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.
My wife Judie and I leave in two weeks for my eighth trip to Kiev, and Music in Worship, the conference we started in partnership with Ukrainian Evangelical Theological Seminary (UETS). Three years ago, it began as part of my Master’s project for my degree at Institute of Worship Studies, and it’s exciting to see it continue and develop. This year we are also partnering with leaders from here in Nashville and with London School of Theology, Nexus Institute of Creative Arts and Worship Academy, Horsham in the UK.
I’ve been interviewed twice recently about the situation and the ministry opportunities in Ukraine–by UETS and for two programs for Compassion Radio. You’ll understand more of my heart and get you a sense of why this is a crucial ministry at this time.
Ukraine: Worship on the Frontlines, Part One – Compassion Radio
Ukraine: Worship on the Frontlines, Part Two – Compassion Radio
Consider being part of our support and prayer team at MusicWorks International.
Can you take a few moments to consider investing in this? I leave on October 23.
The situation today
Walk the streets of Kiev and you will see many amazing churches with incredible artwork, iconography, and music–all creativity dedicated to the worship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In 1988, even under the then-Soviet rule, the city and nation celebrated 1000 years of Christianity.
In a free but beleaguered Ukraine today, those ancient churches have been joined by thousands of new ones across the nation, full of new, energetic Christian believers, passionate about using current music to express their hearts in the worship of God. Since independence in 1992, Ukrainian Christians have sought to bring and be the Gospel in ways relevant to current culture both in their nation and in other former Soviet republics.
Russian-backed separatists are still attacking the country’s southeast. Corruption is still being weeded out of governmental procedures and positions. Terrible economic conditions have seen purchasing power drop by two-thirds. Ukrainians are under attack as never before.
These churches need leaders who are grounded in the values and principles that undergirded the ancient church and are also proficient in using the tools that will propel them into the future. When it comes to worship, that means understanding how the practices of the early church have much to teach us about how we approach worship today. It also means gaining skill in contemporary worship music and how culture, character and calling come into play.
In Kiev in 2012, God re-fired my heart and gave me a passion for the nation of Ukraine and its people, especially young leaders. I found that seeds I helped plant in 1992 had borne much fruit. (Here’s a bit of a report about that visit.)
We worked alongside the Ukrainian Evangelical Theological Seminary (UETS), founded that same year by my friend Anatole Glukhovskyy. The seminary offers both undergraduate and graduate courses in ministry and has a unique trans-denominational perspective.
That fresh sense of calling was delayed a bit by the opportunity to complete a Masters’ degree at the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies (IWS).
However, by God’s grace and provision, the past two years have refueled and retooled me to better come alongside and help as I have completed that degree.
The past twelve months
In less than 14 days, I will board a plane to go back to Kiev for the third time in less than a year.
November 2014 for Mission Ukraine
Mission Ukraine pulled together hundreds of evangelical church leaders from across the nation (including the annexed region of Crimea and the eastern parts of the nation still under attack by separatists) as they discussed the priority of united evangelism even in these very difficult times.
I was honored to be invited to attend as a delegate and someone involved in ministry in Ukraine. They invited me to speak briefly and sing at the event myself, and had me lead the small group sessions involving music and the arts in ministry.
We heard many moving and honest testimonies about the difficult situations facing the Ukrainian church currently, but one comment stood head and shoulders over the rest. Pastor Vladimir Glukhovskyy (father of Anatoly), a church-planting evangelist and pastor during the difficult Soviet times, addressed the whole gathering. When asked to give his perspective, he said this: “I think God will hold us accountable for what we have done during this time of openness.”
March 2015 for “Music in Worship”
By God’s grace, I was able to bring a team to do a worship seminar in March as part of my thesis project for my Master’s degree.
John Conner (gifted saxophonist, engineer/producer from Nashville), Rev. Dr. Greg Wilde (professor from IWS) and his wife Jan, as well as Michael and Dawn Marie Helin (former Wings of Light team members and long-time media and music missionaries in Europe) were the highly qualified team that accompanied me. The UETS staff did a marvelous job of organization. We joined with gifted Ukrainian leaders, speakers and worship teams to work with a tremendous group of church leaders and volunteers from all across Ukraine for three days of encouragement and training. We had twice the number of people expected. There are too many stories to tell here, but you can see a gallery of pictures from the event as well as video of my and Greg’s plenary talks. It was a powerful time.
NOW, October 2015
As a response to what God did in our midst, Ivan Rusyn, the Rector of UETS and Marina Yarmolenko, the Dean of the Music Ministry and Theology department and her staff have asked that I would lecture and bring seminars to UETS twice a year.
In our planning and discussion, we discovered that Robert Webber’s book, WORSHIP OLD & NEW, is available in Russian! That will be our main textbook and framework for the class. I will have the music/theology students 15 times in 5 days–pretty intense! We will look closely at how the Biblical principles and practices that informed the worship of the early church should inform our worship today. The class will finish with a similar week early in 2016.
The economic situation in Ukraine doesn’t allow them to do much to help financially. On our March trip, the team was able to raise extra money to replace an aging computer for the Music/Theology department and bless them, as well as help with some of the cost of the seminar.
My Ukrainian colleagues are investing all they can to make this work; this is a partnership, not a one-sided American presentation. It is an ongoing dialogue to see how their students and their teachers can be better equipped in the area of worship renewal, and then how together we can help the churches and pastors they work with across Ukraine and Eurasia.
On this trip, we will also be discussing our plans for the seminar and classes to come in the spring. I will have meetings with other churches and individuals regarding future ministry. We are also talking with the leadership of IWS about all three ministries (MusicWorks International, UETS and IWS) working together to teach and train leaders and local pastors in worship renewal.
[Click here for some more background on MusicWorks International, part of the ACT International family of ministries.]
How you can help now!
More important than just finance, we need a support team of devoted intercessors who will stand with us. Are you willing to pray for the guidance and the freedom of the Holy Spirit during my time there? Let me know in the comments section below or drop me a note at this email.
I need to raise money right away to cover both the trip expenses which have been advanced to me and for the costs of my work in preparation.
$3000-3500 in initial expenses now,
and when I get back, establishing a substantial base of monthly support.
The initial expenses are most urgent and crucial–it will be important to have them in hand before I fly on the 23rd. The flight cost has been advanced to me, and I need to raise that and cover other expenses for the trip as I prepare to go.
Although this is late, I believe that raising $3500 in two weeks is do-able. God is my source. (If all the friends and partners seeing this gave just $5-10, the need would be more than met.) I’m praying for:
1 gift of $500 • 2 gifts of $250 • 10 gifts of $100 • 20 gifts of $50 • 25 gifts of $25
for a total of $3500.
(Of course, you can give more or less than this, but this will meet the immediate need.)
You can give via credit/debit card, check (payable to MusicWorks International) or by automatic bank draft by using the link just above. Donations are tax-deductible and are figured in US dollars.
Again, leave a comment below or email me if you want to be part of our intercessory team, and I will add you to our list to receive reports and prayer requests. If you can’t give financially right now–I certainly understand that.
God is in control; He has given the calling, and I believe He will provide as we look for the partners He has chosen in this season. I’m grateful that you are prayerfully considering this as we look to walk into a new season of ministry. Already several friends have indicated they want to be part of this trip by investing…I am thankful for the encouragement! I need your “experienced” prayer support and investment now.
This is a unique opportunity in a very strategic nation at a very crucial time. Will you help us continue to walk through these doors? I want to combine worship old and new in bringing solid theology and practice alongside current skills and cultural awareness that will bring great glory to the living God. It is a start to a new season.
That’s the story, the need and how you can help now. I pray you will!
All glory to God as we’ve seen all the one-time expenses we needed for the trip to Ukraine raised! Over $3500 has come in, and then some. I’ve been humbled by the response from those who have given and who will be praying. It has added a new dimension to Thanksgiving Day around here!
The excess will go toward other related expenses and be a base for the regular monthly support I’ll be raising after I return in the new year.
With only 19 hours until my flight, there’s plenty to do. To keep up with some updates during the next two weeks, either subscribe to my blog here, or respond to the invite on my Facebook event page.
Pray that we’ll be sensitive to the Holy Spirit, the staff, the students and all that God wants to do in us and through us. Your intercession is crucial! Thanks.
Can you take time to intercede for our time in Kiev? Let me know below…
This photo of Kiev is courtesy of TripAdvisor-St. Andrew’s Church.
I’ve been really fortunate to be have been on the edge of some world events in my life.
- In 1975, when I was 19, I was part of one of the first US music ministry groups to minister behind the “Iron Curtain” in Poland. In 1978, I led a similar group to minister in Leningrad, USSR (now St. Petersburg, Russia) when that just wasn’t possible legally.
- In 1981, Judie and I met on the first team to sing in then-barely-open-to-any-outside-influence People’s Republic of China, where our team was able to sing in major venues in major cities and on national television.
- In 1989, shortly after moving to the United Kingdom as missionaries, we were glued to our TV as we watched the Berlin Wall disintegrate and totalitarian regimes in Eastern Europe and Central Asia crumble from a closer vantage point.
- Then in 1992, I was honored to go to three of those nations–Estonia, Latvia and Ukraine–to work with national singers to produce 5 worship albums in their national tongues! Those tapes were used to encourage and support hundreds of groups of new Christian believers who were being discipled in these newly-freed nations.
Over that time and since, I’ve also been part of, helped create, or led cross-cultural ministry training and mission events in Amsterdam, Hong Kong, Washington, Manila, Nairobi, London, Seoul, Argentina, Peru, Ecuador, Guatemala…and Nashville.
Now, after years of being back in the US–things seem to have come full-circle!
We’ve been raising our son here in Middle Tennessee, doing worship ministry in the church, worship training in Latin America, developing digital and print worship resources both full-time and free-lance, doing tech consulting as well as teaching at conferences and churches.
But now, strategic opportunities for working with worship leaders and musicians both inside and outside the US keep coming up out of the blue, without me going after them! We believe the Lord’s calling us to re-launch the missionary ministry part of who I am. He’s been speaking to me about things that I’m uniquely qualified to do at this stage in life.
As a result, right now, I have an immediate opportunity to build on the foundation that I was part of in the former Soviet republics:
Encouraging, coaching and training leaders in worship and outreach using music, in Biblical and practical ways, in a very exciting time and strategic place for the Church today…
It all happens very soon.
I leave the day after Thanksgiving, this November 23 and will be gone until December 13!
I’d like you to prayerfully consider partnering with me in finance and prayer to make that possible, and to build a fresh foundation for future ministry both here and overseas. I need your help.
In Kiev, I will be teaching and leading as part of a 3-member team led by long-time friend and colleague, Byron Spradlin, and including Jason French from Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. We spend the first week with the 350 students of the Ukraine Evangelical Theological Seminary (founded 1992, the year I was last there) teaching on music, worship and the arts.
For our second week, we have a strategic opportunity. Byron is now the Senior Associate for the Arts with the Lausanne Movement–an alliance of leaders all across the world committed to partnership in world evangelization. (It was started in the 1970’s by Billy Graham and his team.) Byron’s job is to be an international advocate and networker to see strategies developed that release the God-given gifting of artists in extending Christ’s Kingdom. (The Lausanne 2010 gathering in Cape Town, South Africa brought together 4000 delegates from nearly 200 nations.)
Nearly 100 delegates from the Eurasia region–the 12 nations that were part of the former Soviet Union–will join us to meet and strategize action on how the arts can and should be used in touching this region for Christ. Hard to believe this has all come in my lifetime!
This photo of Kiev is courtesy of TripAdvisor-Peremohy Plaza.
I need to raise money immediately for both the trip expenses which have been advanced to me at this point and for my work in preparation.
I also need to raise monthly support for ongoing work because there are future opportunities already being talked about for Ghana, Japan, India and Romania as well as with ministries here in North America.
That will mean starting with a minimum of:
$3500 in initial expenses,
and then establishing
$3000 in monthly support.
The initial expenses are the most urgent and crucial–it will be important to have them in hand before I fly on the 23rd. The flight cost has been advanced to me, and I need to raise that as well as cover other expenses for the trip as I prepare to go.
Raising $3500 in two weeks, really? It is doable—if all the friends and partners seeing this gave just $5-10, the need would be more than met. Actually, I’m praying for 1 person @ $500 • 1 person @ $250 • 11 people @ $100, 21 people @ $50 and 24 people @ $25 for a total of $3500.
Of course, you can give more or less than this, but this will meet the need. Make a secure donation here for both your initial gift or for on-going monthly support. You can give via credit/debit card, check or by automatic bank draft. Donations are tax-deductible and are figured in US dollars.
As for monthly donors, right now we need: 2 at $250/mo., 5 at $100/mo., 20 at $50/mo., and 40 @$25/mo. for a total of $3000 a month.
I also need to revitalize a support base of intercessors who will stand with us.
Many of you will be aware of the evangelistic work we did with our team, WINGS OF LIGHT, as well as our role at Youth for Christ in Britain establishing a similar band–TVB–that discipled young musicians, led students to Christ, and modeled leading worship. Some of you traveled with us with WINGS, Continentals, or TVB, or went on teams with us to Latin America. We may have worked alongside you in California, YFCI, or in the UK. Some of you know us from our time and ministry here in Tennessee since 1993, or have met me at a conference or online. We need your “experienced” prayer support and investment now.
Maybe you can’t give financially right now–it has been a tough time for many of us in these days. More important than just the finance, we need a revitalized team of prayer supporters and intercessors who will stand with us. Please leave a comment below if you want to be part of our intercessory team, and I will add you to our list to receive reports and prayer requests.
(You can find more information on MusicWorks International and ACT here.)
God gave me a special encouragement just two days ago! I wanted to see some examples of current Ukrainian evangelical churches in worship. I found some videos of worship from New Life Church, Kiev from a service just 2 weeks ago. There were translations of some of the currently used worship songs around the world, some I did not know, and then…I heard it.
It was one of the songs from the albums I produced in Kiev 20 years ago! I nearly cried as I realized that the project had a lasting impact in the life of believers and churches in the Ukraine. See it yourself here–it’s a translation of the song “Hiding Place” by Michael Ledner. It starts at 13:45 in…
“You are my hiding place, You always fill my heart with songs of deliverance. Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You, I will trust in You. Let the weak say ‘I am strong in the strength of my Lord.'”
© 1981 Maranatha! Music
Will you pray about investing in this exciting strategic trip? And will you give so that we can go “back to the future” in launching out to the nations again? Time is of the essence. Pray for us as Paul did for the Ephesians:
“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe…”
Ephesians 1:17-19a, NIV.
We need your prayers and your investment. Together, we can help an army of the most effective communicators out there–musicians and artists–have a powerful impact across Eurasia. You can find more information on our ministry and make your donation here. We are trusting in the Lord, our “hiding place.” Thanks so much!
PS: On the way back, I’m stopping in the UK 6-13 December for an additional week to consult with friends and mentors to talk about this new season. Please pray for that too!
How do you think music can be used effectively in these Eurasian countries? Have you been to Ukraine?
Will you invest or take time to pray for us? Leave your comments below!
While its’ release has yet to be publicly announced, my new book “magnify! • 105 modern worship devotionals for lead worshippers and their teams” has been made a required text for Liberty University’s Center for Worship intensive this term and their “Theology of Worship” course. I’m thrilled to be a part and grateful to Dr. Vernon Whaley for the opportunity to have input into the growth of your worship of our Lord!
Many of you came here ready to order the book. I have quite a few email requests in hand from you as well. Thank you so much.
However, we just got the word this last week, so we are a bit “behind the 8-ball” at this moment, and I’m well aware that you also have assignments to do relative to the course.
I’ve been out-of-town since last Thursday and am in the midst of completing our set-up so that you can order and pay for the book here via credit or debit card through PayPal. My plan is for it to be operational in the next 24 hours, so please check back then. If you’ve emailed, I will be sending you a note as soon as everything is live.
If you have other questions, please post them–we’re working to get this for you ASAP!
One of the highlights of this (or any…) conference for me was Gungor’s worship set last Wednesday night. (And that’s a lot of conferences in a lot of places over a significant period of time!) I don’t think anyone else who was there would contradict me.
The combination of eclectic instrumentation (including mandolin, cello, banjo and harmonium) with the standard rhythm section, strongly creative Biblically-based songs, musical excellence and astounding visual support drew this critical thinker in, touched me and left me amazed at God’s goodness and grace. (A big shout-out to Stephen Proctor for some of the most sensitive visual support to worship I’ve ever seen.)
I pray they make the video available; I’ve already put in my request. Look for it, and lobby Worship Leader magazine and WorshipTogether, and maybe they’ll release it in some form. However, the capper was just Michael Gungor and his guitar at the very end. I found a link to it, and have it for you here as an appetizer…
Enjoy and worship the creative God that places these gifts in us!
How do you use visual support in worship? How can you keep it supportive and not intrusive and distracting?
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…