I was able to get an early copy of Vertical Church Band’s “The Rock Won’t Move” and boy, I’m glad I did. This is a solid album with very few flaws. It also came at an opportune time for me as I’m realizing that our church body needs more “celebration” songs and some more energy in our midst.

I’m going to walk through my impressions of the album as a whole and give a summary of my impressions of each song below. Please give the whole thing a read, as you’ll be rewarded with a free download of the title track from the album at the end of the review :-) !

Overall impressions

  • This album is mostly singable. Many new albums of this style tend to not be easily singable, so it’s very refreshing to find an album like this where I can say “Yes, we can sing that in our congregation” to the majority of the songs.
  • Solid teaching. A lot of newer albums are overly emotional or experiential, but for the most part this album’s lyrics are very objective and focus on truths about God rather than feelings about God. While I’m coming to terms with the fact that sometimes “emotional” songs can help balance the weightiness of songs full of truth, I’m glad to see the depth in the lyrics of the album.
  • There is a lot of energy on this album. The songs are songs that make you want to shout-sing at the top of your lungs, not just sing. Even the slower songs have an energy to them.
  • My one complaint: Lead singers – please don’t jump up an octave. I’m very thankful that when this happens on the album there are singers remaining where the melody was in the previous octave, but this can be very taxing on congregations.

Let’s Dig into the Songs

Call on the Name

Very excellent call to worship here, listing many attributes of Christ and then allowing a personal declaration of “I will call on the name, I will call on the name of the Lord” Really love this song and hope to use it soon.

Found in You

Love the energy of this song. I always have an issue with “welcoming” God into the congregation (I understand the intent, but I think we could phrase it better, but more on that another day), this song treats the concept very nicely. Love the chorus “All we want and all we need is found in you, found in you. Jesus, every victory is found in you; found in you.” Another great call to worship, one of the best I’ve found in quite some time.

He Has Won

This is going to be one of my go-to Easter or post-Easter songs. It’s fantastic. The lyrics point people to Jesus and His victory as they deal with the weight of burdens, the question of being loved by the Father, and more. It’s especially a great song for men to sing – you just want to belt this one! I think this is my favorite track on the album.

I Will Follow

This song gets a little high for a typical congregation, but is still fairly singable. It’s a wonderful declaration of faith through various situations the Christian is facing.

I’m Going Free (Jailbreak)

I like this song a lot. I love the “revival” feel in the song. However, I wish a couple things: I wish there were more lyrics like the first verse. That verse includes the powerful ”The judge is my defense; I’m going free” That is a GREAT lyric. I also think the phrase “your love is my jailbreak” is very awkward and wish they would have changed it to something else, especially as part of the title of the song is based on one quick, conceptual line that needs explanation.

Only Jesus Can

GREAT lyrics in here and GREAT groove. The syncopation would get difficult for our multi-generational congregation, and the rhythms on the chorus are tricky to catch at first, but the concept in this song is fantastic. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the rhythms in here (both the verse and the chorus), they just could be tricky to teach. However, this is one of my favorites on the album.

Strong God

It took me a couple listens to this song for this one to “click” for me. While the lyrics are wonderful, I wanted a little more power in the melody and bridge to match the anthem-like feel of the song. But, if this is the weakest song on the album (in my opinion), that’s saying something, as I still think it’s a wonderful song.

Strong to Save

“The Lord our God is mighty in battle. We are not afraid. His hand upholds us through our trials; our God is strong to save.” What a fantastic chorus. I love the bridge as well. I’m going to duck for cover here but I think this is a much stronger take on the concept of God being “mighty (strong) to save” than that other song that’s been popular for awhile :-)

The Rock Won’t Move

The title track is an interesting adaptation of the hymn the “The Solid Rock.” I love the expansion and play on the original lyrics of the hymn. While this song is a powerful anthem, I think the bridge gets hard on the ears and I’m not sure the updates to the hymn lyrics improve them. I know many have done it, but I wish they would have used the existing melody from “The Solid Rock” in the bridge instead of what was used.

Worthy, Worthy

I love the hymn-like feel of this one. It’s very useful to have songs like this, especially for multi-generational congregations like ours. The timeless concept of all of heaven declaring God’s worthiness and holiness will never get old. This song is a helpful addition to congregations like mine who sometimes still use a piano/organ-driven accompaniment. I think this is a song that could work well in that situation as well as led by a full band.

Download “The Rock Won’t Move” MP3 and Lead Sheet for Free!

I really like this album and I think the songs should find their way into many churches. This is one you’ll definitely want to have in your library and I’m going to be keeping an eye on Vertical Church Band in the future.

Use the NoiseTrade widget below to receive a free copy of the title track and the lead sheet from this album.

One of the absolute best parts about working in the church is the anonymous criticism that you get from time to time (see definition: sarcasm).

While these things sting for a while they are usually a few things:

  • Lacking vision
  • Passive aggressive
  • Most of all, incredibly unhelpful

How Anonymous Criticism is Unhelpful

I wanted to focus on the third. This form of criticism is unhelpful in a number of ways:

  • No opportunity to ask, “What do you mean by that?”
  • No opportunity for further learning. If I’m being critiqued by someone, I’d much rather have a dialog about the critique, so that I can learn more about how to remedy the situation or so that I can offer the opposing viewpoint and vision.
  • No opportunity for me to thank the person for expressing their feelings and open dialogue for further growth and discussion for both parties.

Some anonymous notes can be genuine, relevant criticism that needs to be addressed. However, when an anonymous note is left on your office desk, even if it’s valid, it’s very difficult not to take it as a right hook to the face, especially after a season of feeling discouraged.

What saddens me the most about these things is that it seems to happen in churches FAR more often than anywhere else. When I was working in “secular” business, criticism and critique were always directly addressed. Why doesn’t the church, which is supposed to be the leader in conflict resolution, giving preference to others instead of yourself, and compassion for each other know how to handle these things better?

Useful Criticism Is Actually Helpful

I think there are several better ways to offer criticism to church pastors, staff, and leaders:

  • Best: ask to meet together to address concerns. Be open to an opposing viewpoint AND be prepared to offer some encouragement as well (this happened recently, which I’m very thankful for)
  • Good: place a call or send an email with the concerns and allow opportunity for feedback or a follow-up visit
  • Okay: at least sign your name and give some contact information and end the note with “Feel free to follow up if you think I need to understand the situation a little better”

Church pastors, staff and leaders: learn from the anonymous criticism that’s valid. Throw away the rest. Church members and attenders: please don’t offer anonymous criticism. Communicate, learn from each other, grow together, love each other, and celebrate how God has made you united in one body, even despite differences.

It’s been just over three months since I took on a new role in life and ministry as full time Director of Worship and Creative Arts at Living Word Free Lutheran Church. And boy, it has not been a slow transition! While I’m enjoying equipping writers, designers, and musicians on serving inside and outside the church, one major project I’ve been working on is the revamp of the new Living Word website.

There are quite a few things I’ve learned in this process and many things I’ve been able to apply from my previous and awesome employer that I thought I needed to spend some time sharing these “for the greater good,” so to speak.

Don’t Take a Good Developer For Granted

I’m thankful that I’ve come to realize that I am not a web developer. I can write just enough HTML to make things break. I am actually fairly decent within CSS. But when it comes to true, functional development, I’ll never be there. Enter Ben Olson, our fantastic developer that’s been working on the new site. Ben has been patient, asked great questions, gracious when facing some frustration, and just plain knows what he’s doing. I’m thanking God for Ben today and his work, and on behalf of all developers who are working with someone on a web project, I want to give you these reminders:

  • Clearly communicate the scope and expectations of the project up front. Don’t keep throwing new features at someone who was only expecting to do so much to begin with. We fell short in this area, and will remedy that in the future for further advanced development of the site.
  • Know when to say, “Good point.” There were some things that I thought would be nice. Ben convinced me otherwise. I’m glad he did.
  • Be open to knew ideas. I was pretty gung-ho about using a certain Content Management System but since Ben was more familiar with a different language he convinced me otherwise. That is saving him time and producing a better end product.

Create a Site Map, and a Content Plan, and Page Tables, and Stick To All of Them

If I hadn’t sat down and marked out every page on the site, then planned out what every page looked like, then planned out how we would update each page and how each page would interact with each other, I can’t imagine how much time I would have wasted. I also can’t imagine the lack of vision I would have for what the site is going to look like in the future. Further, because of having a plan for every page and a pre-determined purpose and voice for each page, I was able to hand off several pages to another writer and save myself some time while giving ownership to a volunteer in the congregation. Win and win.

Here are some things you MUST do before even thinking about designing a new website:

  • Pair it down to the bare minimum. What MUST be on the site? Start a sitemap from that.
  • Create a sitemap, an organizational structure of every page on the site.
  • Create a page table for every single page. This is a lot of work but completely worth it and in the end you will be insanely happy that you have these. Trust me.

What I Learned at Click Rain

Click Rain does and always will have a special place in my heart. Yep, I just wrote that sentence, and despite it’s sappiness, it’s true, proven this morning by how welcomed I felt when making a quick visit back there. I loved the people. I loved the culture. I really loved what I learned.

I am applying what I learned at Click Rain literally every day while on this job, but so much of it has specifically gone into the organization of the new Living Word website. I’m so thankful, too, that Paul understands what our whole church’s culture is, which is to equip the saints for the work of service. Because of his willingness to train me up and send me, Living Word will benefit from a much better final project and, quite frankly, a much better staff member. Some specific things that I’ve learned for the website creation process are these:

  • Build a responsive site that’s completely optimized (note, there’s a lot more to website optimization than SEO these days). There is no reason not to do this. Yes, it takes more planning, forethought, and design skills; it takes more effort to make sure every element optimization is in place; but in the end will payoff big time.
  • Think about big picture strategy. We are not just having a blog on the site. We are having a blog that’s equipped with opengraph tags, Schema information, and more, so that when people share a post to social media it will perfectly pull in every piece of data that provides stand-out formatting on social media. Also, we are thinking long-term about what this site will look like, not just launching it and being done with it.
  • Measure. Measure. Measure. We will be paying close attention to statistics in every area so we can be sure this site is doing it’s job.

I’m very thankful to be working full time in a job I’ve wanted for a really long time. However, I’m extremely thankful for the experiences God blessed me with on the path to get here and how much I’ve learned and can apply now that I’m in this position.

Times have changed, and quickly. It is very easy to get lost in the current culture of our world, from iOS updates to finding the latest and greatest thing. But sometimes something stops us in our tracks and makes us ask, “Where is faith like that in my life?”

Keith & Kristyn Getty, modern hymn-writers and a huge inspiration to me, recently shared a prayer from Kristyn’s grandmother that was written in 1932. The prayer was prayed over her desk, consecrating it that it:

everything written and prepared thereon may be done with the singleness of mind to His honour and glory… (full text here)

I know praying over “things” needs to be done with discernment, as these things don’t have life. However, she didn’t pray for the desk, she consecrated that particular area in her home that it would be used for God’s glory.

It leads me to several questions and a plea for grace and wisdom today as I ask:

  • Do I consecrate the things that I use that they would be used for God’s glory and not my pleasure? (for instance, my iPhone, iPad, car, office desk, musical instruments, insert your trade tool here)
  • Do I pray over my children at every opportunity, praying that they would grow into authentic followers of Christ and live for His glory?
  • God, will you take away the pursuit of selfish things in my life and help me live every moment like this?

These are good questions to ask as we seek to understand what living a life of worship really looks like in every area of our lives. One song I’ve been listening to a lot lately is off of Sovereign Grace Music’s new album “Grace Has Come” called “My Life is an Offering,” which is a wonderful prayer based on Romans 12:1-2, where “I am an Offering” comes from. Take a listen below:

I’ve been inspired for quite a well by Bobby Gilles’ weekly recap of the songs, readings, prayers, and liturgy of Sojourn Community church’s services. So…I thought I’d steal it. With his permission, of course. :-)

These serve as a great reminder of how, in the recent word’s of Bob Kauflin, we “remembered, rehearsed, reveled in and responded to the Gospel of Jesus Christ as our only hope and the means by which we come to know God as our Father.”

You can find links to the set lists of this church and many other churches each week in the Worship Set Lists at theworshipcommunity.com.

Gathering Song: Psalm 62, written by Aaron Keyes and Stuart Townend

Call to Worship: Titus 3:4-8

God has saved us through His mercy, poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior. We gather today to remember and respond. Remember who God is and what He’s done, and respond by preparing each other for His work in this place and outside these walls.

Song: Your Grace is Enough, written by Matt Maher

Song: Lord, I Need You, written by Jess Reeves, Kristian Stanfill, Matt Maher, Christy Knockels, and Daniel Carson

Confession of Sin:

That song of confession declares our need for a Savior. Let’s continue to dwell on that thought.

Savior, we indeed confess we that we need you. Not because of any human understanding of desire, but because we are broken with sin and without hope. You alone can save. Without You, we cannot stand. We run to You as our source of security. Guard and guide our heart’s desires as only You can.

May we trust in You alone for help, hope, and rescue.
May we delight ourselves in You, receiving our pleasures from You.
May we commit our ways to You, place our trust in You, and believe You will act.
(adapted from Psalm 37:3-5)

Song: Forever Reign, written by Reuben Morgan and Jason Ingram, made known by Passion and Kristian Stanfill

Declaration of Grace

God welcomes us into His embrace through the death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ, rich in love and mercy.

“Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord. Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)

In light of God embracing us into His family, let’s greet each other and welcome one another within our family today.

Confession of Faith

Confessions of Faith were given by students who had just attended the FLY (Free Lutheran Youth) convention the week before. It was a great blessing to hear how God’s Word impacted them, and to hear every student share Scripture with the congregation. We are so thankful for the work that consistently happens through God’s Spirit at FLY.

Announcements

Tithes and Offerings

Scripture Reading:
John 1:1-5

Message
Nick Schulz, an active youth leader and a philosophy enthusiast, taught on the response of the believer to the payment Jesus gave us through His blood, and how John was specifically battling gnostic teaching that since the body is evil it doesn’t matter what we do with it by declaring the truth in 1 John 1-2:2.

The Lord’s Supper

We sang Psalm 62 again during the Lord’s Supper, to continue to teach the congregation as it was a new song this week, and to continue to declare the great truths in the lyrics.

Benediction:
The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord lift his countenance upon you and give you peace. Amen.