ServeUkraine – that’s what we want to do!

When you are sitting half a world away and see places you have been many times riddled by rocket fire and bombs, and people you have known and worked with for 10 years hiding in bomb shelters and evacuating to save their lives, it has an impact on you. And so it was with me on February 25, the second day of the new stage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

I had to do something, and I knew by the Spirit of God that it meant acting immediately. These were my students, colleagues, graduates, and friends. It was in those moments that ServeUkraine was born. This has been my focus for the last 2.5 months. We have been blessed by many who have given, and have been investing in those who have great need and in those who are doing the work on the ground helping others.

Expect to see the work with ServeUkraine and the situation in that nation be a primary focus here in the coming days.

#prayforukraine #standwithukraine #serveukraine

“There is no reason to attack Ukraine. We just made a decision for a different future.”

Our friend and colleague on the front line, helping save lives from this insanity. Ivan Rusyn interviewed by the BBC at 2:40. Proud of my friend, concerned for the people and the nation, looking and praying for the world to do something to stop this now.

Help us help them at

#StandWithUkraine #prayforukraine #uets #serveukraine

Mission in the midst of misery

Just received this post from our colleagues in Kyiv…focusing on others in the middle of horror.

——- is trying to actively pursue its mission of serving society amid all horrors of the war we are facing. 

  • We are preparing a new evacuation from Kyiv of vulnerable layers of population, including women and children from local churches in the seminary neighborhood 
  • Faculty, students and staff of the seminary evacuated to western Ukraine have got actively involved in sending humanitarian aid cargoes to the capital
  • We have turned the campus —– into a humanitarian aid center where people can get immediate assistance and hide in a basement during air raids
  • —– kitchen personnel refused to be evacuated and are working hard trying to provide food for the Ukrainian defenders and anyone in need
  • Faculty and some students who are still on the campus use any opportunity to identify and meet needs of the military and civilians in the neighborhood

We are enormously thankful to all our friends all over the world who are standing with us at this extremely challenging time! “

These are my people; this is the Ukrainian church. #prayforUkraine #standwithUkraine

If you want to give to support these dear ones, ‘s landing/donation page is now live. (The main URL is not yet live, but this link will get you there.)

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.

Why worship and why Ukraine?

16003274_1385166991527929_6680711285658944023_nMy 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.

Worship from God’s Perspective – UETS

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.



Maidan, war and refugees

My heart for and involvement in Ukraine over the last years has been due to a number of things, chief among them sensing the call of God, but also through seeing the lives of believers as they have walked through incredibly difficult times for their nation.

I first saw that call lived out before me in the lives of the staff of New Life Church, Kyiv  (Anatoly, Nadia, Anton, Anya, Oleg and Oksana) and then in the lives of the leadership, staff and students of the Ukrainian Evangelical Theological Seminary (UETS)(Anatoliy, Ivan, Oles, Denis, Marina, other staff and my students).

With all else going on in the world these days and in our nation, even the events of the last few years in Ukraine have somewhat faded from our ADHD culture.  I would like you to take a few minutes and get to know the clear thinking, passion and integrity of these brothers and sisters in Christ through 2 short videos that line out the history of the “Revolution of Dignity” as the protests in Maidan are now known, and the on-going struggle against the Russian-backed separatists in the eastern regions of Ukraine as Crimea was annexed by Russia.

UETS and its’ leadership have been honestly wrestling through these times with their hearts in God’s Word and their ears listening to his Spirit as to how they should respond in very difficult circumstances.  They have put together these videos that tell the story of the real issues they have faced and how they continue to respond.

The first video, Maydan: Response (13:22) talks of how they responded as Christians to an unjust government, and the second,War and Refugees (10:41) tells of how they have responded to those fleeing from attack in their own cities.

“We just wanted to tell our friends and partners abroad about what we came through in 2013-2014, and are still going through now.” – Oles Dmytrenko, Communication and Development director.

“Critical times for the nation challenged our theology and understanding of mission.” – Denis Kondyuk, Dean of Theology.

Take less than 30 minutes of your TV binge-watching time, meet my colleagues and some of my students here and I think you’ll understand why I keep going back.


Hallelujah and thank you!

I’m typing this at the gate at Detroit Metro Airport waiting for my flight to Amsterdam where I connect to Kiev. As of right now, the financial support we needed for the trip has come in and then some!

Thank you, Lord for speaking to these friends and partners in ministry!  The additional funds will be a start on the regular monthly support we will be working on when I return.

I hope to be posting up here several times during the next two weeks. Pray for clarity of mind and heart for me, for good interpretation and an openness to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Got to board…here we go! Blessings to you all.

Steve Ogne

This past Wednesday, this world lost a humble, passionate, Kingdom-minded churchman and I lost someone who was probably the best “best friend” of my entire life, Steve Ogne.

When I say lost, I mean it more in the sense of being “temporarily misplaced,” not “permanently irretrievable.” We know where he is, we just no longer have direct access to him. He has another occupation in God’s presence right now. At some point, we will join him. He did so much for the Kingdom of God in teaching, training, coaching and strategizing that I will probably have to wait in line to see him when I get there. For me, he was a faithful friend, wise counselor, long-time board member, encourager, coach, and confidant.

September 1982

I have known Steve since the late 1970’s, when we were both connected to Calvary Community Church in Thousand Oaks/Westlake Village, CA. Steve was on staff, and I was a missionary supported by the church and very much a part of the music program. Actually, together we helped start the church’s first singles group, where he met his wife, Jane. He was in our wedding in 1982, served as part of my ministry board for almost 9 years, he and Jane were a home for Judie and me in-between tours so many times, helped us move time and again, and he even spoke at my ordination. When I was in town, we would always try to go to the LA Auto Show every year–he was a true son of the LA area when it came to his cars! I would call him to work through things I was facing; he would share things in his life, but inevitably would wind up sharing something simply profound with me that would point me to God’s power and wisdom in facing the situation. He was so much more than just a friend. He would challenge and prod me. Years and distance did not dim the relationship–we could say anything to each other, knowing that we knew we would be understood and respected. I valued his input completely.

May 1988

Judie and I were itinerant for several years, later moved to the UK, and then to middle Tennessee while they stayed in Ventura County, California. I actually got to take Steve on his first overseas trip to the UK in the Spring of 1989, which opened up a whole new perspective for him. Later, he would teach and train church planters in Australia, Europe, and India (amongst other places), and thanked me for dragging him out of his homebody comfort zone.

His ministry to church planters, church planting coaches and denominations are well-known to those he poured into over the years. Steve strongly believed that the best way to reach people for Christ was to plant new churches and then make disciples; he followed through with that as his life’s passion. Others will expound on that, I am sure.

About 1996, Steve began to face many unusual and perplexing life-threatening illness in odd combinations. From then until now, he faced diabetes, flesh-eating bacteria, various leg bones being broken, staph infection, heart attack, triple-bypass surgery, cancer of the bladder/removal/reconstruction, kidney failure and last year, amputation of his left leg below the knee. I would joke with him and ask if there were any more major life-threatening diseases he had on his bucket list. It was a tough battle for him and for Jane and their sons–last year he spent quite a few months in the hospital and in rehabilitation. But he rarely complained; he just kept going in the new seasons that were presented to him.

In more recent years, his youngest son Greg and our son Joel both wound up at Belmont University in Nashville at the same time (having been born the same year), which meant that at least a couple of times a year we could see him and Jane here in the area. One of my most memorable times with him was taking the opportunity to be with him for a whole afternoon while he had kidney dialysis here. They let me sit with him the entire time and we talked for hours about family, ministry, our lives and the state of the Church–and also laughed our heads off. Even having dialysis three times a week, he continued to coach and encourage leaders on the phone the rest of the time.

By God’s grace and provision through a friend from the UK, I was able to be in southern California in July and then to spend the better part of two days with Steve. I had the honor of serving him by helping him in and out of the car with his wheelchair, having a long brunch, just talking and hanging out, and then helping he and Jane do little things around the new house they were just going to move into after being in the same home for 26 years. We talked about the future and the new seasons we were both facing, and I will never forget what he said–“This is your calling!! Don’t mess around, don’t put it off, step out in faith. You need to focus on it and do what you need to do to make it happen!”

Our time ended as it often did, with me helping fix something about his computer or other technology. I needed to go, but didn’t really want to, and I could sense that was the same for him–it was a very difficult goodbye.

July 2015

Steve died Wednesday, October 14, not too long after his 59th birthday, while back in the hospital waiting for the amputation of his remaining leg due to multiple issues. A celebration of his life will be held at Calvary Community this Friday, October 23 at 10:00 am. I can’t be there.

I am heartbroken that I will be unable to make it. That same afternoon at 1:40pm Central time, while the service will be wrapping up, I am scheduled to board a plane to Kiev, Ukraine to teach foundations of worship at Ukrainian Evangelical Theological Seminary and be there for 12 days. It’s an amazing privilege that Steve knew about and saw as God’s special gift for me. I’ve tried for the last several days to change my flight and move things around, but that has proven impossible and impossibly costly. I hate not being there for Jane, Tim, Jeff, and Greg. I hate not being there for me.

However, all I can hear is Steve’s insistence ringing in my ear, “This is your calling; do what you need to do. Don’t put it off any longer.” I guess I will have to do just that to honor my friend, Steve Ogne.

Thanks, Steve. See you soon. You are a true friend. Well done.

Invest in “worship old & new” in Ukraine. I need your help!

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.

IMG_6403These 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.  IMG_0273The 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

IMG_0176_2Mission 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 IMG_2976Jan, 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.  47990I 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.

That means:

$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.)

Click here to make a secure donation for your initial gift or for on-going monthly support.

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!

Thank you.

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