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Death and hell call him Victorious!Here’s the line that grabbed me:

Death and hell call Him victorious….

What a great thought.
What a triumphant declaration!

I’m always on the lookout for songs that lift the heart in praise and help us to think theologically. That’s a a hard recipe to get right every time. Let’s face it, not every song is going to be an “In Christ Alone.” The needle may ping more toward doxology or doctrine in a given song, but as long as it’s looking to land between the two, I’m interested. Michael FarrenKrissy Nordhoff and Riley Erin have given us a lovely and moving hymn in Oh Praise (The Only One). The song is very congregation friendly – singable, decent key, etc.. and calls us to praise while reminding us that our praise is rooted in the redemptive work of Christ. I’m looking forward to sharing it with our congregation this month.  It does have the obligatory (these days) “whoaaah whoaaah” section which you keep or let go depending on your aversion to things whoawoey. Lyrics are below along with a video of a live session that really invites you to worship along.  This week the We Are Worship website is offering free downloads of the sheet music and mp3 so go get it now.

There is no greater truth than this
There is no stronger love we know
God Himself comes down to live
And make a sinner’s heart his throne

There is no deeper peace than this
No other kindness can compare
He clothes us in His righteousness
Forever free, forever heirs

Oh praise the only One
Who shines brighter than ten thousand suns
Death and hell call Him victorious
Praise Him
Oh praise the One true King
Lift it loud till earth and heaven ring
Every crown we down at His feet
Praise Him

There is no sweeter joy than this
There is no stronger hope we hold
We are His forever more
Safe, secure by Christ alone

There is no sound that’s like the song
That rises up from grateful saints
We once were lost but now we’re found
One with Him, we bear His name

recording courtesy of CentricWorship

Copyright © 2015 Integrity’s Alleluia! Music/SESAC & Farren Love and War/SESAC & Centricity Music Publishing

CCLI Number: 7030890

“For the history of holy hymns is really the history of the Church.”

Edwin Paxton Hood: “Isaac Watts; His Life and Writings, His Homes and Friends”

If you’re not already familiar with Tree Hill Collective, I would encourage you to discover their gift to the church. I became a fan after hearing their One Redemption collection and I have looked forward to subsequent releases. Their website describes their ministry in these words:

“We are a network of songwriters, independent artists, and music industry professionals who exist to create and share the very best worship songs and to craft and make freely available all of the resources the church needs to use them.”

That is a great and worthy vision!

Their latest release is called Shelter in the Wind and features the songs and vocals of Mia Koehne. There is a sampler available on Noise Trade and it’s well worth a listen. The four songs range widely from the elegant single piano and vocal of the title track to the full band and rap insert of You are Holy. I’m particularly drawn to the simple anthem We are More than Conquerors. Once again, the Tree Hill folks know how to make space in their music. Rather than bury the vocals under the usual barrage of U2 riffs and extra keyboards, producer Jeff McCullough lets the vocals stand front and center. One of the nice things about this is that it allows a small church to think “we could do that song!” as opposed to “we could never sound like that.” In an “industry” (hate to have to use that word!) that is driven by name recognition and radio airplay there is so much great music that gets overlooked. It’s unfortunate, and I hope this blog may help to promote some of the very anointed and talented songwriters in the church today. Tree Hill Collective is helping to make that possible. Follow them on Facebook to find out about more.

Click the cover below to listen or to get a free download from Noisetrade



worship lightsThe One Year Bible had me reading 2 Kings and the story of King Josiah’s cleansing of the Temple. Before he came into power his predecessor, Manasseh, began using the temple for Baal worship and cult prostitution as sacrifice to the fertility goddess Asherah. The temple had been desecrated by the sacrifice of infants and prostitution.

One verse that caught my attention was 2 Kings 23:7:

And he (Hilkiah the high priest) broke down the houses of the male cult prostitutes who were in the house of the Lord, where the women wove hangings for the Asherah.

Shocking isn’t it?  How is it possible that this desecration of God’s house was going on? This was the place of sacrifice,of the Holy of Holies, the place where God’s glory had appeared in spectacular display!  Think of it – a place that was designed primarily as a place for God’s pleasure had been turned on its head and made a place devoted to human pleasure at the basest level.

What happens when the wants and desires of man drive the act of worship?

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name,” the psalmist declares. “Tremble before him! Come let us worship and bow down!”. Is this the experience in our modern worship? Are we in awe of the living God or are we looking for awe in things other than Him?  Is there a place for beauty and appealing to the senses? Of course! No one could look at the Temple and not conclude that beauty, even breath-taking beauty was on display. The music, garments, incense, architecture, great altar and basin we’re all a feast for the senses. However, that beauty was designed to point to God; to inspire the awe of God, not awe of the temple experience.

Could it be that people are looking to be “awed” by the worship experience they are presented with rather than the God we claim to be exalting?

Why do we hear a continued drumbeat of concern that congregations are becoming crowds of observers rather than worshiping disciples? Why do we hear people referred to as “shoppers” for the best music, lights, effects and band rather than committed members contributing to the health of a local church?*The fertility cults of Biblical history were built around the notion of pleasing oneself as a worship activity. Visits to male or female cultic priests in the shadows of the Asherah poles were for the express purpose of self gratification as a means of expressing some dedication to a god. No doubt the participant left with a deeper appreciation for the experience but no awe and devotion of the true Living God.

An article like this can go downhill pretty quick. I have no interest in soapbox crassness. Still, the question that grabbed me should be obvious. Do we not run the risk of prostituting ourselves for the pleasure of those who require entertainment in order to secure their commitment?  At some point I have to ask myself the question, is the worship I lead drawing people into a deeper love for Jesus and desire for His glory or am I skating two close to the shallow ice of spectacle parading as the beauty of holiness?

Worship leaders are some of my favorite people. They have a passionate love for God and zeal for His glory. Nevertheless, we need to never forget that our egos are hungry, our hearts are deceitful and too easily become what Calvin called “idol factories.” Prostitution is an ugly word that repels us but it can be found today in pulpits and behind guitars. God help us to love His glory more than the applause of the entertained.

Here’s a question. How do we evaluate what we do in order to detect prostitution creeping in? Checking motives is valuable but the truth is we can always have sincere motives but practices that undermine what we’re motivated to do. How do we think in a comprehensive way about what we do?

(*) I’m well aware that the “shopping” might be for children’s ministry, preaching, youth programs, etc… but without question the worship service itself, particularly the music and its presentation, is a clear shopping issue.

One of the great trends of the past few years has been the efforts of people like Indelible Grace, Sojourn and others, to take old hymn texts and set them to new melodies for the church today. Many churches are also discovering and singing some of the great liturgical texts of the past as well as writing new ones for their worship services. The result is some great new music married to some solid doctrinal texts that strengthen the church’s worship. On a personal note, I’m a big fan of Americana musical styles and it doesn’t hurt that a great deal of this new music falls into that genre! Two resources I have recently come across are from Holy City Hymns and Peters Branch.

Peters BranchPeters Branch describes themselves as “a liturgical music ministry based at New Grace Church on Fleming Island, Florida. It exists to glorify God by giving new musical expression to the hymns and prayers of the Church.” Their new collection called “Songs of the Church” takes some beautiful texts from sources like St.Ioannikios, John Henry Newman, the Benedictines, and sets them to some memorable and easily sung tunes.The openning song “Invocation of the Light” is one of the best things I’ve heard lately. It’s a short but strong calling on God to reveal Himself to us.  There isn’t one of these that I couldn’t picture doing in our own fellowship. You can get the all six songs for five bucks via bandcamp and the chord charts are available for free at their website


Holy City Hymns provides this bio on their site: “Holy City Hymns was founded in 2012 by a group of worship leaders in the Charleston area. They each sought to be a part of a community that shared resources and creative energy to advance the musical worship in each of their churches and for the Church at large”

A great vision and model for churches everywhere! They have released two collections so far, a collection of songs for the advent season of 2012 and then the one mentioned here “Not A Word” that was released as a Lenten project. They work mainly from old and familiar hymn texts, relying a good bit on original melodies but adding the kinds of musical nuances that create a fresh feel for the songs. One new song in the group, Jesus, Lamb of God by Jonathan Lowder is a powerful song of repentance before the crucified Christ. “I murdered you God, and you set me free,” says the last verse, and it drives you to your knees. The collection’s name, “Not A Word,” shows up in the hymn “Were You There.” It’s a devastating refrain that highlights the agony of the cross and the submission of the Lamb of God in a profound way.  As with Peters Branch, the chord charts for all the songs are available freely and the music can be downloaded from bandcamp.


Caught this article by Jamie Brown via Musicademy and I re-post here because this is such an issue in the local church. I marvel at the reluctance of worship leaders to adjust the keys of the songs on Sunday so that the average singer can joyfully join in. It’s frustrating when either insensitivity or, worse, the desire to show off vocally, trumps the need of worshipers to be able to engage in singing. The following is great insight.

From Jamie:

I’ve written before about the art (it’s not really a science) of choosing the right key for your congregation, so I won’t go into all those details again. You can read this article if you’re wondering what guidelines to follow (generally) to choose congregation-friendly keys. But if you’re not convinced that it matters what key your songs are in, here are some effects that high keys have on a congregation.

They stop singing
They might not all stop singing at once, but they do start dropping off like flies pretty quickly. The brave and enthusiastic will keep on singing. But the people who are on the fence about singing (and you know that every church has them) will stop singing first. Then even the eager will start dropping out because their throats hurt.

They get confused
Here are the questions that start going through the congregation’s mind when the key is too high: Am I supposed to try to sing that note? Maybe I’m just supposed to listen to the worship leader sing it? I guess I’ll sing down an octave, but that feels really low, that can’t be right, can it? Am I just a really bad singer? Will the next song be more singable?

They get tired more quickly
When the songs are in unsingable keys, people will get worn out more quickly. After just one song in the stratosphere, people are going to want a break. Why? Because it feels like exercise. And it is, in a sense. If you’re singing songs in really high keys, you’re asking people to do a vocal work out. And it’s tiring.

They focus on (and blame) you
People don’t like feeling uncomfortable. That’s a basic fact of life. And when people feel uncomfortable, they look for someone to blame. So if I’m Joe the Plumber and I come to church on Sunday and the songs are all really high and unsingable, I’m going to blame the guy/girl who’s leading them. Now the worship leader is the focus and Joe the Plumber isn’t singing along. Not good.

They get conditioned to be spectators
After several too-high songs, or after several weeks/months/years of unsingable songs, your congregation will be conditioned to not sing along. They will have learned that it’s much more comfortable for them to listen to/watch you sing. At this point, you’ll really to have work to get them to sing along with you. Shouldn’t it be the opposite in the churches? I’d rather my congregation be so accustomed to singing along in church that it feels foreign to them to just listen/watch.

I can’t overemphasize the importance of choosing keys wisely for congregational songs. If the Psalmist said “let us exalt his name together” (Psalm 34:3) then surely our number one priority is unified singing. Good keys are the basic building blocks of unified singing.

Been away in Montana teaching at the School of Worship. I’ve been going now for over 15 years and it’s always one of the highlights of my year for a number of reasons: 1) I love to teach on worship history. 2) I love interacting with young people. I learn from them and hopefully challenge their ideas on worship leading. 3) And then there’s this..

The Fall View from Logan's Pass

The Fall View from Logan’s Pass, Glacier National Park, MT.

And yes, you should click on it and see it full size!

Worship Tools 9.18.12

September 18, 2012


The Myth of Seeker-Sensitive Worship from David Walker

Worship Training

Avoid these Top 3 Worship Planning Mistakes an upcoming free webinar with Jason Hatley

 New Releases

Place of Freedom – Highlands Worship – Check out the new collection from Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, Ala.

Worship Leading

The Worship Musician’s Guide to Flowing In the Spirit On Your Instrument from David Santistevan

Leading Worship – With Zeal from Joel Brown

Help Worship Flow With Proper Song Keys from Don Chapman

Guitar Technique

Advanced Capo Ideas – Chris Vacher wraps up his mini-series on capo use with this article. He includes a cheat sheet for you to tuck in your case.

8 Reasons Why Your Guitar Won’t Stay in Tune by Andy @Musicademy

TECH: Audio / Video

Practical Resource: How To Record Sermon Audio from Russ Hutto

ProPresenter 5 is now available.


“Skilled worship leaders may select music with the intention of leading worshipers from adoration to confession to assurance to thanksgiving and preparation for instruction, but this is not the norm. The more likely mind-set is that worship leaders will select and sequence music that will wake people up, then get them fired up, then settle them down for the Sermon, and send them home afterward feeling good.”

Bryan Chapell in Christ-Centered Worship: Letting the Gospel Shape Our Practice

girl-praising-e1328503499833Fred McKinnon has posted 8 tips for leading elementary age kids in worship. The first four are below:

When approaching a kid’s worship service I want to accomplish two things.  First, I want to captivate them with exciting music so that they are interested.  Kids are used to Disney Channel, color, sound, movement, and interaction so I want to be sure they will connect.

Second, I want them to experience a true encounter with God as they worship.  I want to give them more than an energy boost.     Kids will clap, shout, and sing along but without some instruction they may not really understand what worship is all about.  They can very well just be excited for the sake of being excited.

When planning or leading a children’s worship service there are many things to consider.  Today I’d like to discuss eight tips that may help you as you consider the worship culture of your children’s ministries.

1.  Try to get your most passionate, active leaders on stage.

You’d think that stage presence wouldn’t matter with kids but they are watching everything and if you’re excited, they are excited.  They learn by imitation.  If you aren’t an expressive worshiper they will not be expressive either.

2.  Go with lots of energy.

They like fast and furious.  Songs that they can clap to, jump to, shout to are all great songs.  Kids naturally have a lot of energy and if you can get them engaged they will light up the room with response.

3.  Bring it down to simple worship.

The mistake we can easily make when leading kids in worship is to only lead them fast and furious.  Remember we are leading them into a place of worship.  At some point, dial it down and do something more simple so the kids can begin to sense God’s Presence around them and in them.  Drop your instrumentation down at some point so you can hear them singing in the room and follow them.

4.  Teach them

Kids aren’t going to listen to a 20-minute discourse on theological worship and the Hebrew words for praise.  They will; however, respond to simple, bite-size encouragements about why we sing, why we worship, how we respond to God, and how to be aware of His Presence.   Take advantage of this in your song setups and intros.

See the rest at Fred’s excellent blog!