Ukrainian worship in the midst of conflict

After this page being dormant for so long, it is about to be active again. Christianity Today magazine contacted me about helping their readers get a sense for the worshipping heart of the Church in Ukraine. The article is 5 Ukrainian Worship Songs for War and Peace and it just posted today. If you came here as a result of that article, thank you for checking us out this far. Join us and come back to this space for more opportunity for understanding and prayer for Ukraine in the current conflict.

magnify! devotional: In Christ Alone

I thought it might be good to share a sample of the devotionals in magnify!, and I can’t think of a better one to start with than the Stuart Townend/Keith Getty “modern hymn”–In Christ Alone (My Hope is Found).

If your theology were only based on what you sing, what kind of theology would you have?  That question, put to me years ago, has followed me ever since.  For many years, we had battles within the church about “worship choruses” versus hymns.  The battle had to do with a false division of heart over head and emotion over proposition, common language over lofty language—a battle that has waged in church music for centuries (psalms vs. hymns, hymns vs. gospel songs, etc.).

Actually, when we come face to face with truth, it has an emotional impact.  We can’t help but respond.  Do you remember what it felt like when that special person disclosed the truth of their feelings for you?  Or what happened inside you when you heard about that injustice against your neighbor?  Or how it impacted you when you realized the truth of how much God loved you in spite of your sin?

Remember, people may forget the main points of the sermon shortly after they walk out the door, but they’ll be humming and singing your songs all week!  (Please don’t tell your pastor, but it is true!)  With that in mind, we have an obligation to pay attention to what the songs we use actually say.  We need to ensure that the folks we serve have something true to think about, as well as something to respond with from the heart.  We do need both.

I observed a classic moment of truth evoking tremendous response the first time I led our congregation singing “In Christ Alone.”  This song is full of incredible truth combined with the perfect melody to accent the lyric.  After the first two verses which speak eloquently of the love of Christ and of His death, the lyric paints a picture:

There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain.
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!

As we got to the fourth line, people (many who wouldn’t normally) began to shout, applaud and cheer, and by the end of the verse, there was nearly universal acclamation.  As if that wasn’t enough, the fourth verse and its assurance of God’s guiding and sustaining love left me choked up, hardly able to sing.

That’s powerful—and it left a lasting impression of truth on heart and mind.  It was glorious.  That’s worship.

As you plan to lead “In Christ Alone,” consider these things:

• I dare you to read aloud the verses to this modern hymn in your rehearsal without choking up!

• Because of the depth of the content, be sure and allow an interlude between each verse.  You need time to chew on it, reflect and then swallow before the next serving.

• This song will work in a number of different musical styles.  Experiment with the setting and change it up a bit to introduce folks who might not ordinarily sing “a hymn” to the power of the truth it contains.  Don’t go for emotional manipulation, but it can work with guitar, congas and a penny whistle or a full orchestra or an edgy band with a drum loop going. Just don’t tell them it’s a hymn!

[© 2011 Fred J. Heumann and Word Music. In Christ Alone, © 2001 Thankyou Music.]

Question: What else do you see in this song that could be emphasized?

magnify! now on sale online

My book, “magnify! • 105 modern worship devotionals for lead worshippers and their teams” is now available for purchase at  It contains song lyrics, devotionals and discussion/application questions around 105 of the most-used songs in the church today in the US.

It is specifically designed as a resource and reference book for worship leaders, worship pastors, and team members who want to get below the surface of the songs and get to know and understand them better.  These devotionals should increase your ability to worship with the Spirit and the understanding (1 Corinthians 14:15), to encourage you and help disciple both your team and congregation.

There are songs from Chris Tomlin, Hillsong, Stuart Townend, Paul Baloche, Matt Redman, Brenton Brown, Israel Houghton, Tim Hughes, Delirious?, Vineyard, and many more. You can get full details and order the book here.  Let others know!

Put any questions or comments about “magnify!” here…

NWLC 2011 and more…

I’ve just gotten home from a great time at the National Worship Leader Conference in Kansas City.  I’m having that “good kind” of exhausted today.

We saw 300 (more like 350) attend a special presentation of LOVE DIVINE: The Songs of Charles Wesley for Today on Tuesday with Tim Hughes, Brenton Brown, Chris McClarney, Katie Gustafson and John Hartley that I emcee’d, with great response for these new settings of powerful lyrics.  Marvelous to see folks worshipping from the heart with lyrics from the 18th Century and music from the 21st!  You can get a feel for the project with a free song and chart download that also has more information.

A special welcome and thanks to those who have purchased my new resource book, “magnify!–105 modern worship devotionals for lead worshippers and their teams”!  I’m glad to be able to partner with and be a resource to you.  [More on “magnify!” later…]

And, thanks to others who attended my seminar: “Planning to worship?  Help people engage by asking the right questions!”  I was blessed by your attendance and interaction, and hope that the insights will be a help–even though I know most of you came here for the worship music complaint letters.  (Those are in Worship fan mail!)  Full notes for my seminar are downloadable here, or you can revisit or share that material with the two-part webinar that I’ve done for Worship Leader Magazine.

In the next several days, I plan on making this more active, so as you have questions and comments, please post them.  With your involvement this will be a much more active community as we look at worship, music, missions, technology and more.

What other things at NWLC had an impact on you? Comment below…

Worship fan mail…

I’ve been putting off doing this blog thing for years, but I really must dive in. I’m excited about doing my first webinar for Worship Leader magazine today, and need to get a link posted for one of my references. I’m going to finally give it a try.

I’ve spent a good portion of the last 10 years working on resources for worship planning: Scriptural references, assigning topics to songs, writing suggested spoken intros for the songs, devotionals on contemporary worship songs, creating hundreds of sample worship sets for leaders to consider, and selecting songs to be used in collections, downloadable sites, and put in current hymnals.

As a worship leader and teacher myself, I want that planning process to be easier and easier.  There are so many great resources out there, so many songs that could be used, but it is very tough to keep track of them.

“Of the making of worship songs, there is no end.”  Ecclesiasticals 3:12 (Heumann version)

And even when you select them, everyone has a strong opinion on them (whether they’re entitled to it, or not!). I’ve discovered, though, that as Solomon said, “there is nothing new under the sun.”  Maybe you can relate to these notes…

A newsletter prepared by the Lutheran Hymnal Project of The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod has noted that the following item was recently included in the Texas District supplement to the Lutheran Witness:

“Please! NO more new hymns. What’s wrong with the inspiring hymns with which we grew up? When I go to church, it’s to worship God, not be distracted with learning a new hymn. Last Sunday’s was particularly unnerving. While the text was good, the tune was quite unsingable and the harmonies were quite discordant.” (This letter was written in 1890, and the hymn that elicited the complaint was “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”)

“Was it the organist’s idea or yours that our peaceful worship service was shattered by that new hymn last Sunday? The music was sacrilegious; something one would expect to hear in a den of iniquity, not a church! Don’t expect me even to attempt to sing it next time!” (I Love To Tell The Story – written in 1874)

“Pastor, I am not a music scholar, but I feel I know appropriate church music when I hear it. Last Sunday’s new hymn, if you call it that, sounded like a sentimental love ballad one might expect to hear crooned in a saloon. If you persist in exposing us to rubbish like this in God’s house, don’t be surprised if many of the faithful look for a new place to worship. The hymns we grew up with are all we need.” (Just As I Am – letter dated 1865)

The Stanza, Vol. 27,No. 2, Fall 2003

We are not alone!

(PS: this quote has been attributed to Nicky Gumbel of the Alpha Course, who quoted it in a sermon, but I was able to trace the source to “The Stanza,” but have not found the publication on-line, just a quote from it.)

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