Week 5 Chronicles: Classics Sunday

Week 5 Chronicles is an occasional series on experiments in worship format whenever there is a fifth Sunday in a month.

Psalm 145:4 says:

One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts.

I have been leading worship for over 20 years. In that time, I have seen the landscape of church worship shift significantly.

I was blessed that, in my early years,  I studied under an established older worship leader who used a lot of songs from the 1970s and 1980s as well as some of the more contemporary songs of his era. It meant that I was collecting a song vocabulary that extended well into the generation before mine.

There are many reasons why I love the old songs. I believe it’s not just because I grew up with them and that they have somehow been locked into a sacred chamber of my memory. It’s because the songs were written with a strong congregational focus; with simple, predictable melodies and hooks and uncomplicated, repetitive lyrics.

But times have moved on. We can’t keep doing the old stuff. We don’t want to live in an old, worn-out culture. We want to be on the cutting edge of what God is doing today. We can definitely learn from, and honour, the old, but we must live in the new. Old wineskins cannot contain the new wine.

So that’s why last Sunday, we did a “classics” set – a set of enduring songs from the last 20 to 30 years of the praise and worship movement; songs that most of us who have been in the church for a long time would have grown up with; songs that have shaped the worship landscape and paved the way for what God is doing today.

It was also a way for us educate the younger generation to help them understand where they came from and the sacrifices the older generation have made so that we can worship the way we do today.

What constitutes a “classic” of course is difficult to define.

In the end, we left it to our worship pastor to craft the song list. Even though Ps Dave Wong is only 26 years old, he practically grew up in Faith Community Church and so was completely immersed in the songs of the church over the last 20 years. If anyone had authority to speak to the “classics”, it was him.

The song list was:

  • Jesus You are So Good (F) – Jamie Harvill
  • God is Good All The Time (F) – Paul Overstreet and Don Moen
  • For All You’ve Done (F) – Reuben Morgan
  • When I Survey the Wondrous Cross (F-G) – Isaac Watts
  • I Give You My Heart (G) – Reuben Morgan
  • Majesty (G) – Jack Hayford
  • He is Exalted (G) – Twila Paris

There were many, many songs that missed the cut, perhaps paving the way for another Classics Sunday next year.

Here is a recording of the session: 

We were blessed with an amazing team, which included a guest appearance from our old friend Luke Tan on electric guitar.

The team was:

Worship leaders/Vocals: Dave Wong, Susan Cai, Sunray Zheng, Lydia Ling, me
Music Director/Bass: Addie Choon
Drums: Caleb Leong
Electric Guitars: Luke Tan, Joash Ang
Acoustic Guitar: Dave Wong
Keyboards: Samuel Ng, Su-Ern Lee
Cello: Tiffany Foo
Sound: Samuel Oh and Liimei Lim

There was quite an intense moment during “I Give You My Heart” as we recalled how, over the years, many of us would have rushed to the altar to that song. Much of the church was on their knees. And we experienced a beautiful time of consecration.

After the worship time, Dr Dan Mo gave a stirring message on “Catalysts of Revival”. When he gave the altar call, half the church stood up and flooded the altar. In my five years at Faith Community Church, I have not seen anything quite like it. Many cried hot tears as we committed ourselves to be world changers and history makers.

It was a significant Sunday.

We have reached back into history to give us an impetus for the future. May revival fire fall once again!

(Photo credit: Shane Wee)

Worship Sunday 2016

Worship, even at its most subliminal, is at the core of Christian discipleship and the purpose of the church. It must be because worship is about giving God utmost priority.

Tozer once said:

Worship of the loving God is man’s whole reason for existence. That is why we are born and that is why we are born again from above. That is why we were created and that is why we have been recreated. That is why there was a genesis at the beginning, and that is why there is a re-genesis, called regeneration.

That is also why there is a church. The Christian church exists to worship God first of all. Everything else must come second or third or fourth or fifth.

I am really blessed to be a part of a church that believes not only in expressing worship, but also bringing it to the forefront of our overt consciousness.

Over the last month, Faith Community Church devoted three entire weeks to the teaching and application of the theology of worship. I had the honour of preaching the first message in the series, The Priests We Were Destined to Be. Pastor Dave Wong then preached the second message on The Power of a Praising Heart.

The series culminated in Worship Sunday, which took place last Sunday – an entire church service devoted to worship.

We decided to run the service as four movements, each beginning with a monologue by a worship leader exemplifying a particular theme of worship. And, rather than just singing for one and a half hours, each movement featured its own unique posture and praise expression.

Here is how the service played out.

Introduction

Scripture reading: Psalm 97:1-10

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Dance item performed by banner team:  “I Exalt Thee” (E-F-G)

What was significant about the dance item was that it was a prophetic symbol of God’s restoration of the family altar, as three generations of a family, led by the grandmother, danced together in worship.

Movement 1: Worship celebrates with exuberant praise

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Monologue by Dave

Endless Praise (A)

Alive (C)

Movement 2: Worship is magnified by His grace

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Monologue by Lydia

Broken Vessels (G)

O Praise the Name (Anastasis) (A)

Holy Communion

Exhortation by Ps Jon Quay

Song Item: How Deep the Father’s Love for Us (D) with contemporary dance by Stephanie Khoo

The eucharist

Movement 3: Worship calls us to intimacy

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Monologue by Sunray

Sinking Deep (D)

Scripture readings ministering God’s love

I Lay Me Down (A) Kneeling in worship

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Offering

Christ is Enough (A) with dance

Movement 4: Worship exalts a sovereign God

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Monologue by Lester

No Other Name (E) Corporate prayer for the nations

Spontaneous prophetic word and response

Hosanna (E-F-G-A)

Benediction by Pastor Benny Ho

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Pastor Benny reminded us from James 1:26,27 that after the service ends and we leave the building, true worship is lived out by our having a controlled tongue, a caring heart and a consecrated life.

It was a remarkable Sunday, one which I think many of us will remember for a long time to come; a Sunday which has really lifted the watermark of worship in the church; where the ceiling has now become the floor of the next level.

I am so grateful to serve with the amazing team of musicians who facilitated the service, the dancers, stage designers, lighting and AV team.

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Back row: Addie Choon (MD/bass), Joash Ang (electric guitar), Caleb Leong (drums), Ps Dave Wong (worship leader/acoustic guitar), Tae Kim (vocals), Ansen Soon (sound), Sam Ng (keyboard), me (worship leader)

Front row: Sunray Zheng (worship leader), Luke Tan (electric guitar), Delany See (keyboard), Lydia Ling (worship leader)

Here is the text of my monologue “Worship Exalts a Sovereign God”

Even as we have leaned in
And intimately encountered a God of love, grace and mercy,
We experience a simultaneous outward compulsion
To take this love, grace and mercy
To the ends of the earth.

As the eyes of the prophet Isaiah saw the Lord
Seated on the throne
His heart was gripped by the question:
“Who would go for Us?”

True worship emanates from a heart surrendered to God
But resonates, beats in rhythm with
His intense desire and longing that none should perish.

We encounter His love in worship gathered,
We carry His grace and presence in worship scattered;
We are transformed in worship gathered,
We transform our world in worship scattered;
We are discipled in worship gathered,
We disciple nations in worship scattered.

The Psalmist says
God’s love is meteoric
His loyalty astronomic
His purpose titanic
His verdicts oceanic
Yet in His largeness
Nothing gets lost
No one gets lost

In this world so tumultuous
Full of fear, hatred, violence, killing and death
We have a God who is still sitting on the throne
Who reigns over all things
Who has been given the name over all names

Fire still goes before Him
Mountains melt like wax at the sound of His voice
The haughtiest of hearts are humbled by His greatness
Kings cast their crowns at the sight of His majesty and splendour

Our God is still on the throne!

And one day
The kingdoms of this world
Will become the kingdom of our Lord and King
And He will reign forever and ever!

Let’s together in worship exalt our sovereign God,
Lift up your eyes church
He is our King of Kings and our Lord of Lords!

Here is the recording of the service in three parts.

Part 1

 

Part 2

 

Part 3

May you be inspired to take your personal worship to the next level!

Photo credits: Joseph Siew

The Metroworship Academy Summer School for Worship Leaders // 16 January 2016

Happy New Year friends.

Things had gotten a bit busy towards the end of the last year and it meant I didn’t end up writing as much as I would have liked.

I’ve just returned from holidays and I’ve just spent the last couple of days tidying up around the house, so everything is neat and orderly for the coming year. Why would I do such a thing? Because (whether it makes a difference or not) psychologically I feel that a neat and orderly environment gives you the best platform for success.

The same principle applies in ministry. When you start the year, you want to lay down the vision for your team; set out some strategies and goals; and make sure you have good procedures in place.

With this in mind, I want to invite worship leaders in Perth to kickstart their year at Metroworship Academy’s Summer School for Worship Leaders, happening next Saturday 16 January 2016.

As an alumni, I gained much from the tailor-made modules for those in worship ministry, but also from networking with like-minded, passionate worship ministers across our city.

The Summer School is a great appetiser for those who are looking to enrol in the full course.

But it will also be a great opportunity for those involved in worship ministry to learn from other leaders in the city and to see what others are doing in their churches. Being a worship leader in your church can often be a daunting task. I have personally found it helpful to get support from other worship leaders from other churches; to glean ideas from them; and just to have someone else from outside your church to be a listening ear.

The keynote speaker for the Summer School is Zac Gageler from Riverview. Dave Wong and I will also be leading an elective session on “Working with Your Senior Pastor”.

For more details and to register, read this: Summer School Invite

Looking forward to seeing you guys at the Summer School next Saturday!

The Beginning of Our Church’s Songwriting Journey

I have been part of Faith Community Church for about three and a half years now. Over its 20-or-so-year history, the church has grown from about 80 people to over a thousand in strength. Our worship team now has nearly 50 members. For a church of that size, I have always wondered why we weren’t singing songs that were written by our own congregation.

When I first joined the leadership of the worship ministry, I thought it would be cool if we could, one day, hold a “New Song Cafe”, an evening where members of the ministry could sit around in a cafe setting, whilst those of us with a songwriting gift would begin to explore and exhibit those gifts by performing their new songs in a non-threatening, safe environment. To my mind, that was one way we could get the ball rolling in writing home-grown songs for our congregation.

This was important for at least two reasons:

  • Our congregation consisted primarily of migrants who grew up in another church, often from a different Christian tradition, and almost invariably with their own song vocabulary and worship expression. Having songs birthed out of our own congregation would wipe away the preference divide and give an indigenous voice to our congregation. (One way we have tried to address this challenge was to institute a 30-song repertoire.)
  • We have awesome sermons in our church. Like really awesome, biblically-grounded and inspiring preaching. Home grown songs would capture the spirit of these messages and document the vision and journey of our congregation and calcify these in our personal and collective memory.

So, even though I had shared the idea of a songwriting cafe in our team meetings and to specific individuals, it seemed like there was simply no impetus for it. For a while, it seemed like a pipe dream and an impenetrable barrier.

And then, a fault line began to appear. Just before his appointment as worship pastor in July 2015, Dave Wong wrote a song which was featured in a Sony youtube advertisement about long-distance relationships. Dave and his girlfriend Cheryl performed the song and it now has over 550,000 views. I wrote about this in an earlier post.

At that time, I again said quite publicly to our team that our ministry was on the cusp of something significant because our worship-pastor-to-be had broken through the gates so that we too could follow.

Not long after, Dave taught songwriting during a team night and got us all into groups to write songs together, with a view to our performing them to the rest of the ministry.

The day finally came last Tuesday, 27 October 2015.

I mark the date specifically, because I believe that, years from now, we will look back at this moment as a watershed. A moment when that glass ceiling which seemed to hold us back from writing our own songs was broken through. The moment when the Spirit of God began that creative trickle that would ultimately became a deluge of new songs birthed from our congregation, which may perhaps overflow to bless and resource other churches in our region as well.

Here’s what we did.

To attach especial significance to the moment, we decided not to just have the songs performed in our usual team night setting. Instead, we booked out a local hipster cafe, Sprolo, owned by a couple of music directors of a large church down the road. In fact, the idea that their cafe space would be used for worship was something they already saw very early on when they started the cafe.

We made sure that there was plenty of good food.

We then invited four “guest” judges: our Senior Pastor Benny Ho, our youth pastor Jon Quay, our university pastor Amos Ngoi, and our former worship director Lisa Palm.

And then, we told our team that the judges, along with Dave, would listen to each new song that was presented and at the end of the night, decide on one song that would be the “winner”. The winning song would then be worked on by our music directors and worship leaders, including building in arrangements and instrumentation, and then taught to our team during a jam session. After that, the song would be introduced to our congregation and sung during a Sunday service.

The excitement level, when added to the the idea of running the night at a cafe, reached unprecedented heights. People started to invite their friends to come and see, and before we knew it, the whole cafe was packed. And the energy in the room was electrifying.

On the night itself, as teams came up to perform their songs, applause followed, not just as trite encouragement, but as a resonating statement of belief that we could do this. A couple of individuals even performed their own solo compositions.

And at the end of the night, when the winning song was announced, the applause continued for what seemed like an eternity, signifying that we had arrived at a “yes” moment. A convergence. What was prophesied had become reality. And a new journey had begun for our church.

Here are a few photos of the night:

We had some awesome food. Thanks to Ephraim and his team for helping us put up a heap of delicious finger food!

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Here is Dave telling us about how the night was going to be run:
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A packed room. We’ve never had so many people at our team night before!
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Matt, Mark, Diana and Nat performing their song.

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Lydia and Ritchell performing Lydia’s song, “Beautiful God”:
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An all girl’s team (Amanda, Su-Ern, Jane and Genevieve) performing their song:
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An appropriate way to finish the evening with our former Worship Director Lisa Palm exhorting the team through the song “Potter’s Hand”:
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I’ll continue to update our readers on our song-writing journey over the next few months.

The goal is that we would run the New Song Cafe every six months or so and open up it to others within our congregation and other ministries to share their songs. Other people in the congregation would be able to come and enjoy a relaxing evening of coffee and live music. Even our unchurched friends would be able to attend.

And once we’ve got enough of our songs out there, we would then record a live worship album.

We’ve started on an exciting trajectory. I can’t wait to see what God is going to do through us!

I want to quickly thank our amazing and hardworking leadership team for putting the evening together: Dave, Ansen, Addie, Caleb, Ephraim and Sunray. And also to Darren and Gabes of Sprolo and Nations Church for standing with us in the journey.

The best is yet to come!

Beyond Production?

Beyond production

I’ve been reflecting recently.

It’s been over a year now since Dave Wong and I took over the leadership of the worship ministry at Faith Community Church and it’s been an amazing journey so far. We’ve enjoyed building relationships, casting vision and seeing the ministry become more cohesive.

For me, one of the greatest achievements over the year has been the fact that our teams have improved musically. There has been a stronger focus on technical aspects and in improving our craft. Even in our working together with the multimedia ministry, our church services have become more tightly programmed and visually more polished.

But getting to this stage on our journey has not been without its challenges. We’ve had to pay the price of practising harder. Many have been stretched. Many have been stressed. We are still grappling with that darn metronome clicking away in our in-ears.

In the midst of this, we need to ask the following questions:

  • Have we become so good at production that we have forgotten how to produce worshippers?
  • Have we become skilled at creating experiences without facilitating encounter?
  • Are we just bringing about inspiration without seeing transformation?

These are sobering enquiries. And important ones at that.

Tim Hughes has this to say in July’s volume of Worship Leader Magazine (at 42):

Now I’m all for more creativity and excellence in the church. I long to see local churches becoming hotbeds of creativity, exploding with life and colour with great art breaking through to influence culture and society in profound and significant ways….

But in all of this, as a leader of worship, the question I keep asking myself is this, “Am I attempting to create an experience in worship or facilitate encounter?” There’s a big difference. I’ve attended numerous events where the production and creativity was exceptional. I got swept up in the emotion of it, but on reflection, it didn’t seem to make much of Christ, and it didn’t lead me to an encounter with Jesus. The truth is, an experience is fun, but an encounter will change you.”

I agree with Hughes’ point – we need to seek encounter, not experience. But the question is: what is encounter and what does it look like?

In 1 Kings 19, after triumphing over the prophets of Baal at Mt Carmel, Elijah fled Ahab and found refuge in a cave. There, God told him to stand on the mountain where he would encounter the Divine Presence. For Elijah, the presence of the Lord was not in the wind, the earthquake or the fire. It came in a gentle whisper.

In Genesis 3, a washed-up and worn-out Moses found encounter in the fire – a bush that was alight, but yet not consumed.

And in Acts 2, the encounter for the disciples was in a mighty-rushing wind.

Often, we think that encounter happens only when we strip away all the musical instruments and we peel everything back to the core of simplicity. For others, it might be in the midst of unrehearsed open worship, with ecstatic, spontaneous Spirit-inspired utterances and prophetic unctions. And for others still, it might be in the lights and sounds of electronica.

To be honest, I don’t really know the answer. But I believe God can and will encounter us no matter what the setting. He desires to do so more than we know. As worship ministers, we can only choose to minister faithfully. If we believe that worship is bigger than just the music we make (and it is), we must also say that creating excellent music (and backgrounds and stage props) is itself our worship.

We might say it this way: worship musicians shouldn’t come on Sunday to get their devotional fix. Instead, their worship on the Sunday is getting the music right so that we help others in the congregation to bring the best devotion they can. Put another way, our pursuit of God in worship should require us to bring our best in technical excellence for His glory.

The issue therefore is one of intent and direction.

Certainly, there are greater trappings that will try to derail our direction the bigger the production. But it doesn’t have to. As I’ve often said: why not both? In fact, if you think about the questions I posed earlier, the first part of the equation is our responsibility; the second part is God’s. We become both better at production, but God is the One who produces the worshippers. We can create the experience, but only God can bring the encounter. We can inspire, but only the Spirit of God transforms.

Recently, I led worship in our Sunday morning church service where there was a strong sense of the presence of God. It was a worship set that was high on production. Click below to listen to the recording.

Two days later, Luke and I led a quiet worship set for our Worship Ministry members. Just Luke on acoustics and me singing. It was so low on production that I printed out big lyric sheets and stuck them to the wall with BluTac. And in the midst of that time, we ministered in words of encouragement and prayed for each other.

Both times were precious with worship and encounter. And I believe that in both finest whispers and earthquake, God was there!

Worship Sunday 2014

Worship Sunday 1

I really love the direction that Faith Community Church has been heading in as Ps Benny has been leading us into the intentional disciplemaking blueprint. What I love about it is that we are culture-setting in a way which affects our own values and at the same time, seeing some visible changes in the way we do church.

The holy-moley Christians don’t like cosmetics much. They emphasise on heart. And to some extent, rightly so, because the Lord always looks at the heart first.  But heart usually expresses itself in outward appearances. So, as long as we get the order right, I say “why not both?”

We have been blessed in recent months with the appointment of an awesome couple, David and Mary Lynn, who are looking after media, production and Sunday services. These guys are consummate professionals who serve hard! Under their stewardship, our church services have been looking more and more, well, amazing.

So when it came to Worship Sunday, Dave, Susan and I sat down to brainstorm a creative way of carrying a worship-focused message. We decided to put together a special time of worship, where there would be no visible human worship leader, emphasising the point that Jesus is the ultimate worship leader and that each member of the congregation has a responsibility to bring their own offering of praise to God.

This morning’s service started with a video setting out different theological definitions of worship. The video finished with Paul’s powerful statement in 1 Cor 2:2:

For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

In verse 1, Paul says that “I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.” In the context of a worship service, it could be said that we did not come with beautiful melodies and superior musical abilities. Instead, our focus was Jesus and Him crucified.

As the video ended, the piano faded in. And then, in the midst of complete darkness, a 3 metre-tall suspended cross was illuminated in the middle of the stage. Apart from the piano, there were no musicians.

Before the service started, six singers with mics were planted within the congregation, as a spiritual statement that indeed there was no worship leader in any position of prominence, but rather, there was only one giant thousand voice choir to bring a God-honouring sung offering as they were confronted with nothing but the cross. And so, we began to sing.

Even before the first song started, tears were already streaming down the faces of some of the people who had gathered. It was a holy moment, not because of the really cool-looking cross, but because we were taken in our mind’s eye to Calvary’s cross, on which our Saviour hung to redeem our worship for the Father.

I don’t think our church has ever sung louder than this morning. Sometimes, the band and singers can do all the worship for us. But this morning, as all the props of worship were stripped away, we were left with passionate hearts overflowing with love for God. Broken, imperfect hearts. But hearts hungry for His presence.

Even after we finished the last song of this opening set, there was a wave of spontaneous singing that washed over the congregation.

And then, after the offering was taken, Ps Benny came up to introduce our preacher, Dave Wong. Dave grew up in FCC, and at the age of 23, took up the role of Worship Director. I love that Ps Benny has a vision to raise up the next generation of leaders in our midst and even in the last year, we have seen more and more young leaders come up to take the pulpit.

Today was Dave’s first time preaching in the main service. Dave is a guy full of depth and conviction. He taught today that worship is not about the music (although music is part of worship) but about offering ourselves as living sacrifices. He said that right perspective makes for right worship; that worship doesn’t flow from a knowledge of God, but from a revelation of God.

When Dave was done, a full band came up on stage for an extended time of worship. When we get the emphasis right, putting on a full band is like adding fuel to the flame. It brings an added extravagance and bigness to our individual and corporate praise offering.

In putting together the band, I was mindful that it should be intergenerational, so I asked for worship leaders from different zones in the church to co-lead with me: Tae from Kinetics, Joe from Vibe, Diana from Young Adults and Ps Yoy from the Adult Zone. That richness of the different generations merging together exploded in passionate praise.

Not only were there tears, dancing, bowing, clapping and shouting, but I even heard a report of one person being “slain in the Spirit” and being instantly healed of a shoulder injury!

So why did we have such an awesome time of worship this morning? Yes, it was because we put together an interesting, confronting program. It was because the musos and singers worked hard to make sure we played and sang well. It was because of the beautiful staging. It was because the Word of God through our preacher brought forth revelation. It was because we had sown heart-felt prayers over the weeks into this morning. But above all, it was because of God’s presence sovereignly converging with all these elements. Each of these things built and encouraged faith in us to expect God to move and turned our focus to Him.

And God’s showing up made all the difference.

Here is this morning’s setlist:

Set One

// When I Survey the Wondrous Cross (D-E)
// Worthy is the Lamb (A)
// How Great Thou Art (A-Bb)

Set Two

// In Christ Alone Medley (C-D) (Diana/Yoy)
// You Alone (A) (Me)
// Jesus Son of God (A) (Tae)
// Christ is Enough (A) (Joe)
// You are Good (A) (Yoy)

Here are the recordings for Set One and Set Two.

I want to take this opportunity to thank and honour the leadership of FCC for entrusting us to do something different; to the amazing singers and band members: (Vocals) Yoy, Diana, Tae, Joe, Sunray; (MD) Luke; (Guitars) Luke, Kelvin, Mark; (Bass) Addie; (Drums) Caleb; (Keys) Delany, Sam Ng; (Sound) Senny, Sam Oh; and (AV) May; Ps Jon for his sensitive chairing; Dave Wong for his amazing leadership of the Worship Ministry; and of course David and Mary Lynn for the amazing production.

May God continue to take our worship to the next level as we encamp around His presence!

2013 in Review: A Year of Open Doors

I can’t believe we’ve come to the end of another year.

In preparation for the new year, which I am calling the “Year of His Presence”, Ling and I have spent most of the last couple of days trying to remodel and reimagine our study room. The piano (not that I play it) and guitar will still be there, but we are setting a nice comfy chair right in the middle of the room where we can meet with God, read the Bible, pray and worship. It will be a space much like in the story Pastor Benny shared of the guy whose life changed as he met with God on his special rocking chair and in line with what Ken Lee recently preached about “making room for God’s presence”.

But even as we prepare for the coming year, it is always good to reflect back on the year that was.

The theme for this year was from Isaiah 22:22:

I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.

What a wonderful promise for those who praise, because praise is the key to the open door. And it has indeed been a year of open doors and unceasing fruitfulness.

In January of this year, I had the privilege of going to East Timor on a short-term mission trip. Our church had been making a concerted and consistent effort to plant an indigenous church in the village of Kamalalera. It was the first time I had been on a third world mission and we were able to minister to a group of believers there. At this point in time, FCC is already on a program of training indigenous leaders towards planting a “church proper”.

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I also had an awesome holiday in Bali straight after the mission trip with some of my cell group who had come along on missions.

In February, I started a Certificate in Creative Ministries course at Metroworship Academy, the first course of its type in Perth. It was great connecting with other worship leaders in our city studying the course and being inspired by some amazing teaching.

In March, I had the privilege of leading worship as we inaugurated the House of Prayer for Everyone WA. I also had an awesome holiday with Ling in Melbourne as we celebrated her birthday. Needless to say, I came back with some excess weight.

In April, I began having talks with Ps Benny about taking up leadership in the worship ministry at FCC. It was a scary thought since I didn’t really want to have much involvement in local church leadership, but it turned out to be a highlight for the year!

In May, I had the honour of leading a worship segment at Global Day of Prayer. I also had an amazing time at our Young Working Adults Camp, and I’m pretty sure that during the camp, we discovered a new worship leader in our church 🙂

In June, I did my first ever “paid gig”! I was invited to lead worship at a Deborah Company conference and I served with an amazing team of musos from FCC and (then) Influencers City Church.

In July, our amazing worship director Lisa Palm started a new church plant, Kingsway Christian Church and Dave Wong took up the worship directorship. I had the honour of being his Assistant Worship Director. For a young person, Dave has shown a maturity beyond his years. He is fearless, full of conviction and passion and wise in his decision-making. I have been so blessed to work with Dave and our amazing leadership team. Thanks Dave, Yvette, Kimmy, EP, Lukey, Joe Wee and Addie for making it such a joy to help lead this ministry.

In August, Darren and I organised our first ever Warehouse Session. (I realised I never got the chance to blog on it!) The idea was we would just gather a group of worshippers, position ourselves in a circle, and just worship off our instruments. For many of us who serve in our respective worship ministries, it’s sometimes difficult to just tune out of the technicalities. In part, our faithfully presiding over our musicianship is part of the worship offering we give to God on Sundays. But we thought it’d be pretty special if, every now and then, we could just gather and worship without a secondary audience, without anyone to pastor, without worrying about a congregation.

So we hired a rehearsal studio and did just that. With musos from South City Church, FCC, Kingsway Christian Church and The Big Table, we just went for it for a solid couple of hours. It was a time of refreshing in God’s presence.

Here are some pics courtesy of the awesome drummer Clement Ch’ng!

Warehouse Session 1 Warehouse Session 3 Warehouse Session 4 Warehouse Session 5 Warehouse Session 6 Warehouse Session 7

In September, Dave, Lisa and I had the privilege of leading worship at a conference called “Festival of Light”. We met some amazing musos from other churches too who served with us on the team.

In October, I got to sing for Ray Badham from Hillsong. It was freakin’ awesome.

In November, I got to lead worship at FCC with my good friend Ps Yoy Alberastine. Ps Yoy used to lead worship at FCC before itinerating, but he’s come back into the worship team and we finally co-led together in our common home church!

In December, I graduated from Metroworship Academy! And my brother and sister-in-law had their first child (my niece, Emily). Sadly however, my sister moved to Korea to pursue a career in English teaching. Whilst I’ll miss her, I’m proud of the fact that she has taken the bold step to live and work in another country.

I thank God for another amazing year, for an awesome wife, great cell group, best ministry team ever, fantastic band and an amazing home church. Can’t wait to see what 2014 has in store!

 

 

Young People are the Present

Last night at the Festival of Light conference, Shirley Brownhill (director of YWAM Perth) was speaking about the role of youth in God’s restoration plan.

She shared this amazing thought: that our young people are not just our future, they are both our present and our future!

Indeed, God has always used young people for His purposes! Samuel heard from the Lord when he was 5; David was 16 when he slayed Goliath; Mary was a teenager when she was chosen to bear the Son of God; Josiah was 8 when he reformed a nation.

We often so easily slip into a mindset of thinking that young people only possess passion and enthusiasm which still needs to be tempered by the wisdom that comes from age and experience. This may be so in the natural – but if we think this, we ignore clear biblical examples of how God can use young people, even children, to accomplish His purposes and plans. Indeed, God sees young people as his present mission force.

Case in point: I have had the privilege of serving in a worship ministry full of amazing young people. My worship director at Faith Community Church is only 23 years old. But he is functioning at a level well beyond his age (if we are to use age as a yardstick).

Over the last few months, I have seen him step up to the role of worship director, envisioning our worship team of over 40 people; forging unity amongst us and inculcating godly values. I have watched as he mobilised a team of musicians from different churches to facilitate worship at Festival of Light.  I was 34 years old before I started doing the things that he has been doing.

It would be wrong to think that perhaps God is accelerating his agenda for young people. In fact, as Shirley Brownhill shared, He has been using young people throughout Biblical and church history! Maybe it’s time for us to put aside our prejudices and open our eyes to what God is doing in his restoration plan!

New Song: Open Up Our Eyes

Dave Wong, one of the worship leaders at Faith Community Church, recently introduced this song to me.

One of the things I’ve found in recent times is that a lot of songs coming out of the modern worship movement is becoming more and more difficult to sing. The melodies are more unwieldy and the lyrics sometimes lacking in depth of content. There is a distinct lack of predictability which makes it less likely for a song to be memorable and therefore become part of a congregation’s post-service repertoire.

But Elevation Worship’s “Open Up You Eyes” breaks that mould. It has a catchy hook, a simple, soaring melody and is directly Biblical. It’s a song of battle grounded in the original Old Testament battle song, sung by generations of God’s people “For The Lord is good and His mercies endure forever.”

The bridge is probably one of the most inspiring parts. The strong declaration that “our God is fighting for us always” rang in my heart days after I heard the song for the first time.

This song is destined to be a contemporary classic that is representative of a new breed of congregational songs that are written to be sung, and to be singable, by the congregation.

Worshipping in the Dark

We got to church this morning at about 6.30 am to begin setting up as we weren’t able to rehearse in the auditorium yesterday. About 20 minutes into the set-up, it went completely dark except for a couple of dim emergency lights. The power had cut out.

Maybe this was a temporary thing. Someone must have tripped the circuit and all we had to do was flick a switch.

Forty-five minutes later, we began to wonder whether we should all grab breakfast in the hope that when we came back, the electricity would somehow come back on.

We then sat around running through the songlist, trying to make the best use of time whilst waiting.

At about 8.30 am, we were preparing for the worst. I sent a quick text to my wife: “No power at the church”. She responded: “hahahahaa i’ll assume you mean no electricity”. Yes, that was what I meant. Despite there being no electricity, of course there was power!

We had to change tack and simplify the songlist as there were no words to be projected – so the songs had to be familiar to everyone. There was no amplification, so certain instruments became useless. And because there was no amplification, all the musos had to sing as well.

Instead of a band on stage leading the worship, everyone on the team stood in a line at the front of the stage: about 10 voices on the platform with two acoustic guitars – completely unplugged in the literal sense.

When the service started at 9.30 am, our worship leader, Dave Wong said something to this effect: the apostle Peter preached to a crowd of 3000 without any sound system. We only had 800 or 900 in an enclosed space.

What followed was half an hour of passionate singing, most of it coming from the congregation. I think it was the loudest we’ve ever heard the congregation sing. Something always triggers the congregation’s ownership of their own role in worship when the band can’t do it for them.

It reminds me a lot about what happened in Soul Survivor that led to Matt Redman’s penning of the song “Heart of Worship”. Mike Pilavachi, the senior pastor of Soul Survivor, said:

We seemed to have lost the spark.  We seemed to be going through the motions but I noticed that although we were singing the songs, our hearts were far away from Him…. Then it clicked; we had become connoisseurs of worship instead of participants of it.  In our hearts we were giving the worship marks out of ten:  ‘Not that song again’, ‘I can’t hear the bass’, ‘I like the way she sings’ …  We made the band the performers of worship and ourselves the audience.  We had forgotten that we are ALL performers of worship and that God is the audience.”

From that revelation, Soul Survivor got rid of the band and went through a season of re-learning what it meant for the congregation to bring their own worship to God. It was only when the lesson was learnt that they brought back the music, adding fuel to the flame, so the speak. The song “Heart of Worship” was born through that experience. Ever since, the words of that song have sought to lead us back to the place where the music fades and all the trappings of worship are stripped away.

There’s something about simplicity that brings us back to the heart of worship. So much of our worship today had never been seen or experienced by the early church. They had none of the technology, nor the vast hymnody. Yet people connected with God in life-changing ways.

Sometimes I wonder whether all the good of modern worship has become the enemy of the best. When we don’t educate the church properly on how to worship, we can easily let the music, the technology, the band and the worship leader become our crutches. We may not admit that they are doing the worship for us, but we certainly let them bear most of the burden.

Days like today remind us that the core of our worship cannot (and must not) ever be delegated to others to do. As much as worship is corporate, it is also a deeply personal transaction with God.

A lot of people remarked after the service that the worship was great today; that they really sensed the presence of God; that they were amazed how loud the congregation could sign; and that it was great that the whole congregation participated. We said things like “we should do this more often”.

But the sad thing is this: next week, when the electricity comes back on, we’ll be back to doing worship the same way we did before. Until the next time we are plunged into the darkness again…