Passion Defined

My Story For His Glory

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Worship Conference (Part One)

What’s the difference between a drummer and a drum machine?

…You only have to punch the information into a drum machine once! :)

Yes, I did learn more at the DCB Fantastical Church Music Conference than corny drummer jokes, just in case you were wondering! My friend Daniel and I went to the conference in Waco, TX last weekend at Baylor University and overall, it was well worth the trip! We stayed about four blocks from campus with Daniel’s cousin Tracy and her husband Vincent, so that made it very convenient for getting to the conference each day. Here’s just a brief run-down of the events of the conference and then I’ll share what the Lord taught me during the conference.

We left around noon last Thursday and it took us somewhere around four hours to get to Waco. Once we dropped our stuff off at Tracy’s, we went to register for the conference and then waited in an incredibly long line until the doors opened at 6:00 p.m. The bands for the opening session were The Welcome Wagon, and a new band called Gungor, who were absolutely amazing by the way! The speaker for that night was Francis Chan. Following a 30 minute break, we went to the campus coffee shop, Common Grounds, to hear more from Gungor.

Friday morning kicked off with a group called Bifrost Arts, who had a neat combination of band and orchestral instruments and sang mostly hymns. We then heard speaker Rob Bell, followed by the band Leeland, who was also phenomenal! The A.M. workshops were next and Daniel and I went to hear a session on songwriting by Matt Redman, Matt Maher and John Mark McMillan. After lunch, we had another large group session with a panel of different speakers discussing the question, “Why do we sing?” which was also the theme of the conference this year. After the panel discussion, Daniel and I went to hear the workshop by Bob Kauflin on the limits of creativity in worship (and I’ll explain more about that later on). After that was our dinner break and then the evening group session. The opening band was Israel Houghton (yick!), the speaker was Louie Giglio (yes!) and the closing band was Hillsong London (yeah…). Later, Daniel and I saw performances by The Civil Wars, and Jars of Clay.

The last day began with workshops, and Daniel and I made the mistake of going to a session called “Students Leading Worship” by who we later found out was the high school minster at Rick Warren’s church in California. Talk about a total waste of time! After that we had the last group session opened by a folksy band called Michael Crawford and His Secret Siblings. Don’t ask me where they got the name! They were pretty good though, and then we heard the last speaker, a guy named David Dark who was very philosophical and had some neat things to say. Then, everything was finished up with none other than…a little group called the David Crowder Band. I think they’re originally from Waco or something… ;-)

So yep, that’s the conference! Now I’ll share some of the things that really resonated with me.

Francis Chan, Louie Giglio and Bob Kauflin were by far my favorite speakers of the weekend, and I greatly enjoyed Matt Redman and Matt Maher as well. One of the things that Francis Chan talked about was how worship is not just music, but it’s all that we do to bring glory, honor and praise to God. He talked about the importance of living lives of worship and being characterized as people of God, challenging each person to step beyond the expectations and raise the bar for today’s Christianity. If our stories were stuck in God’s Word, would our worship fit with the testimonies of the saints that have gone before us? Would people look at how we live for God and say, “Wow, that reminds me of Moses, or David!” or would they sit back and say, “Well that certainly was boring.” Sadly, I believe a lot of the stories of our Christianity today would evoke a response more like the latter. We need to live like Bible material!

Bob Kauflin’s workshop on the limits of creativity was probably my favorite session of the weekend. He asked the question, “How innovative can we be with the Gospel?” meaning, how far can we go in our creativity before we distract from, detract from, or distort the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Mr. Kauflin used water as an analogy to creativity. When water has limits (i.e. banks for rivers, shores for seas, and pipes for house water) it serves a purpose and is beneficial. But, when water breaks out of those limits (i.e. floods, tsunamis, and busted pipes), it is damaging and no longer serves a purpose. Creativity is a wonderful thing, but it needs limits. Humans are creative because we were made in the image of Christ, Who is more creative than anyone or anything in existence. Our creativity is a wonderful reflection of the nature of God, but we must make sure that in being creative in worship we don’t take away from the Gospel of Christ. This would mean that we strive to use creativity in our musical worship times in church to point people to Christ. If people go away saying, “Wow, Joshua led that worship song really well, he did such a wonderful job,” then I used creativity in some way that took away from God, essentially robbing Him of His deserved adoration. Worship ought to be led in such a way that worshippers go away with a new understanding of who God is, how great He is, and ultimately with an even greater desire to know Him more and to make Him known.

My last thought is from the songwriting workshop, which I thoroughly enjoyed. As an amateur songwriter, I’m always looking to learn about how I can compose better songs. This session was mostly the personal philosophies of the different songwriters. One of the things that Matt Maher said was that you can’t divorce your personal experiences from your songwriting. Music is an artistic expression of something personally valuable or meaningful. We draw from what we know (God’s Word, life experiences and lessons, and personal feelings) when we write songs and we also draw from the level of intimacy that we have with Christ. Maher encouragement was to have a deeply developed prayer life and know Christ as intimately as we can so that the level of closeness to Him is reflected in our manifestations of praise. The piece of advice that I gleaned from Matt Redman was his personal purpose of learning to enjoy God. As Christians, our primary purpose in life is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever, and the more we enjoy Him the more we will want to praise Him. When you enjoy something, you think about it, want to do it more and want to talk about it. The more we enjoy God, the more we will want to think about Him, talk about Him, and enjoy Him more and more. The more I enjoy God, the more I will want to praise Him through song and tell others about what my wonderful Savior means to me, an undeserving sinner.

So, there you have it! Those are the things that meant the most to me from the conference and I pray that there might be some nugget of truth that you can take away as well as you continue to grow in your worship and live every moment as an offering of praise to our glorious, wonderful God!

In my next post, I intend to talk about some of the things that I did not enjoy about the conference (speakers, bands, etc.), but that will have to wait for another time! This post is already longer than I expected it to be, but oh well…I suppose that’s typical of me as a writer!

Until then… “Sing praises to the Lord, O you His saints, and give thanks to His holy Name.” ~Psalm 30:4



Allison said...

Thanks for sharing that! I was wondering how the conference went.

I read "Worship Matters" by Bob Kauflin, and have listened to a couple things by him from other places he's spoken. I like what I've heard from him.

Another thing I learned recently from John Piper is that we should have church musicians that have, as he says, "undistractable excellence". In other words--they should be able to play and lead so well that you don't notice them (and their mistakes or their magnificent playing) but people who are pushed aside as they bring God's people to His throne. That's what I'm working towards... :)

Kevin said...

What was wrong with the “Students Leading Worship” session? You said it was a mistake and total waste of time but didn't say why.

Joshua said...

Hi Kevin! Thanks for your comment! I will be explaining why in the second post on the worship conference. Just to clarify, there's nothing wrong with students leading worship; I started leading worship at my church when I was 17 and am still leading. But, a lot of the ideas that were promoted in that session were anything but what I believe God would expect of His church. That is what made the session a waste of time that I could've spent elsewhere in a more profitable session. But, like I said, I'll be explaining more on that when I write my second post! :)

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