, I didn't have much to say about it. But I have to admit...it's starting to grow on me. Describing the meaning of the song, Gareth, the bandleader says,
"Jesus said, "I am the Light of the world," and throughout the centuries, the picture of the Church is that we are the light of the world. It's great to see that symbolism. That's what we were thinking about when we were working on the song, and we sing about failures and doubting, and knowing that God doesn't walk out on us, and that He's the peace in our troubled seas. No matter what we are going through, or are looking for God you can know that He's not going to let you drown in your circumstances. There are so many pictures of that in Scripture: Peter walking on the water and Jesus calming the storm. Those are powerful pictures and calming for us."
This one's a couple days late, and for that I apologize. The problem was that I had a hard time figuring out nice things to say about some of the songs. And it's not like the usual batch where there's songs I like and some I don't like. This list was more "I love this song" or "I HATE this song". I'll let you decide for yourself which songs are which. So after sitting on this for a couple of days I've decided to just post the list along with videos for the songs. No descriptions/reviews this time around.
96. Lay Me Down -
97. Nothing Is Impossible -
98. Worthy Of Your Name -
99. We Believe -
100. He Is Faithful -
Well there you have it. "If you can't say anything nice, don't say nothing at all." This week feels like kind of a bust on my part, but I guess that's just the way it is. I'll try to be nicer to next week's songs. Until then...
96. At Your Name (Phil Wickham) - Our first repeat song! This song won last week's Christian Radio Gold award. This week I decided to take a different approach. I found this acoustic video of Phil performing the song, and discussing the writing process with Tim Hughes, and other people who probably aren't important enough to mention. One thing Phil said in the video really stood out to me. He says, "We knew we wanted to write a song that people could sing. That was a song that people could hopefully latch on to the chorus and sing to." I've had some trouble with the idea of simple songs. The trouble being that I really like them, but my direct peers would say otherwise and fight to the death of why they're a waste of time. But the more I'm involved in worship ministry, the more I realize how important it is that people connect to the song. Of course there's a place for theologically dense songs, and musically challenging songs that are just fun to play, but there also needs to be space for simple songs that in Phil's words, people can "latch onto". Great, now I wish I hadn't already made next week's set-list, so I could add this to the line up.
97. Always (Kristian Stanfill) - Our second repeat song from last week. In the video for this week, Kristian talks about the co-writing process between Jason Ingram and himself. He said neither of them like to "linger" in writing a song. Once you have something, and it feels good, stick with it. I think that's one of the hardest things for me with songwriting. I always think it can be better, or that in one way or another it's just not good enough. Waiting so long to really try to finish an idea, that I eventually just give up and move onto the next. But it's a totally different story with cowriting. I recently brought an idea to a friend, that was sort of half done. Leff than a half hour later, we came out with a full song. Was it perfect? No, probably not. But it was finished and the sense of accomplishment from that one song felt greater than all of the half done ideas I've recorded into my phone. I don't think I could be more off track. This has nothing to do with the song, now I'm just talking about some of the benefits of co-writing songs. But hey, you can read about the song on last week's post too.
98. Holy Is The Lord (Chris Tomlin) - I want to say this song was the first song I ever played at church. It was the summer of 2004. I was going into the seventh grade, and could finally join the Jr. High worship band at church! I would get all of the perks of being in the band, hanging out with the cool worship pastor, playing guitar to make girls finally notice me(which didn't really work), getting snacks before anyone else got to youth group on Wednesday nights. Ah, the good life. Anyway, where was I? Oh yes the song. Great song. I haven't played it since probably my freshman year of high school, but it's a great song that brings back great memories of when I started playing guitar at church.
99. Here's My Heart (Passion, David Crowder) - I think this song has about 30 words total. Which is pretty impressive for a seven minute song. At about the 1:43 mark in the video, you can hear someone cough because it's so quiet. Which isn't a bad thing, it's a good listening song. For me, this is one I can really get into just sitting and listening, but actually playing it is a little bit of a different story. Obviously this could change from church to church, but when we tried this song at ACF, every service it seemed like we could get maybe four minutes into the song before people kind of check out. And I get that, just repeating the same thing over and over can get pretty old pretty quick. This song and performance in the video is a perfect fit. It's a huge night, people are into it, and excited to be there. There's so many highs and lows in the set, that I'm sure they loved such a contemplative song. But at a church, early on a Sunday morning when you probably only have a few songs you'll be playing, personally I would find a way to cut down this track and find a way to fit it more into a four to five minute version.
100. Worthy Of Your Name (Passion, Sean Curran) - This is probably my favorite song of the year. My contract working at ACF was up by the time it was out, so I never got a chance to play it. That is until they needed someone to fill in for a random weekend during the summer. They sent me a list of songs to choose from and there it was "Worthy Of Your Name". Hooray! When the weekend came, it went fine, but wasn't anything crazy. I found myself criticising every part of what I did. "I lowered the key too much", "There was no response from the congregation", "The band wasn't into it enough". Basically, it just kind of fell flat. I think I let my personal love for the song get in the way of what I was actually supposed to be doing. I was there to lead worship, and instead felt like a kid at a talent show trying to cover his new favorite song. I am surprised it's all the way down in the 100 spot. For such a new song, I figured it would be way higher than this. But maybe it's still new enough that it hasn't caught on quite enough yet? Expect this song to start showing up as the "new song" for your church...eventually.
Welcome to the second installment of the LOW FIVE series. We have a whole new batch of songs for us to go through. Originally, I think I called these reviews, but really they're nothing close to that. Maybe commentaries? Maybe a mad man's ramblings? Maybe a man with too much time on his day off? All of these and more could be true for this week's LOW FIVE.
96. My Lighthouse (Rend Collective) - I have this theory, and by theory, I mean fact. All Rend Collective songs sound the same. Is that a bad thing? I'll let you decide for yourself. What the Christian Mumford and Sons do have going for them in this song is that there's an accordion player. Which got me thinking. Where are all of the accordion players in church??? Let's step up our game people.
97. At Your Name (Phil Wickham) - Written with Tim Hughes, this song wins our Christian Radio Gold award, which I just made up. This song's not quite first song of the set material like it's younger brother This Is Amazing Grace, but I could see it fitting in second or third. Maybe a post offering/prayer song, with a reprise of the chorus at the end of the service. Boom! Gold.
98. Glory To God Forever (Fee) - This song is from 2009. If you read last week's post, I called a song from 2011 ancient in worship years. This song has stolen that title. I love this song, if even only from a place of nostalgia. We used to do this song all the time at the church I was playing at during high school and college. I think the only thing going against it is it's age, but it finds itself still beating out songs from only a couple of years ago. Good job Fee.
99. Do What You Want To (Vertical Worship) - Holy crap, it's a female singer! Nothing crazy happening in this one, didn't hate it, didn't love it either. One thing that did stand out to me was at the 2:05 mark, they go into the bridge which sounds identical musically to the bridge of Hillsong's "Relentless". Seems suspicious.
100. Always (Kristian Stanfill) - I first heard this song on the One Sonic Society album Forever Reign. I've always loved it, but for some reason have never seen it on a set list, or even put it on one myself. It always loses out to Forever Reign. With those two songs, we run into the same situation as last week between Do It Again and Fullness. Two great songs from the same album, but one takes the worship cake. Which I imagine is an ice cream cake.
That does it for this week's LOW FIVE. Until next time.
Planning Center Online, PCO, Planning Center, the Cent...that's all I've got. We all use it. Even my mother-in-law uses it at her church to schedule ushers. It's practically an American Church staple. "I'll send you a Planning Center request." Is the new, "I'll Myspace you." God, I'm relevant. But I digress. I love Planning Center. Something I've always found interesting is their top songs list. Each week they update the most popular songs every church in their system has picked to play for that next Sunday. Most of them are what you'd think. This Is Amazing Grace, Lion and the Lamb, Good Good Father, the usual suspects.
But what about the not so popular songs? What's their story? Songs of years gone by, trends that have faded, voices we no longer recognize. What about them? I did some digging. Turns out PCO goes more in depth than I expected. I got into the high 300's before I gave up. I didn't even recognize the songs once I got in that deep. I won't bore you with those kinds of things. As a compromise, let's call it a top 100 list. But oh no, we won't be starting from the top. We're going straight to the bottom. The last five songs of the Planning Center Top 100 List. Along with a surface level critique by yours truly!
96. You Are Good (Bethel Music) - I've never heard this until now. If you look at the rest of the album, there was plenty to overshadow what this track has to offer. I like the guitar parts. Nothing else really stood out. 96 seems appropriate.
97. All The Poor and Powerless (All Sons and Daughters) - First of all, I had no idea this song is from 2011, this thing is ancient in worship music years. I love this song though. That being said, I've never personally played it at any church, which I'm sure is why it finds itself so low on our list.
98. Because He Lives(Amen) (Matt Maher) - This song has Christian radio written all over it. That being said, I do love me some Matt Maher. It's only two years old, which means it's every mom's favorite new song.
99. Fullness (Elevation Worship) - This one surprises me. This song came out last year on the same EP as "Do It Again" from Elevation. This song never took off quite as well as "Do It Again" and it shows. In YouTube views alone, "Do It Again" comes in with 4 million, while "Fullness" is left behind with only 896 thousand. AND "Do It Again" comes in at 14 on the PCO top songs list. Sorry "Fullness"...why can't you be more like your brother?!
100. Come Lord Jesus (Even So) (Passion) - Our bottom pick coming in at 100...In the same category as our number 98 pick, this is full on Christian radio gold. It is also the only other song with parentheses. Coincidence? I think not!
Well there you have it. The first edition of LOW FIVE. I'm going to be doing this weekly. Please join me as we walk along the highs and the lows (I'm guessing mostly lows) of Christian worship music.. Until next time.
This weekend I'm going to be leading worship at Austin Christian Fellowship for their weekend services. This has been a pretty regular thing, especially the past few months. Thought I'd post the set-list, and any thoughts behind my choices. To be honest, it's nothing deep or profound behind the songs I chose this weekend. It's coming at a really weird time, we're walking with a friend through an incredibly difficult season in their life, I was asked pretty last minute to fill in, I've got another full time job to worry about, my birthday is next week, we're dogsitting. Okay, maybe the last one doesn't seem like that big of a deal, but I have enough trouble taking care of my fish, let alone someone else's dog. Alright, enough of my problems with caring for living things, enjoy this set-list.
1. The Lion and The Lamb - Leeland
I just like this song. I think it's a good first song to bring people in and get them excited. It's also one that I know the congregation is familiar with. Since I'm not their worship leader on staff, and just filling in, I think one of the most important things you could do is at least make sure you're doing songs the congregation will know and be comfortable singing along to.
2. Give Me Faith - Elevation Worship
Remember what I just said about the congregation knowing songs? Forget all of that. I don't think they've ever done this song at ACF. I chose this one because the sermon series starting this week is called "Becoming a Person of Faith". I've always loved this song, and I thought it would be a great one to lead in the new series.
3. Great Things (Worth It All) - .....also Elevation Worship
For some reason, I really struggled getting a song to put here in the middle. The other three came fairly easy, but nothing else I was putting in this spot felt right. The flow felt weird. The messages didn't really connect between the song before it or after it. I tried switching things around. Still nothing. In the end, it didn't come down to some deep decision. Similar to the first song I picked one the congregation would know, and seemed to fit the best in this set.
4. You Never Let Go - Matt Redman
This one is more of a personal choice. Without getting into too much detail, there's a lot going on right now. In my life, this church's life, there are broken relationships, confusion. Bleh, I don't even know how to type it out, so I won't try too hard. I just feel like this song has a good message to remember for myself and for the congregation at ACF.
Well, there you have it! The worship set list for this weekend at Austin Christian Fellowship.
I just finished Rhythms of Grace by Mike Cosper.
Who - I don't know anything about Mike Cosper besides what this book tells me, and also that I wish his name were Casper because I could make a friendly ghost joke. But I'll just copy what the book says. "Mike Cosper is one of the founding pastors of Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Kentucky, where he serves as the pastor of worship and arts. He is also the founder of Sojourn Music and contributes regularly to the Gospel Coalition blog." Seems legit. A worship pastor writing about worship, I can get behind that.
What - This book has been on my Amazon wish list for a long time. No real reason besides I like the cover and tagline "How the church's worship tells the story of the gospel". He starts off with a history of worship in the church, "The Song of Eden", "Worship in the Wilderness", "The Song of Israel", and "The Song of Jesus". I thought all of these chapters were great. I've had some books about worship that I've put down after a couple of chapters, or can only read a couple of pages at a time. Some books like this are so dense with theological jargon, and read like a textbook, that I can't bring myself to really enjoy it. And if I'm not enjoying reading it, I'm not going to waste my time. Except Blue Like Jazz, by the time I was sick of that book, I was in too deep, and just forced myself to finish it. But that's for another time. Maybe I'm just dumb or have a short attention span; who knows. Cosper writes about the history of worship in a way that's super readable, and keeps you engaged with what you're reading. On a personal note, one of my goals has been to learn about worship beyond what I know. Which is basically whatever songs I've been playing in church the past ten years, so I thought this whole history part was great. After that, he gets into how gospel centered worship fits into the church, liturgy, singing, and finally being a "pastoral worship leader". These chapters all had helpful sections of practical ways to fit things into your service to make them more gospel centered rather than just a music, preaching, done, kind of service. I thought these were super interesting, and I've found a ton of new things to think about from liturgical prayers to different ways of approaching making a set list, and all kinds of things in between.
Why - Overall, I thought this was a great book, and would definitely recommend it to anyone involved in worship ministry, and really anyone interested in the topic of worship. There were plenty of sections I've marked to share with my wife and some other members of my family that hit on some things we've talked about on our own. This book receives my official stamp of "What Would Kyle Read" approval. I should try to get actual stamps made...maybe someday.
Well, thanks for reading my totally unqualified book review. I might get better at this review thing, but probably not.
“No no no, this is all a dream! A nightmare!”
This past weekend I was back at Austin Christian Fellowship to fill in as their worship leader. Everything was going along as planned. We made it to our third and final service when it happened. BOOM CRASH PING POW! Alright, maybe not those exact noises, but that’s how it felt. I broke a string. It was only my high E string. “We’ll be fine.” I thought. I knew I should have changed those strings this morning. We start the second song. Surely nothing else could go…BOOM CRASH PING POW PLOP! (Again not actual sounds that happened) Another string bites the dust. This time it was my G-string, but no time for jokes about that. I was defeated. At that point I would have looked/sounded ridiculous to try to play with the four strings I had left. But I couldn’t just stand there with the guitar right? I don’t know.
That’s when it happened. The third song begins and I put down my guitar. I’ve never felt more vulnerable on stage before. I always have my guitar with me. That’s just the way it is. But the show…I mean service, must go on. I went up with out my guitar and started to sing. At first I couldn’t stop thinking about everything that was going on. “Do I just stand still? Do I take the microphone off the stand? WHAT DO I DO WITH MY HANDS?!” Obviously all of these questions revolved around me. I was self-conscious, and didn’t know how I could possibly be confident in any way to be able to lead this congregation. That’s when it hit, “Oh yeah…I don’t need to rely on myself.” In that moment, the only way I could go on was to fully rely on God’s strength, and my confidence in him to make it through. Which I get can sound a little dramatic. It was only two songs that maybe came out to ten minutes, but for me that was the longest and hardest ten minutes I’ve ever spent on stage.
I feel like it’s really easy to just get into a routine with being a part of a worship team. For me, it’s always just been what I do. Not until recently have I realized how much more there is to it than the songs we play, and how much more I have to learn. Will this be a regular thing? Am I retiring my guitar and going to get one of those half microphone stands to become the Freddie Mercury of worship music? Probably not. But at the end of the day, this got me way out of my comfort zone, and brought my attention back where it should be. I can’t rely on my guitar, my voice, trying to get a visible response from the congregation. At the end of the day worship is of God and for God. I’m not going to get in the way of that. Also I’ll start changing my strings more.