Showing posts from 2015

Excellent Worship Songwriting Tips

I came across this blog post the other day by We Are Worship and written by Simon Hawkins called 'Top-10 Worship Writing Tips'.

It begins to dig beneath the surface a little as to how to write a great worship song and looks as some elements that are not often covered such as prosody, syllable stresses and rhyme scheme.

Here is a little taste:
"5. Write your best (substantial) ideas - I believe you can write pretty much any title. But not every title makes a great song. It needs a substantial idea behind the title. When you find a substantial idea, if it’s been written already, look for a new approach to it and use your own voice to articulate it.  6. Beware of words and phrases that have lost their power - They are still beautiful concepts but their impact has been weakened by overuse. There will always be a better, fresher line out there somewhere."
I know it is one that I will be coming back to from time to time so I thought I would share it with you.

Check out the…

#AdventChallenge Day 9

Theme: Wish you were here . . .
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labour:
If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. My Challenge: Get in touch with an old school friend  Well I think it fair to say that Christmas has caught up with me over this past week. Things have been very busy. I have still been completing a few Advent Challenges but not had the time to update my blog - sorry. But I'm back on the keyboard now (just before doing some Christmas shopping).

When I was at high school I had a best friend, We did pretty much everything together. They were good days. However, as life has happened in the years since school, we have not had much contact. Yes we can view each other…

#AdventChallenge Day 8

Theme: Grubs Up!
Leviticus 19:9-10 'When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God.' My Challenge: Provide Food To Your Local Foodbank Today I accepted the challenge to donate some food to my local Fooodbank which is the Wisbech Foodbank. It is quite handy that my wife is the secretary there so I was able to ask her which particular food items they were in most need of. So I bought some cans of tuna and a steak pie (in a tin!) and dropped them off at one of the collection points in town, which is inside the Oasis Bookshop on Norfolk Street.

If you would like to donate some non-perishable food items to the Wisbech Foodbank this advent, do check out the Foodbank website for information, shopping list ideas etc.

What I Learnt: A small gesture can make a big d…

#AdventChallenge Day 7

Theme: Big Up! Proverbs 16:24
Gracious words are a honeycomb,
    sweet to the soul and healing to the bones My Challenge:
Compliment as many people as you can today Not being one to dish out many compliments I braced myself for the challenge ahead. The biggest challenge was remembering to do it - having the presence of mind to be nice! (terrible, I know). Although it must be said that I do try to be nice everyday, just not by giving compliments - being a primary school teacher requires one to form a face and nerves of steel! Anyway, I did my best and complimented a few people today. It was not many and I don'e expect to enter any record books due to my efforts - but it certainly beat my daily average of zero!
What I Learnt: Kind words really do build others up and open up conversations.

It's not too late - you can still join in with #AdventChallenge 2015

#AdventChallenge Day 5

Theme: Sticks and Stones . . . Ephesians 4:29  Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. My Challenge:
Write a note to someone you rarely see Today's theme encourages us to think about how what we say can affect the lives of others. Of the three options, I chose to 'write a note to someone I rarely see', however, the more I thought about it and the more I considered who that person would be, a friend of mine came to mind. He is always the one making contact with me - phoning me up to see how I am getting on and to have a chat. So I decided it was about time that I returned the favour. Instead of writing him a note, I phoned him.
He was surprised (as I never phone him) but very glad. We had a good chat and have arranged to meet up in the New Year.
In other news - 2 out of the 3 neighbours I gave a Christmas Card to on Day 2 have reciprocated!
What I L…

#AdventChallenge Day 4

Theme: Baby Steps John 6:9-14
“Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there).Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.”So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten. After the people saw the signJesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” My Challenge: Hold the door open for someone I thought this challenge would take time to fulfill but I didn't have to wait long. Yesterday my wife and I were enjoying a trip to London and we were just coming out of Selfr…

#AdventChallenge Day 2

Theme: My Local Community
Leviticus 19:18 "Love your neighbours as yourself"
My Challenge: Send Christmas cards to the neighbours you don't know
So today I wrote 3 Christmas cards to post through the letter boxes of my neighbours houses. I also included a Bible verse sticker about part of the Christmas Story that The Bible Society gives away to help my random act of kindness to have some Biblical impact too.

The first I gave to my immediate neighbour. We hardly speak, only when she needs to hold her dog so I can get past with my bin. The second I gave to a neighbour just over the street. She stops and says hello in town and we have awkward chats, but I don't know her name and I don't know what her husband looks like. The third I gave to another neighbour just over the street. I have no idea who they are or even if they speak English.

If I do get any responses, or if one of these cards start a conversation I will let you know in the comment section below.

Thanks for…

#AdventChallenge Day 1

Today is 1st December and Advent has begun. A couple of weeks ago I signed up to the Bible Society's #AdventChallenge 2016. Today I opened the first virtual window of my advent calendar online and in it I found three challenges to choose from for me to do today.

Theme: giving and generosity Acts 20:35 "In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive' "   My Challenge: Take some flowers to a nursing home I am pleased to say that I managed it! Quite nervous when ringing the doorbell, but the nurse I spoke to was very pleasant, However, when asked if there was any particular reason why I was doing this I was unsure if I should tell them about the Advent Challenge as they may feel I 'had' to do this rather than it being a random act of kindness so I didn't. However my wife thinks I should have - what do you think I should …

Sunday Setlist - 25.10.15

Here are the songs we sung at our church on Sunday. It was quite a difficult morning as I was having a bad day! Yes - even worship leaders have bad days and get frustrated and angry. I took some time out before the service began to pray, repent, and get myself together. It was not easy - but God is good!

My Sunday Setlist: Great is Your Faithfulness (Unchanging) - Chris Tomlin

You Make Me Brave - Bethel

When My Heart Is Torn Asunder - Phil Wickham

Faithful One So Unchanging - Brian Doerksen

Your Eye Is On The Sparrow - Hillsong

A Song for Times of Sorrow

Usually I blog about my Sunday setlist, but today I am going to do things a little differently - I hope you don't mind?

Sunday was a sad time for our church congregation. One of our members had died on Friday evening after losing his battle with cancer. Not only that, but another family member of someone else in the congregation had died a week before that and there are still a couple of other church members who are  currently battling cancer.

The challenge for me as Worship Leader was, how do I acknowledge the grief and sorrow within the church, yet still finding a way to point towards the hope and glory of Jesus. Was there a way I could do both these things at the same time?

This beautiful and powerful song by Phil Wickham came to mind and it fitted the bill perfectly. We often shy away from singing about suffering, grief and death but this song confronts those issues head-on and I believe fills a great need in our worship song repertoire.

Go ahead and click on the video above …

Encouragement for the Small Church

Often overlooked and underestimated, small churches around the world serve a vital role in The Body of Christ. Looking at the analogy of the human body, there are thousands of small, interconnected parts - mostly microscopic in size - that serve a variety of extremely important functions that the body as a whole could not survive without.

I currently work within a small church. I have also had experience in a mega-church. Both have their merits and pitfalls - the grass isn't always greener on the other side, it's just different!
Redefine Success Sometimes I have to stop myself from falling into the trap of comparison. Constantly comparing the smaller, limited resources of my small church  and imagining what could be achieved 'if only' we were, bigger, better, more successful. Just look at what the mega-church down the road is doing - why can't we do that too . . .

Apart from being completely unrealistic and setting myself up for depressing disappointment, it also …

Is God Asking You To Rest?

As regular readers may be aware, I am a part-time primary school teacher as well as a worship leader & songwriter.

While teaching my 9 – 10 year olds this week, something struck me.

Our science topic is looking at healthy lifestyles and one of the units focuses on the importance of rest, relaxation and recreation. Then this was echoed in religious education where we learned about the Jewish festival of Shabbat (the Sabbath):

“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” (Genesis 2:2-3 NIV)
Now I like to rest, but there are seasons in my life when rest and taking time out of work or ministry becomes a luxury! I am also quite a driven person, and come to think of it, most leaders I know also exhibit this trait. We work hard to get the job done, to get the gospel into our community, to show th…

Integrity & Authenticity: Money Matters!

I had a meeting with my accountant last month. It is that time of year when I have to go through the laborious process of gathering together all the paperwork to do with my incomings and outgoings with regard to my finances. I have a part-time job but I also receive income from other streams such as selling CDs, royalties, concerts, and for my ministry position in my local church. The law (in the UK) says that I need to register as self-employed and that I must declare my financial earnings etc. to the Tax Office.

To be honest, I don't sell many CDs! All the money I make from them goes towards keeping my website online. In theory, I could ignore the law telling me to pay my taxes - they may not notice such as small earner as me - or they might!

However, Jesus tells us very clearly what to do in Matthew 22: 15-21:

Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you ar…

Is your Church Disability Friendly?

Watching this video brought to mind a number of questions I believe are important for church leaders to wrestle with:

Will disabled people feel welcome in my Church? How disability friendly is my Church, both in terms of physical needs (ramps, hearing loop, disabled toilets etc) and in terms of attitudes of church members? Do we underestimate the potential of disabled people in our churhces? Are people with disabilities able to participate fully in the life of my church? Are people with disabilities able to have 'platform ministry' positions if they are able? Do we celebrate the abilities that disabled people do have rather than focusing on what they can not do?  This inspiring video goes to show that people with disabilities are people too and that there are things that they can bring something to contribute to the life of your Church community.

How would Jesus respond?

Sunday Setlist - 30.08.2015

So things worked out a little differently this week. Due to a number of factors I ended up leading worship on my own without a band. However even though it was just me with an acoustic guitar, Good showed up and out went well.

Here what we sang - quite a of mix of songs from different decades I think.
The List: Our God Saves - Brenton Brown & Paul Baloche All Creatures of Our God and King - (Crowder version) Forever (We Sing Hallelujah) - Bethel Music Speak O Lord - Keith Getty There is power in the name of Jesus - Noel Richards

What did you sing today? Share your setlist below.

Song Spotlight: Jesus, Hope For The Nations

Last week I received my royalty statement. I do find it fascinating the journey some songs take - far beyond my imaginings. In the report it itemises which countries have reported use of your song in various ways, such as singing, recording, words displayed etc.

It is also interesting to see which songs people have chosen to sing. Quite often those I think are great do not have much 'airplay' whilst others have taken off that I would have never expected! Today's song spotlight is on one of these songs.

'Jesus Hope For The Nations' was written some years back whilst I was on holiday on the small island of Jersey in the Channel Islands. A relative of mine had lent me his Apple Mac computer and I was experimenting with 'Garage Band' and came up with the song. I suppose my trip to the island had instilled a vision and heart-cry for the nations. Also having recently left the turbulent situation in my native country Zimbabwe, a cry for the nations was beating in…

Leaders and Relationships

A church-planting mentor and friend of mine, now based in Berlin recommended  'Keep Your Love On' by Danny Silk as an amazing book for leaders (and absolutely any one else involved in a relationship of any kind for that matter) to read. A few clicks later and the postman had dropped the book on my doormat.

'Keep Your Love On' (KYLO) certainly delivered. A well balanced mix of common sense and sound revelation built on years of experience gives a solid bedrock of relationship advice that can be applied to any situation. I was amazed by the simplicity and wisdom of some of the advice as well as being able to see how it may all work in practice.

As with any book like this that provides a lot of theory (although there are practical examples included too) reading and understanding it is the easy part. Putting it into practise in real life is the challenge! However, it is possible to do so. I have already used some of the ideas and processes in a few of my relationships and…

Strange Smells

It was a couple of weeks ago while on holiday with some family and friends I so happened to overhear a conversation. It went something like this:
"Last night there was a funny smell in our room"
"No, not that kind of smell! It smelt like fish"
"That's strange"
"So I told Sue about it and she asked if I had checked the electrical things in our room as an old type of plastic (Bakelight) can smell like fish when it is burning. So I checked the light fitting and sure enough it was a little melted on one side. So don't use the light in that room until it is fixed"
Well, this was an answer to a question my wife and I had been searching for for years! You see, every now and then a funny smell occurs in the cupboard under our staircase. It smells like fish. We have searched high and low for the source of the smell. We have emptied the cupboard a few times looking for the dead creature that may be causing the smell. We had searched for …

Search for the Hidden Treasure in People

I am currently on holiday in mid-Wales in Carmarthenshire. On our drive from the nearby village to our holiday cottage we pass a sign for a cheese farm. It is a small sign, nailed to a rough fence post. If you blink, you will miss it!

Intrigued, today we decided to pay a visit to the near by cheese farm. Following the unassuming sign down a windy, steep and narrow little country track, where cars need to use passing places to avoid accidents, we arrive at some beautiful and we'll kept farm buildings.

Watching the tourist video introduction it becomes apparent that this is no ordinary cheese farm! It has won numerous awards over the years (and I mean numerous - they have run out of space in their trophy cabinet to display them all!) and supply some of the finest shops in the world including Harrods, Fortnam & Mason and Selfridge's as well as Marks & Spencer's. They have also received a few royal visits from The Prince of Wales, Prices Charles.

After having a very e…

How to Create Song Order in a Worship Setlist

At present I am currently mentoring two people on their journey to becoming worship leaders. Last weekend was the first time they lead the entire sung worship part of the service unaided! I was there, singing BVs just in case I was needed to jump in and 'rescue' anything - but it went great!

It was in the preparation phase when they asked for my advice about the order of the songs in the setlist they had chosen - How do you know when to sing each song?

This was a great question and really made me think. I have been leading worship for 20 years so ordering a setlist is now second nature and the thinking goes on almost sub-consciously, so this question made me think about the process afresh as I tried to explain it to them.

Here are a few pointers I suggested - maybe you will find them useful too?

How to Arrange Songs in an Order for your Worship SetlistPray about it! Ask God what he is wanting to do and go with that. Also think about creating a bit of space between or within s…

Co-writing Worship Songs

Some thoughts and tips about co-writing in this vlog. Watch and enjoy!

Sunday Setlist (21.06.15)

This is what we sung at church today, what did you sing?

Setlist:Wonderful so Wonderful (Beautiful One) - Tim Hughes
Because He Lives - Gaither Still - Hillsong Who Is There Like You - Paul Oakley Blessed Assurance - Fanny Crosby Ten Thousand Reasons - Matt Redman

The Difference Between a Boss and a Leader

I saw this photo doing the rounds on Facebook the other week. It not only got me thinking about those in positions of authority over me, it also got me thinking about my own leadership.

I have had a few ‘bosses’ in my time as well as ‘leaders’. I can tell you that I much preferred working for and following a leader than I did a boss. Somehow, the willingness to go the extra mile, to give and live selflessly disappears when someone displays the characteristics of the ‘boss’. But when a ‘leader’ steps in one feels energised and inspired and you are much more willing and happy to do the work.

As church leaders we rely heavily upon the good will of volunteers. Being a leader who embraces these traits, you will not only benefit from enthusiastic and willing volunteers, but will also give benefit to the volunteer themselves. It is a healthy win-win situation.

A Leader:
Coaches instead of drives the volunteer / employeeDepends upon good will rather than upon their authorityGenerates enthusia…

Sunday Set list 07.06.15 (Obedience)

I had a bit of a struggle finding songs to fit with the theme of 'obedience' that the sermon would be focusing on. In my searching I came across a song I had not heard before, even though it is 10 years old called 'Speak O Lord' by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty.
It turned out that the song was a perfect fit for the service, not only as it speaks of obedience but also humility and receiving the Word of God - all of which were points in the sermon!
I love it when God knows what he is doing and even helps you to chose the right songs for the moments he is orchestrating, those special divine encounters. Making even the ordinary process of song selection a place where we can encounter His touch.
The List I'm Saying Yes To You (The Cost) - Rend Collective Waiting Here For You -  Passion / Martin Smith Lord I Need You - Passion Speak O Lord - Getty & Townsend There's a Battle Raging (Just One Touch From The King) - Godfrey Birtell This Is My Desire (I Give You My H…

Integrity Music's Worship Leader Appreciation Gathering

So yesterday I set off on a 2 1/2 hour journey to Dudley (near Birmingham) in order to attend an event hosted by worship music industry giant Integrity Music.

Not knowing quite what to expect I received a warm welcome as well as food! (Yes, food always goes down well). There was time to chat with some of the other worship leaders there and to catch up with a few friends. Then the session began. We had a time of sung worship - nothing fancy, just a guy on a guitar with some colour-wash lighting on the wall behind him.

Then we listened to a presentation from some of the guys from Integrity Music. They were determined to show their appreciation for the hard work worship leaders do in the service of their local churches as well as having a willingness to listen to what we had to say. They explained some of the history of the company, with all the mergers that went on during the recession as well as their heart for curating worship from around the nations in many languages. They also expl…

Images in Worship

Yesterday was interesting. I was caused to consider the images we use as part of our worship.

I am all for using images to help us engage with God. Historically, stained glass windows used visual imagery (and still do) to cause the spirit to focus on heavenly things. These days there is atmospheric projection or the more humble multimedia projector that displays images behind the lyrics to the worship songs being sung.

At our church we are also exploring other, more ancient forms of worship such as the spiritual disciplines and Taize. Part of this involves the use of objects or images to help us focus beyond the image to the spiritual truth that lies beyond it.

The point I am trying to make is - I get it!

I understand how images can be used to point us towards God, that they can say a thousand words and give us food for thought.

So it took me a bit by surprise when a couple from my church spoke to me and some of the elders after the service yesterday to take issue with one of the ima…

Song Spotlight: Wonderful Counsellor

The time when we remember Pentecost is coming up - the time we remember when God gave us his Holy Spirit and filled the early Christian church with supernatural power.

This is why I have chosen to make 'Wonderful Counsellor' my Song Spotlight this month. It is a beautiful song the highlights the characteristics of the Holy Spirit.

You can listen to it in the audio player below. If you like it and want to sing it at your church, you can (by keeping within the CCLI license requirement of reporting your song use in your church's annual CCLI report). Please download the free chord chart and sheet music here. If you really like it you can also buy a copy of the CD that it is on 'A Deeper Longing' by clicking here or on itunes etc.

Lyrics are below the media player.

Wonderful Counsellor You give counsel to the wise
You illuminate my eyes
Hallelujah, hallelujah

You show me the way to be free
You walk every step with me
Hallelujah, hallelujah
Wonderful counsellor, …

More than a Musician

So this week instead of having our usual church band practise, we had a social event instead. I run the rota on a 3 month basis and I make sure during that 3 month cycle there is at least one practise where we have time to just socialise, to be together as people, to share life. Oh and by the way, it is not only the church musicians and singers who are invited, we also include the sound team and multimedia teams too.

This month was movie night! We all brought some drink and food to share and we watched a movie. On other such evenings, the band have all gone along to the local ten-pin bowling alley, or we play board games round someone's house, or have a Christmas party.

The point is, the people you have been called to lead in your church ministry are people! They are not simply a tool or an instrument that so happen to make nice music once a week. It is also important that the team members get this idea too - they are people and being part of a church family means that you get to…

Sunday Setlist 17.05.2015

Still focussing on trying to create more space during our times of sung worship. We are getting there and some in the congregation are beginning to be more free during the less structured more spontaneous times.
The List
Strength Will Rise These Are The Days of Elijah I'm Forgiven (Amazing Love) I Can Only Imagine Who Is There Like You
So what did you sing today?

Creating Space in Worship

Having recently returned from The Pursuit, a 24/7 worship and prayer event, I have been challenged to create more space when I lead worship.

There is such a joy as well as powerful moments of encounter when we step back and allow the Holy Spirit the space and time to minister to us. Not being so pre-occupied by getting through our set list, or executing a great transition, or moving on to the next item on the service plan.

This was very evident at The Pursuit and the Holy Spirit moved in powerful ways. However, we did have a lot of time to dwell in His presence at this event - taking this back into 'normal' church context may look a little different.

While at The Pursuit I also read an article by Tim Hughes in Worship Leader Magazine (March/April 2015 edition) called 'To Make A Wide Space' where he says:

"Allow your setlists time to breathe. Perhaps cut a couple of songs out and give space for the songs to connect with each other and the congregation, time for pe…

My Experiences at 'The Pursuit' 2015

I have just returned from one of the most significant weekends I have encountered in over a decade. Why? Because I encountered God!

Yes, I initially went to The Pursuit because I had been very kindly invited to lead some of the worship sessions. I was expecting to give and minister (which I did) but was not really expecting to receive much for myself - I was wrong!

Based centrally in the UK (somewhere near Grantham) at an outdoor activity camp called PGL a couple of hundred people gathered in a tent with one aim - to worship God and to wait upon Him. It had a very different vibe to other Christian festivals I have been to. There was a very strong emphasis on community - indeed I chose to share a room with 4 other guys whom I had never met before. The 'stage' was barely elevated off the ground and was in-the-round so was placed right in the middle of the tent, breaking down the separation of 'us and them' of 'the band and preacher up here and you the listener / wat…

Sunday Set list - 'Creation' 26.04.15

We are starting a new sermon series at church this week centred around creation and the account in Genesis. So the majority of the songs I have chosen are about creation giving praise back to God. A couple are songs not on the theme but are relatively new to our church so are being 'bedded in'.

The List:Father, Into Your Courts I Will Enter (All The Earth) Great In Power The Lord Reigns Forever (We Sing Halleluia) [Brian Johnson. Kari Jobe etc] Strong Tower All Creatures of our God and King [additional chorus by David Crowder]

Do you know any other song about 'creation'?
Share them in the comment section below.

Playing at 'The Pursuit' in May

It is with great pleasure and much excitement that I can announce that I will be playing at The Pursuit that runs from 1-4 May 2015 in Grantham, UK. It is a 24/7 worship, prayer, community and justice gathering. It is a weekend gaining a taste for eternity. A place to retreat and experience a raw and authentic encounter with God.

I will be playing Sunday afternoon / early evening, and in the very wee hours of Monday morning.

Come along it is going to be great!

Use this discount code to get 15% off: SH15DISCOUNT

Click here to go to The Pursuit website to find out more and to book.