History, nostalgia and praise! A few thoughts on CCM United.

[NOTE: This was originally posted on my Facebook page in late January of this year.  I thought it deserved to be re-posted here, with a few small edits.]

I’m basking in the glow of what several hundred of us experienced in person last night, joined by many thousands who saw the live stream of “CCM United – We Will Stand” here in Williamson County, Tennessee.  33 artists, 40 songs–some old, some new, most in the middle of the heyday of Contemporary Christian music.  Joy, tears, thanksgiving – it had all that and more.  [For a full list of who was there, and the opportunity to see the entire three hours, go to ccmunited.com.] Many thoughts are running through my mind this morning as I’ve been reading posts and posting videos myself.  They are a bit random, but I’ll share them.

  • I’m so grateful for relationships that allowed Judie and I to be there with last-minute tickets.  Thanks to Mike Harland and Sue Moser for being so generous.  What an experience…
  • Having been in and around Christian music and the “industry” since I was 16 (that’s 42 years ago, if you’re counting), and being part of events like the Christian Artists’ Seminar (Estes Park) and Gospel Music Week (GMA)–I know all the different issues that are part of putting this kind of event together.  Schedules, relationships (past and current), sponsorship, past hurts, logistics, egos, spiritual attack, personal interests and yes, industry pCCMUnited_grandeolitics all come to bear on this stuff.  In our brokenness and by God’s grace, we move ahead.  Thanks to Stan Moser and his dogged persistence in being point person and midwife in bringing this to birth, and to the whole team.
  • The room was filled mostly with people who were (and are) part of seeing all of CCM happen over the years.  Executives, publishers, songwriters, producers, managers, booking agents, pastors, group leaders, worship leaders and other artists all had a chance to enjoy, celebrate and reflect.  I know I left at 11:30, and folks were still hanging out, visiting, laughing and crying together.  So many good friends and associates who shared so much experience and so little time to hang…
  • A special shout-out to my friend, almost-team-member, and past board member Neal Joseph.  It really was like watching your life story tonight (obviously others as well), but seeing The Imperials, Sandi Patty, Dallas Holm, Michael English, First Call and Wayne Watson on the same stage tonight put it all in perspective.  Your love, care, talent and persistence in supporting, signing, arranging or producing these artists (and many others) has borne phenomenal fruit.  Thanks.
  • Great to see other artists who have been part of CCM history happy to be there, even though they were not up front–thinking of my friends Byron Spradlin (early artist on Light Records), Paul Johnson (arranger and writer extraordinaire) and Steve Fry (worship writer, artist and pastor).

Some thoughts about history and perspective on these past 40+ years.  Any time you talk about history, folks will have a different perspective based on their experience.  We need to fight to get context as we read or recall anything from the past.  Even historians have a perspective, and that’s what makes it interesting and more fully-orbed.  Think of it like different camera angles on the same scene in a movie…one shot is not better than another, but the different angles help to give a more 3D version of what happened.  You have to pick and choose the shots, and in any movie or documentary, some things get left on the cutting room floor–you can’t include them all in order to tell the story.

We had a great story told last night–nothing can take away from that, and it was most certainly true.  I wept and cheered with the rest, and memories of past ministry that I received and also gave filled my heart.  Praise God for that!  When it comes to Contemporary Christian music, these artists and songs are key to the core of it.  However, I walked away wanting to also acknowledge and challenge us all to remember some of the other pioneers and get to know their work and the investments they made to establish and confirm what we enjoyed last night.  There was absolutely no way to include all the artists who have contributed, and many were highlighted and named in the projections on stage. Even that couldn’t mention all.

Let me mention and honor a few and give you a resource that will help you with more perspectives, more camera angles.  First, 40 years is not the full history of CCM.  It did not start in 1975–the celebration was of 40 years of CCM, not of all of it!  Love Song, who were honored and performed along with Phil Keaggy (who actually was part of the group at one point) started before 1975. The Jesus Movement was a significant revival that started in the last 1960’s, and was the catalyst for many to come to Christ, as well as being a seminal source for what has become modern worship with Maranatha! Music as well as CCM.  Love Song and many others pioneers were part of a Jesus Music documentary done around 1999 called “First Love.”  Check it out at explorationfilms.com–a 2 CD and 2 DVD set that shares testimonies and stories of that significant move of God.  It features Love Song, 2nd Chapter of Acts, Barry McGuire, Andraé Crouch, Randy Stonehill, Jamie Owens Collins, Honeytree, Paul Clark, John Fischer, Terry Clark, Matthew Ward, Annie Herring, Darrell Mansfield, Chuck Girard, Randy Matthews and a Keith Green tribute with Melody Green.  If you don’t know this history, you need to.

And, from my perspective, there were others who paved the way both in making the church ready to receive music more closely allied to the culture in my lifetime.  I first think of Ralph Carmichael and Jimmy and Carol Owens, who were pushing against the barriers in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.  Light Records was the home for so many of the artists who were pioneers in CCM, and Ralph’s musicianship and commitment to excellence in ministry that both reached the culture and served the church laid a solid foundation for those who would follow.  And he’s still at it in his 80’s–check out the Ralph Carmichael Big Band!

Jimmy and Carol Owens–significant early mentors and encouragers of artists and musicians like Andraé Crouch (Jimmy produced his first album) as well as Paul Johnson (who was at last night’s event) and Michael Omartian (who was the musical director)–created projects like “Come Together” which basically took a contemporary worship service and put it on record, and “If My People” and “The Witness” which called the church to intercession, and told the story of Jesus in compelling, powerful ways.  Artists like Andraé, 2nd Chapter (Matthew Ward, Nelly Griesen and Annie and Buck Herring), and Barry McGuire made their house a second home where they laughed, played and prayed. (Not to mention their daughter Jamie Owens Collins, who made it her first home!)  They are also still at it, encouraging artists and songwriters (songs like “Holy, Holy” and “Freely, Freely” are theirs), and calling the church to intercession for the nation.

I was glad to see that Thurlow Spurr was in attendance last night, and Stan rightly acknowledged him for his contributions.  So many folks that we know as arrangers, writers, and artists in CCM cut their teeth on the road traveling with The Spurrlows, Festival of Praise or other groups he started–Larnelle Harris, Sharalee, Dave Williamson, Terry Winch, Jon Mohr to name only a very few.  But another who travelled with Thurlow pioneered a ministry that would eventually see 40,000 plus travel in music ministry around the world, Cam Floria, founder of Continental Singers (The Continentals, Continental Ministries) and Christian Artists.  Artists who were on the platform last night like Wayne Watson got their start in Continentals, while at least several dozen others in the room traveled as part of Continental tours (including me and my wife Judie).  Michael W. Smith came as a young artist to the Christian Artists’ seminar and got early encouragement there.  Thousands of church worship leaders also cut their teeth with Continentals and were shaped by their international and inter-denominational touring.

This is only the tip of the iceberg, only a few of the additional camera angles that will add perspective to what we saw last night.  Stan Moser’s book “We Will Stand” adds a few more.  Dig deeper and you’ll see even more to give thanks to God for.

Finally, I’ll share my two most enduring images of last night, separate from what was onstage.  Both spoke of humility and joy in the journey.  First, as I was chatting with Travis Cottrell about the evening, a gentleman stopped as he was walking out and said how much he had appreciated Travis’ contribution to the evening and the ministry of it.  I looked twice, and it was Steve Archer, lead singer of the family group he had with his brother and sister “The Archers.”  He was the Russ Taff of his day, and could probably still match him note-for-note.  Yet, he was not onstage–Russ (and Travis) were.  The humility of his sincere congratulations that I got to observe spoke volumes.  Second, it was only about halfway through the event that I realized in the back row of the string section, happy and joyfully playing his cello, was Greg Nelson.  Producer of Steve Green, Sandi Patty and countless others and co-writer of “People Need the Lord,” Greg was in the back row making what others might see as an insignificant contribution to a significant night.  But not to my friend Greg…he was happy just to be a part.

May it be so for all of us as we go and grow in our ministry of music and worship.

The DeLorean is fueled up…

…and we’re headed back to the future!

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…

Back to the future in missions–time to invest!

Kiev Photos
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!

Kiev Photos
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…

Прославление 21 октября (Worship 21 October) from New Life on Vimeo.

“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!

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 theworshipservice.com.  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…

magnify! and Liberty University

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!

John Stott has died…

John Stott, an icon of passionate, clear-thinking evangelical faith, died today at age 90 in London.  I read his book, Basic Christianity, as a young believer, and it had a powerful impact–one that I passed on by recommending it to all new believers.  He had a passion and commitment to evangelism, and to linking the church worldwide for that task.  He was a significant force in shaping evangelicals in Britain and around the world to address issues in modern society, yet lived humbly and simply himself. He wrote other books like Your Mind Matters, The Cross of Christ, and The Contemporary Christian–for a total of fifty volumes.

I was honored when Wings of Light got to do a concert at All Souls, Langham Place in central London (where he was rector, then rector emeritus) after a Sunday night service where he preached back in 1980!  He has left an incredible legacy through both his life and writing. Praise God for his faithfulness!!

Check out the article for background, and then check out this memorial video his ministry posted on YouTube today:

John Stott Has Died | Christianity Today

What have you read of John Stott’s writings?  You may want to find Basic Christianity and start!

Gungor and NWLC 2011

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?

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…

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