The Weekend Warrior
Worship leader Chris Tomlin divides his time on the road and on staff at his home church in Texas.
You've heard his songs--probably even sung them in your church. Chris Tomlin has made a name for himself and shaped the sound of modern worship by penning some of the most popular and singable songs of the last five years, including "We Fall Down," "The Wonderful Cross" and "Forever." But it's his role as worship pastor at The Austin Stone Community Church, in Austin, Texas, that has helped keep his feet on the ground.
"It seems that the more popular an artist gets, the more 'green room' attention they get," Tomlin says. "But being a part of the local church really takes that attention out. You're not really on stage, you're a part of the community."
Every Sunday for the last two years, when Tomlin isn't on tour, he sets up shop in the auditorium of the high school (where the church meets) and leads worship.
Like his previous releases, Tomlin's latest studio album, Arriving, advances in its depth and style--but still maintains the simplicity that has made his songs a staple in many churches.
"This project is leaps and bounds from where the band and I have been," says Tomlin over the phone from his home in Austin, Tex. "It's not that our heart for worshiping has changed, but the sound is a little more stripped down."
While he is passionate about Austin Stone, Tomlin downplays the role he and his band have in the growth of the church and points to head pastor Matt Carter's leadership.
"We just want to use our gifts for the church worldwide," Tomlin says. "And part of that is in our local church as well."
Tomlin began pursuing his calling as a worship leader when he was a student at Texas A&M University. Pastor Louis ("Louie") Giglio taught a Bible study at nearby Baylor University and Tomlin made it a habit to attend.
Soon after, he became a part of the 268 Generation, a group of young people led by Giglio, promoting a spiritual awakening for college-age adults through worship and annual "Passion" conferences. Tomlin quickly became friends with Giglio and other worship leaders such as Matt Redman and David Crowder--all of whom were involved with 268 Generation and Passion events.
Two years ago though, while Tomlin was living in Houston with his band, he talked to an old friend, Matt Carter, about planting a church in Austin. Soon all four of the band members moved to Austin to help Carter plant the church, and Tomlin officially came on staff as the worship pastor.
Not surprisingly, the songs on Arriving are written with more of a corporate worship feel.
"Arriving is different from my past two albums in that it is so accessible to people," Tomlin says. "This music is for fellowshiping together as a body. It's about 'together' worship as opposed to 'personal' one-on-one worship."
Another major difference on Arriving is the production methods of Ed Cash, producer of bands and artists such as Caedmon's Call, Kathy Mattea and Bebo Norman. Cash was tentative about producing a worship album because he felt most worship songs were "subpar." After meeting Tomlin and hearing some of his songs, Cash agreed to work on the album with him. The result is a more stripped down sound and a collection of tracks that reflect a humbled heart.
Tomlin's singleness also made it easier to pick up and move to Austin, as well as to accept the invitation to open for Steven Curtis Chapman on the All Things New Tour this spring.
"My singleness has been a blessing," says Tomlin, "but it has also brought a lot of brokenness. God desires a broken heart and sometimes He uses a girl to do it. It's the worst place to be, but it's also the best place to be because you find that God's power is perfect in our weakness."
Shane & Shane (Inpop Records)
Shane Barnard and Shane Everett have caused quite a stir among today's college-age Christians. Theirs is a blend of acoustic-guitar worship and rock, distinguished by trademark soaring vocals and the Shanes' unique ability to blend their voices.
This third release, Clean, focuses on God's grace--a theme that is thoughtfully expressed through earthy ballads such as "Waging War," which speaks of the inward battle between the flesh and the spirit, and the Galatians-inspired track "God Did," which boasts the line, "For what the law could not do, God did."
The included version of the worship tune "He Is Exalted" (of Twila Paris fame) serves as an excellent tool for worship leaders to bridge the gap between Sunday morning songs we already know and the ones that still make us read the lyrics.
Every Move I Make
In the first installation of Vineyard Voices: The Worship Leader Series, David Ruis proves to be an experienced and unique worship leader for his generation.
Utilizing the widely popular music that he wrote for Vineyard, Ruis puts his fingerprint on favorites such as the title track and "Let Your Glory Fall." These offerings provide a new look at some worship tunes that haven't been visited in the church in recent years, as well as showcasing Ruis' ability to use vivid word pictures in an effort to cultivate an atmosphere of worship.
Ruis includes new material to the project with songs "Rest in His Promise" and "Amen," two songs that strike the listener with an intensity of worship, the latter of which resembles a Native American musical genre.
Ruis' latest is also an enhanced CD that contains chord charts and overhead masters for each song, which will come in handy if you want to adapt the songs for congregational worship.
For those looking for new music to implement in their churches, Every Move I Make isn't necessarily the right album. But it does provide a chance for worship leaders to see what a songwriter and worship leader can do to influence worship culture, and remind them of songs gone by.
Jeremy Camp's new album, Restored, is fitting for a man who gained a joyful bride and recently a new baby girl after the tragic passing of his first wife in 2001.
His ability to rock out powerful guitar-driven anthems reminiscent of a CCM-sounding Lifehouse has kept him a favorite at this year's summer festivals and on Christian radio, but it's the way the music on Restored connects with listeners that makes it worth the buy.
The album's first single, "Take You Back," describes God's never-ending forgiveness with the phrase "I'll take you back," written from God's perspective.
And the unique track "My Desire" is sung straight to the listener, "You want to be real / you want to be someone someday." The chorus then states, "This is my desire: to be used by You."
Throughout the album, one gets the impression that Camp is singing about his genuine path of faith. Many middle and high school students would like the music on Restored and would benefit from its message of hope and perseverance through trials.
Best-Seller List - Top 25 Books
Best-Seller List - Top 25 Books
1. YOUR BEST LIFE NOW
Joel Osteen (Warner Faith)
2. THE FAITH OF GEORGE W. BUSH
(hardcover & softcover) Stephen Mansfield
3. THE PURPOSE-DRIVEN LIFE
Rick Warren (Zondervan)
4. THE FIVE LOVE LANGUAGES
Gary Chapman (Northfield)
5. EPIC John Eldredge
6. HAVING A MARY HEART IN A MARTHA WORLD
Joanna Weaver (WaterBrook)
7. LOVE MUST BE TOUGH
James Dobson (Multnomah)
8. EVERY YOUNG WOMAN'S BATTLE
Shannon Ethridge (WaterBrook)
9. THE MASTER PLAN OF DISCIPLESHIP
Robert E. Coleman (Revell)
10. THE POWER OF A PRAYING WIFE
Stormie Omartian (Harvest House)
11. EVERY MAN'S BATTLE
Stephen Arterburn, Fred Stoeker (WaterBrook)
12. REDEEMING LOVE
Francine Rivers (Multnomah)
13. WILD AT HEART
John Eldredge (Nelson Books)
14. COME THIRSTY
Max Lucado (W Publishing)
15. THE POWER OF A PRAYING PARENT
Stormie Omartian (Harvest House)
16. THE PRODIGAL
Beverly Lewis (Bethany House)
17. ADVENT CALENDAR OF DEVOTIONS 2004
Nell Mohney (Abingdon Press)
18. GLORIOUS APPEARING
Tim LaHaye, Jerry B. Jenkins (Tyndale House)
T.D. Jakes (Putnam)
20. BATTLEFIELD OF THE MIND
Joyce Meyer (Warner Faith)
21. AGAINST ALL ODDS
Chuck Norris (Broadman & Holman)
22. EVERY YOUNG MAN'S BATTLE
Stephen Arterburn, Fred Stoeker (WaterBrook)
23. DAILY INSPIRATION FOR THE PURPOSE-DRIVEN LIFE
Rick Warren (Inspirio)
24. THE DREAM GIVER
Bruce Wilkinson (Multnomah)
25. BELIEVING GOD
Beth Moore (Broadman & Holman)
Compiled from Christian Retailing's Top 100 Books list from the February 7, 2005, issue of Christian Retailing magazine. List is based on distributor sales for English-language books in the United States and Canada for November 16-30,2004. Copyright © 2005 Strang Communications. All rights reserved.
Dutch Sheets and William Ford III (Regal)
"When God told me [Dutch] to agree in prayer with a dead man, He had my attention!"
That's how author Dutch Sheets begins his latest book, History Makers, co-written by William Ford III. The dead man was Christ for the Nations Institute founder Gordon Lindsey, and the premise of the book is that prayers are not dead; they're still alive in heaven--your great grandfather's prayers, a slave's prayers, an apostle's prayers.
With this in mind, Sheets advocates identifying the prayers of the past (through good old-fashioned historical research) and creating a "synergy of the ages" by agreeing with those prayers. Even though a prayer warrior has been dead for 30 years, Sheets contends, "his prayers are not dead; they're still alive in heaven."
Now, if you are theologically conservative, there is much in this book that may rattle your cage. There are many places where the exegesis seems forced and the theological foundations for some of the book's main points are likely to raise at least a few eyebrows. Nevertheless, the stories used throughout the book are nothing short of miraculous.
Some of the "coincidences" mentioned by the authors to confirm God's leading are uncanny, easily reminiscent of the book of Acts. You can argue theology all day long, but it's really hard to argue with someone's witness-confirmed experience.
Ford asks, "Has God ever used someone else's foolish obedience to confound your wisdom?" Point taken. The authors encourage readers to consider why, after decades and centuries of trying, members of different races and different cultures still can't get along with one another. "Is it possible that in these cases there is a spiritual poison flowing through history?" the authors ask.
The majority of the book then is a fascinating first-person account of the authors' tour of historically significant areas as they attempt to connect with the prayers of leaders from past generations in order to bring about future healing.
If nothing else, this book will inspire a new respect for the power of intercession and for the astounding willingness of the Father to intervene in the affairs of man in order to bring about His sovereign purposes on the earth.
The Daily Grind
Creative resources for the nuts and bolts of everyday church ministry.
From small groups and children's ministry to resources for men and women--we recommend five new resources for five areas of ministry you face every day. Read them and pass them on to lay leaders who have a passion for these facets of church life.
Although it's only been eight years since Jimmy Long wrote Generating Hope, the landscape of the church has changed dramatically. Long addresses the brave new world of emerging culture in his updated Emerging Hope: A Strategy for Reaching Postmodern Generations (InterVarsity Press).
A campus pastor for more than 25 years, Long offers strategies for giving Gen-X and millennial tribes a sense of belonging. Thought-provoking quotes, ministry examples, video clips and biblical principles emphasize ways of building community for today's people.
Through the pages of Growing People Through Small Groups (Bethany House), David Stark and Betty Veldman Wieland present creative advice. Their examples fit church teams of any size. They've learned what works and creatively pass it on.
Their advice can help church leaders guide congregations toward the importance of small groups. As today's people struggle with time and priorities, these pages offer methods for motivating believers to truly connect with those who share interests.
Making Your Children's Ministry the Best Hour of Every Kid's Week (Zondervan) by Sue Miller (with David Staal) offers a structure of how such success can occur for children's ministries. Their thoughts provide an entrance into a land of spiritual excitement and growth for our children. As local churches and global ministries realize the importance of transforming people at an early age, these pages alert leaders in methods of success.
Men's Ministry in the 21st Century: The Encyclopedia of Practical Ideas (Group Publishing) is a compilation of creative ideas for men's ministry centered on "the 1 thing"--"growing a relationship with Jesus."
Do today's men who attend church consider sexual temptation their No. 1 struggle? Yes, 63 percent. Are recruiting, training and reaching expectations possible in this world of busy men? Yes, if men formulate a battle plan to win the war.
Q-and-A, imagery, simplicity and vast resources cover the pages as Group challenges men to remain R.E.A.L. (relational, experiential, applicable, learner-based). This is not a one-time read. As its title suggests, it's an encyclopedia--so keep it handy.
As more women take key positions in leadership teams, Focus on the Family's Women's Series Group Starter Kit presents practical methods of truly living what Christian women claim to believe.
A joint effort of Focus on the Family and Gospel Light, the studies cover areas of need for today's women: Balanced Living, Women of Worth, The Blessings of Friendships, Healing the Heart, and crafts and activities for women's ministry.
The Media-Savvy Pastor
The Media-Savvy Pastor
Any church can harness power of media--here are the first five steps.
As a media consultant, I have the opportunity to help leaders of ministries both large and small as they ask the important questions about harnessing the media for kingdom purposes: Will it compromise my message? Will it be too expensive? Will my preaching or teaching ministry really work on television? I have only 100 people in my congregation, can I still use the media? Is it an effective use of our money?
Perhaps you've had some of these questions as you observed Christian radio or television and thought, I could do that--but have no idea where to start. Even if you have only a handful of people in your congregation, you can use the media. Before you launch into media ministry, there are several key principles to keep in mind:
1. People first, equipment second. Most churches and ministries are happy to spend serious money on equipment and then hire untrained volunteers to operate it. But, remember, God works through people, not equipment.
I would much rather have creative, innovative people working with second-rate equipment instead of great equipment operated by average people. When you allocate your budget, concentrate on qualified and committed people before you purchase state-of-the-art equipment.
2. Someone in the know. Your brother-in-law may be a wonderful guy who loves your ministry, but chances are he doesn't know anything about the media. Find someone with real experience in the business who can guide you and give you the best advice.
If there is not someone in your church with knowledge in this area, call a media ministry you watch and respect, or Christian college with a mass communications department, and ask for their recommendations.
3. Tell a story. It's no surprise that the most-watched programs on secular television are story-based. Even reality programs are built around a story. It's critically important to remember that ultimately--as a pastor--you're telling a story--a simple story about how God chose to become one of us and share His eternal plan with people who didn't deserve it. That's it.
It's not just about being tech savvy. It's about communicating God's story in a way that engages people's minds, spirits and emotions. It's surprising that thousands of pastors will step up to the pulpit without telling a single story. Stories touch people and change their lives.
4. Drop the lingo. Christian media is so filled with its own jargon and inside language that most of the people we're trying to reach can't even understand us. But when I read the New Testament, I see that Jesus spoke in a language and style people understood.
We've created an entire vocabulary of words and phrases that only church members can understand. Listen to tapes of your preaching and teaching, make a note of words and phrases that would be foreign to unbelievers. Find modern ways to communicate eternal truths.
5. The whole package. With TV remotes, our experience and research indicates that most people take an average of two to three seconds to decide which program to watch.
With this in mind, it doesn't matter how anointed your message is. If the rest of the program can't keep viewers' attention, they'll never watch long enough to hear it. We need to package our messages in an innovative and exciting way so people will want to watch and listen. You can make a difference in the media. Stay tuned, and in upcoming issues we'll show you how.