Saturday, December 27, 2008

Thoughts for the year

In the second post of my year end review, here are some sayings this year that I have found helpful.

1. You don’t need to have a mac book pro and an avalon guitar to lead worship well, but it does help.

2. Walk more slowly and surely. Real fruit, more often than not, comes from a steady, persistent, non-dramatic, walk with God.

3. Enjoy the big conference, event, or central concert where everything seems so perfect. But don’t mistake it for church. Church has much more to do with people turning up late, guitars being out of tune, ear-splitting feedback, and playing ‘how great is our god’ again.

4. Take coffee more seriously. It really does effect your anointing.

5. The Christian worship CD market is all but over. Deal with it.

6. Remember that most leadership is about bringing about change. If you constantly feel like you are stretching your team slightly beyond where they want to be, then you may just be doing some things right.

7. You get most things done in church because of relationship. Structures can help, but there’s no value in becoming structurally strong and relationally weak. Whole churches and church movements die because they don’t understand this.

8. See if you can get through the next year without singing ‘Shine Jesus Shine’. I’ve done it for 7 years in a row now. My soul feel alive.

9. Stop knocking Graham Kendrick.

10. Acknowledge that for most church congregations, worship is like jelly. It is messy and wobbles a lot. The worst thing worship leaders can do is try and nail it to a wall.

Monday, December 22, 2008

I'm a MAC

One of my friends caught this picture whilst we were setting up for our Carol Service at Cheltenham Racecourse yesterday.

It portrays one of my highest values in life.

You can see some sensible pictures on our church website

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Wonderful CD's

As 2008 draws to a close, it is good to reflect on some worship things. And in my seasonal reflections, I want to start with some worship cd's.

OK, so regular readers of my blog know that I am a little tired of most worship cd's. But there have been some recently that have made their way into my car stereo and been given a few - sometimes more than a few - airings. They stay in my car stereo because they actually lift my Spirit and help me encounter God - yes even in the car.

I would do a top 10 list. But actually I think I can only find 4 I like.

Break the Silence - Johnny Parks

This has been in my car for months now - most of the last year in fact. I think it actually came out in 2007, but I only picked it up this year. It is a beautiful album, with a couple of incredible musical and emotional moments. There is a real depth to the lyrics that seems to be born out of a desire to worship rather than just write songs - depth that is also reflected in the arrangements and the mixes which are powerful but not harsh. If I have one gripe - although it's a minor one - it seems that it's almost impossible these days to get a worship album 'for this generation' that doesn't start with an overdone, energetic guitar riff predictably diving into an uptempo sort of anthem type thing. Why is that? Is it just that I am now not 'this generation' so 'don't understand'.

This is our God - Hillsong

Famed in the summer for it's inclusion of the song 'healer' by fallen pastor Mike Gugliellmucci, this is a great album. In fact, I still really like the song 'healer' although understandably it's not really being used in churches since. My children, mercifully unaffected by the sad story that surrounds it, still love the song and keep asking for us to play it. An innocence that we as parents want to protect for a lot longer. This song aside, there are still some other great songs, including 'stronger' and the title track. Creatively, though, it is much the same as previous Hillsong albums. But actually in this case it doesn't bother me. This, after all, is essentially a church at worship and they are just being themselves. That's fine by me. Only gripe? Well the first couple of songs are a bit 'out there' and start with that usual guitar riff thing......

Nothing to Fear - David Gate

Previously of Survivor Records, but now just doing stuff in and for and with church (my church!), David released his latest album that he also produced himself. Can't say enough things positive about these songs and this album. It starts well, too (No guitar riff). Sonically this is very different to anything else I've heard in a while. The instruments sound like what they are meant to sound like - much more acoustic and real than on most over-produced albums. Songs are great. None of mine, though, so it only gets 9.5/10 rather than the full 10/10 if one of my tunes had been on there.

Wonderful Story - Eoghan Heaslip

Just out. Wonderful songs. Great vocals. Now of course I am biased as Eoghan is a friend and we have led worship together for many years. And also, Eoghan is someone who has benefited hugely from this year's x-factor - because now everyone knows how to pronounce his name...But bias aside, this is still a great cd. Eoghan and I wrote some songs together earlier in the year, and it's exciting to hear them make it on this album, and hear them produced by someone of the calibre of Nathan Nockles. The King has come, The way that you father me, What you've called me to, All to You...the list goes on. Great song after great song. The guitar riff intro is back though.......

Now I would, of course, mention my cd too, only it came out 3 years ago. Funny though. I didn't want to listen to it for ages after I made it. But this year I have been listening to it much more. I still love the sound that Clever Trevor brought to it. The strings from Prague are awesome. James White's solos are just incredible. And there in the middle of it all somewhere is a somewhat stumbling worship leader. Anyway, as I say, I would mention it, but I've just realised that the opening track begins with this guitar riff......

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Songs of Praise vs Jonathan Ross

There is a great article in the telegraph about songs of praise today. You can read it here.

I once appeared on Songs of Praise. It was some 20 years ago, and I appeared with Graham Kendrick and Ben Castle. Our fledgling worship band at Trinity in Norwich played one of Graham’s finest tunes - Meekness and Majesty.

There - you didn’t know I was so famous with such an auspicious cv in the media, did you?

But let’s face it, if you are anything like me, over the last 20 years you have probably mocked Songs of Praise regularly, with it’s general cheese and old people in hats, introduced by such cheesy characters as Aled Jones. (Although there is one exception - Diane Louise Jordan makes it all worthwhile..). We all have probably publicly mocked it, whilst privately switching it on every now and then on a Sunday evening just to check up on it. Just for educational and information purposes, of course....

Well it now transpires, if we are to believe the Telegraph, that Songs of praise was getting around the same number of viewers each week as Jonathan Ross, until he was ‘rested’ recently following that radio thing. Only of course Jonathan Ross got paid millions of pounds each year, and songs of praise got....well a lot less.

Personally, I wouldn’t mind if Jonathan Ross disappeared from our screen forever. Admittedly he can be very, very funny, but generally I find his material offensive and overtly sexual and degrading. And of course, now he picked on one of our national treasures (Andrew Sachs) it should be curtains. He may find a home in the US for his awful material - but let the US have him if they want.

But what is more interesting is that, somehow, the British people are valuing Songs of Praise as highly as Jonathan Ross in terms of viewing figures. And now everyone is probably seriously questioning the multi-million price tag he has, up to now, demanded.

My own view is that, whereas over the last 20 years most people have judged things by cost, with the current financial climate, people are now judging things by value. Not only does this hopefully spell the end for Mr Ross, but it also presents us with a huge opportunity to spread and communicate hope that is Jesus Christ. There is an openness to the gospel in a way that hasn’t existed for many, many years. And as The Church we should not be dialing back on our mission, but stepping up to the mark.

And whilst we’re about it, maybe we should start to sing the praises of Songs of Praise just a little bit more.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Dr Sentamu talking sense

Once again, Dr Sentamu stands up, and is counted.

He says:

“At a time when a creeping social Darwinism is on the rise, where life is measured in terms of its quality or usefulness, the Church remains the last bastion of defence for those who would find themselves close to jettison by society”.

As the recession bites, the Established Church must rediscover its confidence and self-esteem. “The Church of England must once again be a beacon by which the people of England can orientate themselves in an unknown ocean."

He also says:

There is a strong case for regarding the Church as a public body that does not exist simply to serve believers.

The case is more than strong. In my mind it's overwhelming.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Christmas is coming

At the moment we are preparing for Christmas at church. And this year we’ve called it ‘Wonder’.

Wonder is one of those characteristics of life that is in very short supply. It’s pretty much counter-cultural these days to admit to live with it. We live in a world where everything boils down to an explanation. It seems that as a generation we can’t rest until we know, until we can explain, until we have the reasons. We also can’t commit to anything we don’t understand, or have all the answers about.

One of the most quoted passages in the bible on worship is Romans 12 v1, where we are urged to be living sacrifices - wholly and pleasing to God, as this is our spiritual act of worship. Too often though we miss the word ‘therefore’ that starts this passage off. And in this case the ‘therefore’ is a response to Romans 11 that talks about the truly unfathomable, inexplicable, indescribable nature of God.

What we are being called to, it seems, is to worship someone - God - who we will never fully know, understand, explain. In short - we are to live in a place of wonder.

And for me, that is what keeps worship alive - keeps me searching, keeps me following, keeps me singing. The fact that I will never be able to fully understand, fully appreciate, fully comprehend God - who He is or why He does what He does.

We in our churches and in our ministries need to live in wonder. We can’t reduce our lives as worshippers to a set of procedures, creeds or profit and loss accounts. We need to linger in the cloud a little more - not try and explain it, manage it, control it, assess it. But pause in that place where things are mysterious and let the wonder grow. It's what brings life alive.

Christmas is a time of wonder: but that wonder should never be confined to a few days at the end of December. It should stay with us from the cradle to the grave.

And well beyond.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Yes and Amen

Thanks to Dave Gate for putting me onto this: it’s a blog article from a pastor in Belfast.

Now I detest being told the latest worship leader is in town and we should all go to see or hear him/her. I have not bought a CD for over ten years and strangely seem no worse off in terms of my spiritual journey. If anything I am even more energised about following Jesus than I have ever been. I deplore adverts to buy worship, competitions to see who has sold the most, worship concerts, launching a CD, and “they have their own sound”. Can you imagine advertising the sale of your pastoral care, having a chart with best pastors on it, a theatre where you could come and watch someone delivering the latest pastoral care, launching your latest best pastoral care phrases in multiple languages and having a manager and a tour. Preserve me from the madness that has beset us! Adrian Mccartney

Most of the worship industry is now doing the church a disservice. I for one am not just holding it at arms length, but purposely walking away from it. And as I do, I find myself financially worse off, but strangely richer.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Change Has Come to America

Sometimes a single image can make a point so much more profoundly than many words:

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Serpent

I came across this display on a recent trip to Derbyshire - it was in a great museum in a very old, Tudor house.

It talks about the use of an instrument in churches around that time, strangely called the serpent - clearly because of it’s shape. It says this:

Unfortunately, the prominence given to musical expression at the expense of liturgy and the generally unihibited manner of playing and singing was not for the most part to the liking of the clergy. A Suffolk clergyman expressed himself thus in 1764:

“The performers form themselves into a round ring, with their faces to each other and their backs to the congregation. Here they murder Anthems, chuse improper Psalms, leave off in the middle of a sentence, sing psalms of all kinds to new jiggish tunes”

These ensembles eventually fell victim to the introduction of organs and a more sober and respectable conception of church music in the Victorian period.

Thomas Hardy’s novel ‘Under the Greenwood Tree’ has a secondary theme which deals with the supplanting of the traditional church band by the new-fangled organ: “Times have changed from the times they used to be. Barrel organs, and the things next door to ‘em that you blow wi’ your foot have come in terribly of late years. Time was when not one of the varmits was to be heard of; but it served some of the quires right. They should have stuck to strings as we did, and kept out clarinets, and done away with serpents. If you’d thrive in musical religion, stick to strings, says I. Yet there’s worse things than serpents. Old things pass away, ‘tis true; but a serpent was a good old note: a deep rich note was the serpent. Clarinets, however, be bad at all times”

So let’s get this straight. The clergy were moaning about their musicians, musicians were playing badly, and organs were despised by everyone apart from the church choir.

Now where have I heard all that before?

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Language of the Kingdom

The language and activity of the Kingdom seems to be something that wider church is beginning to forget. Not everywhere - I am part of a church where we push into the things of the kingdom wherever we can. Maybe we’re not great at it, and along the way we stumble and fall. But it is part of our language, and it is our whole-hearted intention to see it’s activity. But the thankfulness I have at being part of such a church is matched by a sadness that I don't see enough of it elsewhere.

The Kingdom is quite hard to define - even after so many books have discussed it and explained it. This ‘here but not complete’, ‘come but not fulfilled’, ‘present but in the future’, ‘fully in power but not fully revealed’ kingdom still manages to be surrounded in mystery, but is central to our lives as followers of the King.

Often the kingdom’s activity is momentary, surprising, and unpredictable, and so as fast as we try and devise formulas and courses and training programs to capture it, it moves on and we are left scrabbling to keep up. But in the kingdom, opportunities present themselves in the 'here and now' and need a 'here and now' response. We can prepare for the moment, but not predict when it will come.

And of course the Kingdom is totally King-centred. The activity of the kingdom always gives glory and honour and recognition and wisdom and power back to the King. There is no other shareholder, there is no other stake-holder, no political power-sharing agreement in place. The Kingdom is the King’s. The correct order of this universe is that the King comes first. There is no second place.

And ultimately the kingdom grows when we give it space to breath. And this can only happen when we intentionally give the King permission to be the King. Our motives, selfishness, and ministry aspirations can all crowd Him out.

And worship is at the heart of the kingdom. Not only the day-to-day lifestyle of worship, but the intentional coming-together-and-singing-the-songs worship. As we worship we lay down our agendas and welcome His agenda. As we lift up holy hands we are raising a banner high that says ‘this is your time and this is your place. Have Your way and do Your stuff’. And when our songs are intertwined with faith and obedience God moves. The mystery has been welcomed, the moment has been surrendered, the correct order has been established, and the space has been created: God of Glory have your glory.

In the Kingdom there is no space for another’s glory. There are no performers, stars or divas. There are no number one hits or award winners or song-charts or sell out gigs. All these things just confuse the kingdom. And the kingdom, though mysterious, is not confusing. There has never been any confusion. It is just for Him. Always has been. Always will be.

Church, don’t stop talking the language and walking the journey that is the kingdom. Keep pursuing the mystery, keep living in the moment, keep everything in the correct order, and make sure the King has the space to move.

God of Glory, have Your glory.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Far Reaching

A couple of days ago I posted a joke about George Bush.

One of my friends read it, and sent it to one of his friends, who sent it to her uncle, who works for the Obama Presidential campaign, where it has been very much appreciated in the Obama Camp.

Good to know that my blog is now reaching the highest echelons of world politics.

Beat that Hitchmo

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

My Mother

When I was growing up, I never really understood why my mother did what she did.

She used to feed up the cold meat from the Sunday roast on a Monday.
She used to wash our plastic sandwich bags so they could be used again the next day.
She used to re-use silver foil.
She used to get annoyed when we left lights on.
She used to say 'you can have coffee or squash, but not both'
She used to put the left-overs in little dishes in the fridge.
She used to make us walk rather than get a lift in the car.
She told us to put on another jumper, not the radiator.
She told us to look after the pennies and the pounds would look after themselves.
She used to moan about the way we put our foot on the accelerator.
She used to darn our socks and sew up our jumpers and tell us 'they will do for another year'.

I never really understood why my mother did what she did.

I do now.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Time for a joke

One sunny day in 2009, an old man approached the White House from across Pennsylvania Ave, where he’d been sitting on a park bench. He spoke to the US Marine standing guard and said, “I would like to go in and meet with President Bush.”

The Marine looked at the man and said, “Sir, Mr. Bush is no longer president and no longer resides here.”

The old man said, “Okay” and walked away.

The following day, the same man approached the White House and said to the same Marine, “I would like to go in and meet with President Bush.”

The Marine again told the man, “Sir, as I said yesterday, Mr. Bush is no longer president and no longer resides here.”

The man thanked him and, again just walked away

The third day, the same man approached the White House and spoke to the very same US Marine, saying “I would like to go in and meet with President Bush.”

The Marine, understandably agitated at this point, looked at the man and said, “Sir, this is the third day in a row you have been here asking to speak to Mr. Bush. I’ve told you already that Mr. Bush is no longer the president and no longer resides here. Don’t you understand?”

The old man looked at the Marine and said, “Oh, I understand. I just love hearing it.”

The Marine snapped to attention, saluted, and said, “See you tomorrow, Sir.”

Saturday, September 27, 2008

I don't get it

I just don't get it.

Apparently solving world poverty is unachievable because it is too expensive. The poverty line is people living off less than $1.25 per day, of which there are 1.4 billion (source, the world bank, August 2008).

In the UK alone the average bonus to bankers was just under £200k last year. Adding up to around £40 billion.

The USA can (nearly) agree a $700b rescue package for a group of over-paid bankers.

Am I being stupid? I know it's some 20 years ago since I got my maths desgree, but even I can do the sums.

And they don't add up.

Blessed is he who does not blog in the ways of unrighteousness

The church, well the evangelical alliance, has come up with the 'ten commandments of blogging'. We at Trinity are doing some thinking about blogging generally at the moment as we are wanting to make sure we are using this potentially powerful way of communicating well.

I have to say, that much of this is helpful, because it seems to me that one way to get a big blog-following is to court controversy, rather than engage in sensible honest debate. However, I would prefer to see some discussion on the positives. And that's why I am excited that we as a church are trying to get to grips with it. I am always of the opinion that the best way to be critical of something is to be creative, and hopefully at the end of our discussion we will come up with something that is truly positive and life giving, rather than just something that encourages negativity.

Anyway, for the moment, here is the EA's view. You can see the full article here.

1. You shall not put your blog before your integrity.
2. You shall not make an idol of your blog.
3. You shall not misuse your screen name by using your anonymity to sin.
4. Remember the Sabbath day by taking one day off a week from your blog.
5. Honour your fellow-bloggers above yourselves and do not give undue significance to their mistakes.
6. You shall not murder someone else’s honour, reputation or feelings.
7. You shall not use the web to commit or permit adultery in your mind.
8. You shall not steal another person’s content.
9. You shall not give false testimony against your fellow-blogger.
10.You shall not covet your neighbour's blog ranking. Be content with your own content.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


The memory of 1989 will never die. The pain of that goal in the last minute that robbed Liverpool of the title they deserved will stay with me. Forever. And this is one of the main reasons that I, and so many other Liverpool fans, hate Arsenal.

But even I have to confess, that I have found something good that has come out of the club. And it is their motivational handout. Presumably this has it’s source in Arsene Wenger. He’s not a Christian, or at least he’s keeping it pretty quiet if he is. But this stuff is great, and could be something a church leader came up with. OK, so a few important things are missing, like Jesus, but other than that, it’s probably really helpful.


A team is a strong as the relationships within it. The driving force of a team is it’s member’s ability to create and maintain excellent relationships within the team that can add an extra dimension and robustness to the team dynamic. This attitude can be used by our team to focus on the gratitude and the vitally important benefits that the team brings to our own lives. It can be used to strengthen and deepen the relationships within it and maximise the opportunities that await a strong and united team.

Our team becomes stronger by:

-Displaying a positive approach on an off the pitch
-Everyone making the right decisions for the team
-Having an unshakeable belief that we can achieve our target
-Believe in the strength of the team
-Always want more - always give more
-Focus on our communication
-Be demanding with yourself
-Be fresh and well prepared to win
-Focus on being mentally stronger and always keep going to the end
-When we play away from home, believe in our identity and play the football we love to play at home.
-Stick together
-Stay grounded and humble as a player and as a person
-Show the desire to win in all that you do
-Enjoy and contribute to all that is special about being in a team - don’t take it for granted.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


content: satisfied with what one is or has; not wanting more or anything else.

I have learned the secret of being content (Philippians 4, 12)

What is the secret of being content?

Contentment seems to be a quality in very short supply in our time and in our culture. In fact, more often that not, discontentment abounds. Most obvious in material things, it also rears it’s often unattractive head in relationships, in family life, in work and career. And it also seems to be evident by the bucket load in ministry. We want the bigger portfolio, we want the wider repute, we want the greater sales, we want to be leading the bigger conference.

And actually, some discontentment is good. It is good to want more of God, it is good to want more of his kingdom reign. It is good to want to be more effective in our lives. But how do we differentiate between a ‘good’ discontentment, and a ‘bad’ discontentment, because the lines are often very blurred (or at least, it is very easy for us to make them seem blurred).

It seems to me that most people I come across in ministry know their identity in Jesus. They know that they are saved, that they are a children God, that God loves them and has set them apart for a purpose. But there are far fewer people that have gone beyond this and worked out what that purpose is: what their calling really is. This lack of understanding about calling leaves a vacuum which gets filled with unhealthy ambition which all-to-often is never really satisfied, and leads to constant discontentment.

The ‘bad’ sort.

It tends to result in the chasing after things that shouldn’t be chased after in order to gain praise or recognition; trying to build empires of responsibility and influence that give an illusion of purpose and power; fighting your own corner to give an impression of significance or importance. In a word - insecurity.

Discontentment and insecurity. What a potentially explosive and destructive combination!

So the question is - do we really know what our God given calling is?

Of course, it’s very hard to condense into a few sentences but for me:

I think I am called to be a dedicated ‘second chair’ leader. Understanding this stops me trying to pursue being the ‘number one’ in a church, going for ordination, or church planting; I think I am primarily called to lead worship in my church. Understanding this stops me feeling undervalued when I don’t get asked to do hundreds of huge conferences all over the world; I think I am called to write and not preach. Understanding this means that I am not putting wasted energy in getting better at public speaking, or getting distracted to pursue speaking engagements; I think I am primarily called to be a songwriter, but not a recording artists. It means I focus my time writing songs, either on my own, or in partnership, and don’t try and pursue record deals; I think I am more and more called to use what position and influence I have to give other people every chance of success. It means that when people I invest in do well, or better than me, I take it as a compliment rather than a threat.

And in this process I have found out that often my effectiveness, my passions, my enjoyment, my strengths all tend to point towards my calling. The things that come more naturally point to the things I think I should, if I can, put most of my efforts into.

It’s not that calling doesn’t change over time - God may very quickly shut some doors and open others - and so we constantly need to have listening ears. But there is a great sense of contentment at understanding what we are called to do, and trying to do that - and only that - with as much enthusiasm and excellence and fruitfulness as possible.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Victory is Assured

Even Microsoft uses a mac.

Friday, September 19, 2008


There is a lovely elderly couple who I regularly bump into in my new-found second office, cafe nero. They are polite and dignified, well dressed and well spoken. The first time I spoke to them, she expressed her obvious pride in her husband, and his continued well being and perkiness, finishing with the phrase ‘you wouldn’t think he was 90 would you?’.

My first thought was ‘well actually yes I would’.

You see my own assessment of his ‘perkiness’ is slightly less positive than his wife, given that he looks like he could topple over every time he moves and that every lift of his coffee cup was accompanied with a worrying wobble and much huffing and puffing. In fact if I’m totally honest I am surprised, and slightly relieved, when he makes it through the next week.

However, there is something in me, when I chat with them, that wants to refer to them as ‘sir’ and ‘madam’. Which is strange really, because that feels very old-fashioned. But I somehow think this would please them, and show one of those good old values that in culture today is not really in abundance - respect.

As a worship leader of some years now, I have been through the times where the old has been steadily replaced by the new. In fact I have been around so long that even what was new is now old and there is a new even newer new.

If you see what I mean.

As we’ve gone through changes in our worship, from choirs to vocalists, from organists to worship leaders, from pianos to guitars, from hymns to choruses and on to anthems, I have experienced, and probably been party to, some moments of arrogance, of unhelpful words, and disparaging critisism of what has gone before. Those pressing for the new wine often seem to be people who are disrespectful of the old wine. And I’m not sure that is Jesus’ way.

Jesus himself represented a complete change when He came walked this earth. His appearance heralded the end of the sacrificial form of worship, the end of the temple as the only place of worship. He represented the ultimate challenge to old wine and the greatest initiator of all things new. Yet despite this, he remained totally respectful of what went before. Whether that was in the way he remained in the temple when he was 12 teaching in the place he called his Father’s house, or whether later in His life in the clearing of the temple of the traders. Yes, He was very obviously critical of hypocrisy of some of the religious leaders, but alongside that he seemed to be totally respectful of the institutions and places of worship that had for so long been the focal point of people’s worship.

It seems to me that we could, as a generation of worship leaders seeking the new things, learn to be more respectful of the things, and people, that have gone before. In our desire to continually catch the wind of the Spirit and where He blows, let us never become disrespectful of those things and people who have brought us thus far.

Having respect doesn't mean that we aren't challenging and forthright when we sense change is needed. It just ensure we handle that change in a dignified and godly way.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Tools of the Trade

There used to be a time when, if you wanted to be a worship leader, you needed to have access to a guitar or keyboard to play; you needed the support and guidance of a church leadership to help identify and nurture your gifting; and you needed to live in a community where you want to serve the people of that community.

Now it seems that you need access to a MAC to write your tunes; you need the support and guidance of a record company to help shape and market your songs; and you need to live near an airport to give you easy access to the town, city or country where your next concert is held.

OK, so maybe I’m being a little harsh.

But it does seem to me that there is a huge danger for worship leaders, and also church leaders and speakers, to slowly, but surely, over time, distance themselves from involvement within their own local church. But why does that happen?

Well I think that one of the reasons is that we get ‘ministry-weary’ in our local church: we find that, after a number of years, we find it tough choosing yet another set of songs for Sunday; we get tired of having another Sunday taken up with ministry rather than family; we loose the spark that fires us to pressing into God and what he is doing in our own local church in order to write yet another song.

Compare that with: we find that we can choose a song set that works and then use it in many towns and cities that we travel to without having to work at a new one; we can do our concerts during the week so that we can still relax on Sundays, have our roast dinner and then doze in front of the TV watching the golf; we can use the song we wrote last year again and again and leave the writing of the new songs until we have that well earned rest in Barbados later in the year.

And I can sort of understand that. In many ways, it is easier for me to lead worship at New Wine for a few days in the summer, with it’s big gathering, with it’s sense of anticipation, and sense of ‘new-ness’ than for me to lead worship week in week out at Trinity.

Maybe I’m being a bit harsh. But the question remains - how do we stop ourselves becoming weary with our local church ministry.

Well I’d like to suggest a few things that I find helpful. These are just what are working for me at the moment.

-Stay connected to your church leadership, and see the bigger picture of what you are doing at your church.

-Have a realistic opinion of yourself and what your ministry can achieve: there is a danger that we overestimate the impact our ministry has on the worldwide church and underestimate the impact our ministry has on our own local church.

-Listen to testimonies of what God is doing in your congregation. Seek out good news stories. Encourage people to give glory to God by sharing the good things he has done.

-Read books that talk about God and not just about worship. Make this a higher priority than purchasing every worship album under the sun and analysing it to death.

-Connect yourself with other worship leaders in other churches that are doing what you are doing. Make this a higher priority than getting to the next big worship conference/live recording.

-Remember you are not in a competition to have the best worship ministry; you are in a battle to see the kingdom extended.

Thursday, September 4, 2008


This situation is so tragic. I’m sure you’ve heard all about it now. I was on holiday when a friend sent me a text saying that Mike Guglielmucci, the writer of the song ‘healer’ has actually never had cancer.

My first reaction was a combination of anger and sadness. The fact that someone had purposely deceived a whole load of people in order, so it seemed, to get a profile for himself and, maybe more significantly (at least financially), a song, felt outrageous.

And part of it was frustration, because I had fallen for the song and the testimony hook line and sinker. I was really moved by the story and loved the song. The power of testimony is so strong, and this one was, on the face of it, one of the most powerful I had heard.

Now I’m not the sort of person who would say ‘I thought there was something strange’ or ‘I never really liked the song’. But I sort of wish that I was that prophetic that I could have smelt the wiff of something dodgy a mile off. But I’m not, and I didn’t, and it was frustrating.

And of course then the full story came to light. Mike was using the cancer story to cover up another issue in his life. And apparently he wasn’t ‘found out’ but he confessed. And he confessed in response to the voice of God telling him to sort it out. Of course we might want to view anything that is reported on this now with a fair degree of scepticism, but it seems like all the money is being paid back as well, and that Mike is going through counselling. All of which is good.

But how do I react as a worship leader who has used the song regularly, even at a national conference like new wine this summer.

Well, the first thing always on my mind is that my fundamental task as a worship leader is to gather people together for an encounter with God, and that everything I do should have the aim of setting people’s attention on Him. And for that reason alone, at this moment in time, my view is that I should lay the song aside and not use it, at least for a season while things settle down. Yes I know that the song is good, and was probably inspired by God, and speaks truth. But I think that at the moment if I use it either I, or the congregation, will have the current tragic circumstances brought to mind, and my job is to put people’s attention on God, not on someone else’s tragic circumstances.

The other thing that I feel tempted to do is make some sort of statement by using the song - you know, that every worship song is probably inspired by God, but written by someone with some measure of sin in their lives - which is probably true - so I will use it to make a point. But again, my role as a worship leader is not to make statements, or make points, but to lead people into an encounter with God. And for that reason also, I want to lay the song down for a season.

But I do hope this song will come back into the worshiping life of our church at some point. Once the story has faded away from our radars a bit, and hopefully we hear of a measure of restoration in Mike, then I see no reason why it shouldn’t. And just to show I am hopefully being consistent, I still use Prosch songs, and Carl Tuttle songs. Of course the other issue is that issue of money - some people will argue that, since a songwriter potentially gets a few pence when one of their songs is used in a church, then we should be sure of a songwriters absolute integrity before we use the song. Well good luck with that one. Ee may find our song-lists end up being very short.

This is a tragic story, in a long list of tragic stories for many worship leaders down the years. It is tragic firstly for Mike and his family, and then for his church. But one of the worst things we can do is let events like this harden our hearts, or stop us from seeing good things in people, or stop us receiving good things from God, or wanting to tell the story of good things in our lives to encourage people in the future.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


I am now off on holiday for the rest of August, and part of that will mean not spending too much time on my beloved mac, so there may not be many posts in the next few weeks.

Regular posting should recommence in early September

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Off to New Wine

Next week we all head off to new Wine in Sunny Shepton Mallet for New Wine (Central and South West).

Yesterday I went down to New Wine (London and South East) for a day to meet some friends and have a few meetings. I went down with Jules and Dave who will be leading worship with me next week.

Every time I turn into the Bath and West showground, memories come flooding back. Over the 12 years I have been going to new wine, I remember the great times of meeting god in worship, of seeing my children grow in faith, of times of hearing god speak to me: great times. As we chatted with a few of our friends who have been going for many years, we heard their stories of their children coming to faith whilst in the incredible kidz work, stories of their own days of youth where they encountered god and were changed and propelled to a life following Jesus. We remember how soul survivor, once the youth work of new wine, was born and grew and started to become what it is today. These memories are so so precious. And to still be involved in a small way, leading worship is still amazing.

As we left the site last night to drive back we were chatting about the week that is to come. My hope, my passionate hope, is that we will encounter god - above all that he would turn up and move amongst us, speak to us, refresh us, inspire us, heal us. In my mind, everything else is a side show.

Come Lord Jesus


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Let's hand it to drummers

Let's hand it to our skin bashing, metal whacking, 'are your ears bleeding yet?' friends.

As this article shows they really do burn up a huge amount of energy when they play.

Mind you, they would save a few calories if they didn't speed up the whole time.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Yes, this is the way things are going!

This is music to my ears!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

OK so I was caught

Ok, it's confession time.

I went to starbucks today.

Despite my critisism of them in a recent post, I ended up getting my sunday morning fix from there.

It was too early for nero, and I was in the car, so rather than park and walk to soho, I stopped outside starbucks, snuck in, and got a coffee.

Rather embarrassingly they still remembered my order - grande latte extra shot extra hot.

And to make it worse I was caught 'at it' by this morning's worship team as I rolled up there.

But I am definitely right. The coffee is not really up to it any more. It was pretty tasteless. And the ginger nuts I got to go with them were too sweet and stuck to my teeth.

In fact the only thing that really lived up to expectation was the Sunday Times I picked up whilst I was there.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Who are we worshipping?

Michael W Smith releases his new worship album called 'a new hallelujah'.

We are told:

Smith has scored several film projects, written 11 books and been named one of People Magazine’s Most Beautiful People. His tours consistently rank among the best attended in the country and he has performed to capacity crowds throughout the world.


That's such a relief!

After all you wouldn't want just any old ugly bloke recording a worship album would you...

What do you mean credit crunch?

In a week where we are told that heating bills are set for a 60% rise, food prices are soaring, and outrageous bank charges are once again being defended by the financial institutions, it maybe is worth remembering some figures:

HSBC profits up 10% to £12.2bn
British Gas profits up 500% to £0.6bn
Shell profits up 9% to £13.9bn
Tesco profits up 13% to £2.5bn
Number of children below the poverty line up 100,000 to 2.9million
Number of pensioners below the poverty line up 300,000 to 2.5million

It makes me think that this is not so much a credit crunch but a greed epidemic.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


I remember getting my first LP. It was Making Movies by Dire Straits. I remember taking out the 12 inch disc, putting it on one of the record players with the plastic arm that came across, then lying on the floor with my ear against the speaker, reading through the artwork. A complete five-way sensation: the sound of the band, the feel of the record sleeve, the smell of the print, the sight of the artwork, and the taste of the cheap instant coffee that we used to drink those days.

Now Trinity Publishing has made it to iTunes, you can now download some of my tracks from there.

iTunes doesn't quite do it for me though. Seems to lack that rich, multi-sensory experience.

I wonder if it will catch on.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I love hillsong

I love Hillsong

Well OK, maybe that’s going a little far. And certainly my affection for them is well behind my wife, my children, my family, my church, many of my friends, extra shot lattes.

Oh, and Jesus of course.

In fact, lets face it, Hillsong are probably only in the top 200 of things I love, maybe not even that.

But I’ve just started to listen to the latest hillsong dvd, and it’s awesome. I thought hillsong worship had begun to lose momentum in the last couple of years, but their latest cd ‘this is our god’ seems to recapture things.

Now I know you are probably wondering why someone as cynical about the whole worship industry as me is enthusiastic about Hillsong. Well let me explain. First and foremost is that they are being themselves. The only church that really should be doing Hillsong worship in the Hillsong way, is Hillsong. Over the years they have established their own identity in worship by having adventures, taking risks, and alongside it all, put a huge amount of money, effort, resources, and time into developing their worship. And they have pursued their calling in this despite huge critisism along the way (the level of which seems to be match only by the number of churches trying to copy them!)

And now, having pursued their own identity in worship, they are making a few quid out of it, which I suspect goes into building their church. Well I say “good on them”.

Now I know we can argue about their pentecostal theology. We could also debate about some elements of prosperity teaching. But as in many things in life, we have to see what God is doing through our own theological frameworks, and learn what we need to learn. And from hillsong I learn about passionate, heartfelt, authentic worship. I learn about worshippers who are unafraid to wear their hearts on their sleeves.

And unfortunately, I also learn that beards seem to be back in fashion in Australia.

The other thing that is hugely moving about this cd is that there is a song on it called ‘Healer’ by Mike Guglielmucci. The song was written by Mike the day he was diagnosed with serious cancer. The song is performed on the dvd by mike in the throws of his illness, having to use oxygen to get through it. It is hugely moving, and there is also a video section where he gives some of his testimony. On the DVD he stands in front of the many thousands of people gathered for the recording, with tubes in his nose, declaring that ‘by his stripes we are healed’. It an awesome song of faith from someone who is in the midst of extreme suffering.

This is a truly inspiring cd and dvd. listen to it, have your spirit lifted in worship through it.

Just don’t try and copy it.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The diary of an international worship leader aged 43 3/4


This is the final diary entry for two reasons. Firstly, today was our last day in Swedelburgh before we get back on another Whine-air flight back to the UK. but secondly, and more significantly, I am very soon to have a birthday and so I will no longer be 43 3/4.

Tonight I led worship in the main gathering, which I loved. Fortunately the Swedleburgish people all worship just as much in English as Swedleburgese, so I didn't have to sing in a foreign language. Which is just as well really, as I tried to learn just one word in Swedleburgese before I came here, and it took me over ten minutes.

As I led the worship I could see my good friend, and that night's speaker, Brucie Blather, worshipping away. I always find it encouraging when the speaker really worships. Most speakers tend to sit down 2 minutes into the worship and start to flick though their notes, which I think is a shame because they really miss out on the anointed bits.

Mind you, I often leave for coffee after the worship rather than sit and listen to the talk, so I guess I can't really complain.

But anyway, I am always impressed by old Blather-boy. He speaks with real conviction, but without any pretentiousness or hype. With so many speakers these days you seems to get a very ordinary message wrapped up in an overly extraordinary package. But with Brucie you feel that you seem to hear a very extraordinary message delivered by a very ordinary person.

And that's strangely comforting.

After he spoke he then said that we were going to pray for some healings. He gave a few prophetic words and asked a few people to come forward. He and the team prayed whilst gently laying hands on them. And a few people got healed. But even when people got healed, which is incredible, there was still this sense that this was a very extraordinary event, happening to and through very ordinary people.

And how I need to be reminded of that.

Ordinary. That's me.

Extraordinary. That's God

I reflect on all the trappings that ministry can present to me: the status as an invited, visiting worship leader to another country; my name as songwriter at the bottom of the words on the projector; the recognition wrapped up in the royalty cheque that comes through the post every quarter; the evidence of my gifting provided by by cd on the shelves in the bookstore; the stage provided by the big conference. How easy it is to think that I am the extraordinary one.

But I'm not.

It's God who is the extraordinary one.

I'm very very ordinary.

And that's very very comforting.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The diary of an international worship leader aged 43 3/4


The place we are staying in this week in Swedleburg is fantastic. We are sharing a family room in this wooden house, which is part of a collection of wooden houses situated on the coast. This family room contains two sets of bunk beds, the arrangement of which means that Sarah sleeps in the bunk above my wife, and Lizzy sleeps in the bunk above me. It's great to do this - we all go to bed together and wake up all together - it's a wonderful bonding experience.

This morning I was awoken by my eldest breaking wind ('good one') and then leaning over the side of the bunk and giggling at me. I decided to respond in a similar fashion, and then my other daughter joined in and soon everything got a little out of hand. I'm convinced we got a credible three part harmony at one point. Only my wife didn't join in the musical session and left to go and have a shower. I sometimes get frustrated that she doesn't fully appreciate that us international ministry types need to unwind like this sometimes.

In fact, whilst we are on the subject of showers, this being Swedleburg, the showers are communal. The Swedleburgish people are apparently far more relaxed about their ablutions than the English, and there is only one set of showers - used by both men and women - with of course the obligatory sauna attached. To save our embarrassment, though, the conference hosts have allocated certain hours for men and certain hours for women for the duration of our stay. This is fine in theory. But last night I obviously misread the time sheet and barged in on a rather round bottomed Swedleburgish lady in a state of semi undress. Fortunately I managed to exit very quickly without her seeing me (one can just imagine the headlines...). Anyway, to avoid any further possibility of unsuitable encounter, today I made do with a body wash using the sink in our family room.

Then over breakfast I had a strange conversation with my wife when she used a lot of words like self centred, egotistical, hot air and boring. I didn't quite get the drift, but anyway the outcome was that we decided that she and the girls would benefit from sacrificing another chance to hear me speak today, and they are going off on the boat for the day. So I would have to go to the morning bible reading on my own, and would also be on my own for my next seminar 'how to write anointed worship songs that change the world'.

I arrived at the seminar room to find it fuller than the day before. I was sort of quite pleased in a humble sort of way, and chatted away to the venue host trying to appear unconcerned at the greater numbers. I slipped a question into our conversation about why there were more people than yesterday. Apparently, according to him, it was because people had never seen or heard anything quite like me before and wanted to make sure the rumors were true.

I took that as a compliment.

There was obviously quite a lot of holy anticipation in the room, because as I stood up to speak I saw quite a few people nudging each other, pointing at me, whispering and giggling. It made me quite nervous, as I didn't want to disappoint them. I then talked about song writing, and how important it was that our focus should be on effecting the whole world, how exciting it is when your songs get put on those '1000 best ever worship song' cd's. I talked about my other most inspiring cd called 'the totally fresh new sound of worship volume 17', and how wonderful it was that every month there was another volume of 'the totally fresh new sound of worship' released. I also gave a theological exegeses of the CCLI top 25. Someone in room interrupted at this point and asked me if it was true that CCLI stood for 'Cash Comes in Large Installments'.

I thought that was quite harsh really.

At the end of this seminar there was no need to have any formal ministry time, as by the end of my talk people were so clearly under the influence of the holy spirit - laughing and chattering and moving around the room. So I just withdrew quietly. One lovely lady stopped me on the way out and thanked me for what was a wonderful seminar. She said that up until today she had only thought of songs as a way to connect with God, but now she realised that there was just so much more involved than that.

I'm glad I'm having such an impact on people.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The diary of an international worship leader aged 43 3/4


Well I think that was a great first day.

We headed off to the church bright and early for the morning session. Remembering that I was doing my seminar on 'famous but humble' I made sure I was modeling what I was going to be talking about. I went up to the registration desk and said who I was in a very quiet and unassuming and self effacing manner. Clearly there is a language problem, which is understandable, as the person on the desk didn't seem to know me and couldn't find my name on her list. I told her I was a rather well known worship leader from England and then she seemed to show a spark of recognition, and she started looking down her list muttering 'Matt Redman'.

She got to the bottom of her list again and then looked back at me slightly confused. Eventually I managed to explain who I was, and she then looked slightly disappointed for some reason. Anyway, eventually she gave me a hand-written badge with 'day pass' written on it. That was slightly annoying, but again i remember my up and coming talk and walk away with a smile that hopefully looked genuine. As I walked away from the desk towards the auditorium I just heard her whispering to another person on the desk - something about being worried that people might start asking for their money back. It's just as well I am here to help because it sounds like they are struggling if people want to ask for a refund so early in the conference.

My seminar came after the first session, and I think it went really well, in a humble but life changing sort of way. I talked about the pressures of being so famous whilst trying to look unaffected and servant-hearted. This being in Swedleburg, I had a translator who translated my English into Swedleburgish. I'm not sure how good the translator was, as they all kept laughing at my most serious points, and were all strangely quiet when I told jokes. Anyway, we had a time of questions at the end, which I think went well, although I was slightly confused when one of them asked me where Matt was.

I finished my session with a time of ministry where I offered to pray for people who felt that the Lord was calling them to be famous and humble. No one actually came forward for prayer, but the Lord was clearly blessing people as many of them started laughing and hollering and rolling around on the floor, presumably in the power of the Holy Spirit. It really is amazing how God is using me on this international ministry trip.

I then went off with my family for a meal with some of the wonderful Swedelburgish people. They really are so very friendly and generous. They even offered to take my wife and children off on a boat trip tomorrow whilst I do my next seminar. I thanked them but say that my family always like to come to my seminars and listen to me talk whilst they also uphold me in prayer. Funny, at that precise moment the Holy Spirit must have fallen, because my wife's leg jerked under the table and caught me on the shin, and both my girls started to weep simultaneously.

During the evening celebration that followed, I was sitting with my family and was really blessed by the worship, even though it was in Swedleburgish. Funny how that God's presence transcends language and culture in such a beautiful way.

During the ministry time I felt that God spoke to me and encouraged me about the talk I am giving tomorrow called 'how to write anointed songs that change the world'.

It should be good.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The diary of an international worship leader aged 43 3/4

Recently I've been reading the odd blog of international worship leaders, and I quite like the look of an international worship leader ministry. So I've decided to go on an international ministry trip and record my own travels.

And tomorrow I start with a trip to Swedleburg.


It's early in the morning and we're just about to leave for the airport. I am really looking forward to my international ministry trip to Swedleburg.

I must admit, I am slightly confused, though, as I've done a search on google and i can't seem to see any publicity about my appearances over the next week. There must be something wrong with my internet connection or something, because normally someone with an international ministry would cause quite a stir in the countries they visit. I must try and sort that out once I get back home. Any way, my flights have been pre booked for me by the conference hosts. That really helps, because someone of my reputation and standing is really too busy to get involved with such details. I've also heard so many other people with international ministries talk about how the Lord generously upgrades flights to first class, so I'm really quite hopeful of a very relaxed journey.

In the last few moments I have before we leave I ask the Lord for some specific words of knowledge for the country of Swedleburg. It really is such a huge burden and responsibility for international worship leaders, and I begin to understand how much of the spiritual health of that nation rests upon my shoulders. It's quite humbling really.


Well what a journey yesterday was.

We arrived at the airport to find the check in queue was huge. I tried to find the fast track desk for international worship leaders, but it seems that some member of staff must have been off ill or something so we had to join the queue with everyone else. In many ways that had hidden blessings, particularly for all the others in the queue. It must have made quite a statement about how humble I was, and they seemed really glad that someone of such fame was brushing shoulders with them. I must admit, however, that I felt a little bit of righteous anger rising up in me when I reached the check in desk and was asked to take 2 kilos out of my suitcase because it was over weight.

Of course, I then took some photos of my guitar in the airport, because it is so important to be able to communicate to people at a later stage the fine line someone like me treads between humble worship leader and famous rock star. Hopefully these pictures will be able to inspire people to be like me.

Unfortunately there was no upgrade to first class. Apparently there are no first class seats on Whine-air flights. Ah well, it is character building. It took us another hour to get through security. When our flight was called, we went through the 'priority boarding' queue, as clearly that was something an international worship leader should expect. However, the lady turned us away and said we weren't eligible for priority boarding. I did tell her that I was an international worship leader, and I think she was quite impressed as she said 'congratulations' with a sense of awe in her voice. At least I think it was awe, but I can't be quite sure. But she was unfortunately unable to let us through. This was all character building of course, and I think I will use my story when I give my talk tomorrow at the conference, a talk that I have called 'famous but humble'. I think that may help illustrate things quite well.

We arrived in Swedleburg late in the afternoon and was dumbstruck by the beauty of the country. The roads were clear, the sky was blue, the sea was clean and sparkling. And everywhere we went people were helpful and friendly. The conference hosts were generous beyond belief and we arrived in a rustic house right by the sea close to the church where the conference was held. We have a family room for me, my wife and two girls. We unpacked and walked the 20 yrds to the sea front and took in the wonderful fresh air, and outstanding views. We had a really warm feeling inside as we looked forward to the week ahead.

I chatted to my wife about the seminar 'famous but humble' that I am giving tomorrow. She confused me when she suggested that it was interesting that I was talking about things that I had no experience of. I'm not sure what she meant, and assumed that she was tired after our day's travels, and I don't want to spoil the moment.

Friday, June 20, 2008


Enough is enough

I have finally swapped. Having been a dedicated starbucks drinker for the last 5 years, I have decided that I have had enough. My coffee of choice now comes from caffe nero.

I know I have previously gone on record saying that starbucks is a spiritual gift for worship leaders. But it is now with deep regret that I have to say that the anointing has lifted from all that is green and white and fallen on all that is blue gold and black.

There are a number of reasons.

The coffee tastes much better. Starbucks seems to have lost it's wa
y in the coffee taste stakes and now regularly produces a very feeble brew, whereas nero is consistently deep, mellow and satisfying.

Then there is the coffee strength. You
really have to order an extra shot at starbucks as the coffee is pretty weak. With nero, good strength coffee comes as standard.

Then there is the feel of the shop. Starbu
cks, despite a recent refit, is beginning to take on the feel of a fast food restaurant, is often messy and is a little dirty. I'm sure it won't be long before you'll be asked if you 'want fries with that' every time you order a cappuccino.

But nero has a nice, sophistica
ted, gentle atmosphere - especially first thing in the morning when the sun breaks through and warms you as you sit on your leather chair, reading the times (provided for you), watching the posh world go past down the posh street.

Then there is the price. nero is
cheaper. enough said.

Then there is the way they use the caffe with the double ff to reinforce their identity as italian.

I've finally
got to the stage where they now know me, and what I drink. And we have a general chat every now and then about the demise of starbucks, which is pleasing.

Yes, the future is bright. The future is blue, gold and black. And to prove it, here is me wandering down a posh street with a large latte. Nice.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Keep getting in the way Mr Baldy

Have you notices how hard it is to translate what happens in an encounter with God into a permanent, credible record of the moment.

As I watch some of the events on God recently from Florida, it is hard not to laugh quite alot. Let’s face it, the worship is all out of tune The leaders come over as lunies. We see people sitting around in the chairs looking bored (sorry, taking everything in). The musicians all look confused and keep making mistakes. And as for the Bam Bam….

Having been involved in recording a few live worship albums over the years, I know the pain of hearing your extravagances (which seemed entirely right in the moment) and knowing that they will be played over and over again on the CD in people’s homes and churches for ever and ever. And then you become known for them. ‘Oh Yes, I know Neil Bennetts. He is the one who sang that weird note on How Great is Our God on the New Wine Album from 2006’.

The thing is, none of this stuff really does translate very well, and to be honest, if it got to the stage where we watched the events with the same critical appreciation as we watch an episode of 24, it will probably have been fabricated beyond recognition and have lost all it's credibility. Rather like 24 actually. But that's another story.

I was at a gathering in our church last week. We had some more baptisms and as ever I took some photos for the people getting baptised. Then as we went back to worship, I decided to keep snapping. I almost got this amazing picture of hundreds of hands in the air. I say almost because there was this guy in the foreground of the picture with a bald head which really wrecked it. I have about 20 pictures, and from which ever angle I took it from, there is baldy right in the middle, messing up the photo.

The thing I am finding at the moment, is that the questions I have over style and model with Florida is forcing me to look all the harder for what God is doing beyond the tattoos, beyond the BAMs beyond the chicken head movements. And this is a good thing for me, for us, to do.

And I have to say, that now I am far far more interested in what God is doing here in Cheltenham than anywhere else in the world. I have to have that approach. Any other will lead me to become like Alan Hansan. A great pundit, but now never kicking a ball, unable to influence the outcome of any single football match.

And how often did Jesus do the same - forcing those around him to look for God behind the strange things: spitting in a blind man’s eyes, a prostitute pouring out all her perfume, a load of pigs running off a cliff, a man dying on a cross beside thieves, a few rags left in an empty tomb.

So I say, keep getting in the way My Baldy.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A worship leader in these times

As a church we have just started a series of evenings where we are pressing into God for all that he has for us here in Cheltenham. They are times when worship and praise will be foremost as we seek God’s presence. As a worship leader this means times of leading worship or singing over people for hours at a time on occasion, and will, I expect, be a regular thing for weeks ahead.

I’ve been reflecting on what things that we need to do as worship leaders during these times in order that we may be fruitful long term.

This is kingdom activity. Kingdom activity means confrontation. Lead from the front. Be a leader. Worship leaders often go out in the front of armies. It’s a time to rediscover why we are worship leaders and not just lead worshippers.

Expect there to be more of the prophetic in worship. Expect to be taken into extended times of unscripted encounter as a church. But remember this is holy spirit led - it’s not something we generate, is something we respond to. You are not trying to generate a response in people, you are helping them to encounter God.

Don’t be afraid to make some hard decision on people. There will be some people in your team who are more suited to this type of worship. Just as Sunday worship is not a case of ‘everyone gets to play’, so it is for this. Choose wisely, and explain clearly to everyone. This is not a case of some people being more valued than others, it is a case of everyone working in their area of strongest gifting.

Prepare for the prophetic. God can speak to you, give you new songs/phrases to sing before the event as well as during.

Keep physically fit. Leading worship for 2 hours at a time is not for the unfit. Keep your regular physical activity going as a priority. Watch what you eat and drink even more closely than usual. Consider yourself as an athlete preparing for a marathon, not a sprinter preparing for the 100 meters.

Keep your family on board. Keep communicating with your spouse. Keep spending time with your children. They are still more important than your ministry.

Life will be different for a season with your worship teams and fellow church leaders. Expect there to be some messiness, and some uncertainty, so that when someone does something you we’re not expecting, had not agreed to or irritates you, be extra wise and extra slow and extra thoughtful in dealing with it. Don’t let bitterness get a foothold.

Reorganise your diary if you can. There may just have to be some people you can’t see, some places you can’t go. Exercise wisdom and always communicate clearly. But - if you are paid to do a job (even in your church), remember who is paying and why they are paying.

Don’t lose sight of your need to keep investing in others. These are great times for investing in your up and coming worship leaders. Get them on stage alongside you. As always, the hungry keen to lead servant hearted worship leaders will not take your oversight as a threat. If they do, a period of off-stage reorientation may be needed.

Lead in pairs. Two hours of leading worship is tough on the voice, tough on the fingers and spiritually stretching.

Don’t big yourself up. This is a holy spirit inspired movement, not a worship leader inspired movement. Expect to write and sing new songs that won’t make the ccli top 25.

Keep grounded in the truth. Remember that huge chunks of the letters in the new testament were written to churches who were on fire for God but ungrounded in truth. Remember that the activity of the kingdom is about liberation and that it’s the truth that sets you free. Read theology, especially kingdom theology, setting what you see with your eyes in a biblical framework.

Have fun. When aunt Ethel rolls around on the floor barking like a dog, it may look quite funny. Enjoy it.

Protect the dignity of everyone.

Always try to be ready to give an account, an explanation of what is happening. It is a great thing to see a manifestation of god’s kingdom power go hand in hand with a credible voice of explanation. Check out Pentecost as an example.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

HeartHeadHands Day

We have just held our annual heartheadhands day for worship leaders, and I thought I would post the notes of my seminar. Here are the first two sections. The third will be in a separate post.


God created us to live intimately with Him. This intimacy was broken by the fall. Ever since then God’s story has been one of finding was that intimacy can be restored without compramising His holiness. Man’s journey has been one of attempting to respond to God’s overtures, and is typified by periods of intimacy and periods of distance.

Gathered worship is a gift to us from God to help us in that journey. The intimacy that we experience in Gathered worship echoes into the rest of our lives. Those who go for intimacy in worship tend to be those who live day-by-day close to God.

Intimacy is closeness to God, encounter with God. It was a key value of John Wimber, and New Wine, and Trinity Cheltenham. We should be presence-shaped people - people who’s lives are lived out of a place of encounter with Him.

Intimacy is at God’s invitation but our instigation. It is God’s intended state, but not our natural state. My experience is that it takes perseverance either personally or as a church to grow in it. God never doesn’t want it - what is important is the way we go for it. Draw near to God and He will draw near to You.

Intimacy is an intention of our hearts. It is not a musical style or an emotional feeling. We need to develop in our churches a culture of Intended Intimacy - whether that’s in our main celebrations, alpha, kidz church, small groups.

Intimacy does not mean irreverence. Intimacy and Reverence are two sides of the same coin. The more I draw near to God the more I am compelled to bow down before Him. The more I see what He is like, His Holiness, His sovereignty, the more I am compelled to draw near to Him. True worship should reflect both. The friendship of the lord is reserved for those who fear Him.

Intimacy as a shared experience. When we gather together for worship, we each bring our own heart cry, our own expression of God and what He is doing in our lives. Joined together in song those heart cries paint a bigger, more glorious picture of who God is. - we are singing to one another with pslams hymns and spiritual songs and spuring one another on into intimacy with God. That is something to be celebrated. It’s why we should not stop gathering together for worship.

Intimacy results in unscripted encounter. We should anticipate that. There is a journey that we head off on, and so often the destination is not revealed until we get there. We need to learn to listen to the Holy Spirit and learn how he speaks to us and leads us in these times. We need to ‘pick our moments’ for unscripted worship - being sure that it is what the Holy Spirit wants rather than a default position.


God is a creative God. Everyone is creative. When we explore the sounds and harmonies and colours around us, we are just doing what we were created to do. Creativity in worship is not about trying to evoke a response, but about trying to reveal the character and nature of God.

Worship around the world is very un-diverse generally. Good, but not very diverse. The reason may be that we are not seeking our own identity in worship.

Most worship leaders have an identity crisis. We try and take on the identity of other worship leaders of church streams. Other identities can help, can be a starting point, but should not replace seeking our own identity.

If we, individually as churches, spent more time seeking out our own identity in worship, generally things would become more diverse. Success in worship, all too often, is measured by how well we mimic someone else.

Generally as a church worldwide (at least in the developed world) we have become saturated in resources but thin on leadership and inspiration.

We can establish Identity through adventure. I want my daughters to spend lots of time exploring life, rather than being served up things by TV or computer games, as I think this will help them understand their own identity. Same for us in church - we are far more likely to establish our identity if we have adventures on the way.

Trinity has had many adventures - whether through different types of services, different locations, developing it’s own record label and publishing house to name a few. We are not perfect, but at least we are trying to be just what God wants us to be in worship (at considerable cost!)

Trinity Identity would tend to include - theological depth, musical richness. Our worship leaders use restrained intervention (speaking, shouting, encouraging the prophetic). We tend to think of ourselves as conductors conducting an orchestra rather than lead singers of rock bands. We are radio 2.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Same Old

Same Old: as it was in the beginning, is now, and shall be forever.

Same old.

Same old God, doing the extraordinary, the incredible, the unfathomable. Same old God using people that we don’t think deserve it, in churches we don’t think have earned the right. Same old God, upping sticks and moving into new territory just as we have got settled. Same old God, surrounded in the mystery that only his perfect love and perfect sovereignty can explain. Same old God shouting one moment and staying silent the next, but in both breathing His life into his church and revealing more of His nature.

Same old.

In one sense we shouldn’t be surprised. God is just being God, as He always has been, and as He always will be. Unchanging.

Same old.

As I engage with what God is doing at the moment in our church, and churches across the world, there is something that I find distinctly normal. It just feels like normal church. Church as it should be. The excitement, the healings, the expectation of divine intervention, the passion for worship and song, the beautiful messiness of it all. It all feels strangely comfortable.

Over the years we have called out for this, we have hungered for this, we have in many ways waded through the treacle towards this. We have delved into the bible, gaining a theology that points towards this. So now that God appears to be moving in this incredible way the most strange, inconsistent, abnormal thing we could do is not go with it.

It’s not as though we’ve suddenly discovered a new formula, a new liturgy, a new theology. It’s just that God’s Spirit has chosen to move in this way right now. Quite why is probably explained somewhere between a response to the prayers of His people and a sovereign act of His will. But whatever the reason, I think we would have to change our theology not to ride the wave where-ever it heads off to.

These should be great times to be a worship leader too. In our times of gathered worship, there seems to be a huge passion at the moment to meet with God as we sing. I honestly think that I could sing ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ and people would go for it. (don’t worry I won’t). Throughout the course of history, a move of God seems to generate creativity, particularly in song, and so as a worship leader I know that now, more than ever, I need to be putting time aside to allow God to shape those songs in me. Even last night as I led worship at our hungry for God I began to feel like my song book was lacking, that there were things we as a church need to sing that we haven’t got the songs for yet. Bring them on.

And where will all this lead? I don’t know. But I hope that this move of God’s Spirit will lead to a renewed passion for justice, a huge influx of new believers into the church, a restructuring of the political and financial landscape, and a massive increase in mission. Just like moves of God’s Spirit have done in the past.

Same old.

Sunday, May 4, 2008


on: with respect or regard to

In a week where I been teaching, leading worship, listening to others teach, hanging out with friends who are great theologians & worship leaders & speakers, being involved in a community project ‘The Noise’ throughout Cheltenham, but mainly listening to God, I have been trying to articulate what He has been saying to me.

Thought I would share them with you. They are my own quotes, so please only blame me if they are rubbish.

On Theology: God’s generosity is greater than our theological understanding: His presence with us says more about His desire to reveal Himself to us than our ability to explain why He does.

On Experience: Our experience and our theology will come together if we keep seeking His presence and keep seeking His truth.

On Fire Tunnels: The similarities between a fire tunnel and Simpson’s Hit and Run level 4 are remarkable.

On Platforms: I probably disagree in part with everyone I share a platform with. The fact that I trust them is why I still do it.

On Generosity: Generosity doesn’t fit into a business model. One generous giver can blow our budgets to pieces. One outpouring of God’s Spirit can make our structures irrelevant in a moment. Come Lord Jesus.

On Treasure: When God asks us to treasure something, He means that we should spend it wisely and spend it all.

On Songwriting: It’s not good enough to be ‘not incorrect’ when writing a lyric.

On Mystery: Knowing that we live with the mystery of God should compel us to find out more about Him. Dive into the cloud, don’t just sit and admire it from a distance.

On Leaders: The fact that people follow you doesn’t mean you are right. It just means that you are a leader.

On Fears: My fears are an expression of my dependence on God, not of my lack of faith in Him.

On Revelation: What God doesn’t do reveals as much of his nature as what he does do.

On Gifting: Never assume that the person who operates in gifting most effectively is the best one to teach about that gifting.

On Being Impressed: The sight of a few hundred local church people involved in community projects this weekend was strangely more impressive, and definitely more humbling, than 2000 leaders gathering for a conference during the week.

On Faith: A sick person who allows their dwindling life to be lighted up by the Hope that is Jesus Christ exercises a very deep faith.

On Bible verses: There are 31,103 verses in the bible. Read each one in the context of the other 31,102.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Bear with me just for a moment.

I want to yield to one of the things I intensely hate about the blogs of worship leaders: I want to start this article with the phrase ‘I have just come back from a conference and….’.

I know it’s unforgivable, but I just can’t see any other way of introducing this blog post. So please, try and indulge me this time, and I promise not to use the phrase again ever. Well at least until June when I go to the next one….


I have just come back from a conference, and during one of the sessions, I was reminded of what is probably the most beautiful sound in the world. Voices spontaneously worshiping God. In this case, some 2000 voices. (Of course, this last comment is also mandatory worship-leader-blog fodder, because it gives an indication of how big the conference was, and so just how important and famous and anointed I must be to have been there).

It had been a strange conference in many ways - one in which my theology had been tested and my mind stretched. Lots of things I need to think about. And some I don't think I will think about too much! But on this last night I was leading worship with my great friend Eoghan Heaslip. The band played really well, and the congregation were really ‘up’ for worship. It was quite easy in one sense.

But I have to admit that it was long after Eoghan and I had left the stage that this beautiful moment occurred. It was nearing the end of the ministry time that the speaker/leader struck up a very simple note, and encouraged the 2000 voices to sing out. And boy did they. And it went on for what seemed like ages. Amazing harmonies, rising waves of colourful heart cries, all meshing together in a Holy Spirit sustained cacophony of sound, where any imperfections in individual voices somehow offset themselves and created this wonderful, glorious symphony of worship.

And it all happened without a band.


So I am not indispensable then.

OK, so this wasn’t church. It wasn’t even close. For a start it was in this amazing conference centre where the acoustics were great - were you could really hear the combined voices around you without them disappearing into the vaulted ceiling of some cathedralesque monstrosity that most Anglican churches seem to be like. And the conference was made up of people who had paid good money to be there, who were church leaders and so understood (at least in part I hope) what makes good worship. And it was the final evening, so everyone had gained momentum. And of course we had all left our children at home with our parents, friends, baby sitters etc. And of course there were so many of us.

Nothing like real church.

But still this was a beautiful moment, one to be cherished, one that illustrates a lot of what worship should be. Holy Spirit inspired and sustained; no individual or band or worship leader playing any more than a bit-part role. And of course nothing going on that would generate a song royalty.

What a beautiful sound it was. One that will stay with me for a very long time.

In fact, I recon that if Carlsberg made worship, then...

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Indian Food

This week I’m taking some time out with the family. We’re staying in a lovely cottage in the town of Beer in Devon. The cottage is owned by some friends of ours and we’ve been here a number of times. We love the tranquility, the open fire, the views of this charming fishing villiage, the deli and the beech. And joy upon joy, this year an Indian restaurant has opened just 100 yards from the cottage - just opposite the Italian and the fish and chip shop. And another great addition is a coffee shop that sells great take away coffees. Everything you could dream of all so close by. I am in heaven. I told my wife that I would like to buy a house here. She wasn’t overly impressed, but my negotiation skills are legendary, so watch this space.

Anyway, as I have has a little time to reflect on life so far, there are a number of things that have come into my thoughts again and again.

The first is that I need to get fitter. I have put a few pounds on over the last few months and I can tell. I am huffing and puffing too much, and my trousers are feeling slightly too tight around the waist. As I look at my diary over the next six months, I don’t think I will be able to do what I have to do well if I’m not in better shape. The usual stuff at Trinity, which still gets the vast amount of my energies, is challenging enough: but on top of that over the coming months I have: a couple of trips abroad - New Wine in Sweden and a Mission camp in India; leading worship at a couple of conferences; half a dozen talks; a couple of worship team training days; a women’s conference (!!); another racecourse celebration; and of course New Wine in Shepton Mallet. The thing is that I know I need to be physically up to it, as well as spiritually up to it. It means when I get back from this holiday I will need to be on strict food rations, and down the gym at least three times a week. My aim is losing half a stone. I’ll let you know how I get on.

Another thing that I have had to learn recently is that I need far more time on my own, preparing for all that I do. The office is no good, because it’s too busy. Home is no good because it’s too noisy. I have now found the perfect spot in Cheltenham where I can run off to most mornings. It’s a great coffee shop. And it’s not Starbucks! It’s very quiet until around 10.30 in the morning so I head off there for the first couple of hours of my day. I know that I need to keep that commitment up for my own sanity. The old saying that Linkyou can’t give out unless you first take in is true. And actually I am an activist (workaholic, some people call it) so find this sort of discipline hard. OK so the coffee helps, but I have resolved to more regular preparation time.

Another thing I have been reflecting on is the whole area of legacy. I had a great hour with a friend of mine from the States - Andy Booth. He was passing through on his way to lead worship at Spring Harvest in Skegness. He is someone who I have a lot of time for - he is a great worship leader, and leads regularly at Spring Harvest, but you never feel anything goes to his head. He is humble and thoughtful and God-centered. He even manages to report on his travels on his blog without giving you the feeling that he’s bigging himself up. Check out his blog - it's Anyway, he said a number of things that I found personally very encouraging. One of those was about legacy: what our own legacy in the kingdom is. He was encouraging about some of the worship leaders that have emerged from Cheltenham and gone on to be people who raised up others themselves. We talked about how one of the great tests of legacy is how those you invest in go on to invest in others. It’s as though the greatest fruit is in the generation after the next! I guess in the same way is that one of the ways that my parenting skills will be judged is not just about how my children turn out, but how they in turn raise their own children.

So there you are. Three thoughts for the week.

Must go now. The smell of Indian Food is wafting up the street and I have 6 days to go before I have to start my diet.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


promotion: advancement in rank or position, furtherance, something devised to publicize or advertise a product, cause, institution,

Ok, so admit it. How many of you have typed your name into google to see how often you get a mention?

I did it.

And I got 1,680 entries.

My 1680 entries are, unsurprisingly, far less than the 31,900,000 for Jesus Christ, but, rather pleasingly, significantly more than the 302 for the rev Mark Bailey. Rather disappointingly there are 2,040 entries for Keith Hitchman, but I think there must be another person with the same name as my friend and co-pastor, unless he is living a secret second-life as the chairman of the Snake Lane allotments committee in Feltham near Staines.

In the good old days it was very hard to get press coverage. You either had to be very rich to buy some advertising space in the newspapers or on television. Or you had to be truly news-worthy and attract the attention of reporters or publishers. OK, you could stand on the street corner and shout loudly, but that had limited market penetration. But these days, with the world wide web, you only need a few minutes, and a laptop (preferably a mac of course) and off you go. In fact, it has never been easier than it is now to promote yourself.

The very clever, also know how to manipulate their websites and blogs so they get to the top of a google search. (How do they do that? I mean I can’t even get my blog to appear in the results of a google search - even if i type in the blog name and my name in the search engine box - and let’s face it, if i know that then why would i need to google it anyway…)

The concept of promotion is not a completely unknown in the bible. Joseph got promoted, and so did Shadrach Michach and Abednigo. These were promotions in the workplace, the context of which we are probably familiar and understand. And that’s no bad thing. I used to celebrate the times that I got promoted in my days in the insurance industry. And even in the church ‘workplace’ there are promotions where people rise to levels of increased responsibility and influence within the church community. I understand that this has to happen. And I also realise that in the Christian marketplace there needs to be a way of providing information about products so that people can make informed decisions as to what they buy. I do understand.

But just recently I have found myself being very very disappointed as I look at various blogs and web-sites of worship leaders and see the level of self-promotion that is going on.

Very probably, much of it is unintentional. Some may even be a misguided attempt to celebrate what God is doing in their lives. But generally, I read most of this stuff and my heart just sinks. As a breed, we worship leaders are far, far too concerned with making public our own influence, our own impact on the Kingdom than we should be. And we are far too unconcerned with the way that our self-promotion - intentional or not - is robbing the King of His glory.

Call me old fashioned, but what possible benefit is there in having a worship leader tell me on their blog how many people are being blessed by their songs in countries around the world, or how well their album is selling, or what award they have recently been given, or how many people attended their latest 'concert', or even how much of their future royalties they are giving up to the poor.

I would say that I’m totally “not bothered”.

But actually I am.

Very bothered.

Because we’ve all got so much to lose.

And one sure fire way of losing something in the Kingdom is to put out a hand and grab some glory for ourselves.

So, in the immortal words of Blackadder in the 'concert party' episode: please please stop.