Who are you?

30th June, hard to believe we’re halfway through the year already! I’ve mentioned here before I’m currently working on a new project with EBC on updating our website and overall branding. And the question which came up first was, who are you?

Now I’ve been researching logo design, style guides, branding and fonts…all of which has come in useful with my other launch this year. But the prospect of overseeing something so big for a whole church has been quite daunting…so I was delighted to discover that ChurchInsight, the people we use to maintain and host our website not only offer a bespoke branding and logo design package, they are also able to take the final result and transfer it across to our website, reskinning all of the existing data leaving us with a brand spanking new homepage in line with our new branding!

As part of this process I had a long conversation with ChurchInsight so they could get an understanding for who we are. After all, it would be unusual to get someone to choose the clothes we wear or the music we listen to without knowing a bit about us before. It would be like receiving a gift from someone who doesn’t know us at all…you’d either get something which wasn’t you, or a gift card. Its just the same with commissioning a logo…we could say “we want a logo” and whoever we commissioned could say ‘here you are…”, but ultimately it would be a pointless without a bit of background.

Questions to give direction

So I thought I’d share some of the questions we went through so they could get some direction…as the questions which direct the logo design are also questions which provide, or focus the direction of a church. So, without further ado, here is a short list:

  • How would you describe your church services?
  • What are the long term goals of your church?
  • Why do you want a new logo? What do you want your new logo to accomplish?
  • How are you different from other churches?
  • What’s the age range of your target congregation base?
  • What feeling or message do you want your logo to convey to those who view it?

As we were going through the questions, I was quite pleased we as a church had such a clear vision and strategy that it was relatively simple to answer most of the questions…in fact the only ones I stumbled on were when it came to favourite colours and the like… So how about you? If you were thinking about undertaking a rebranding project for your church, or if I bumped into you at a conference and we got chatting about your church, would you have clarity enough to be able to answer the above questions and more?

Who Are You?

If not, then maybe you could take these questions and start to have a conversation about where your church is going, and who it’s trying to take along the way? Of course we all want to be known as churches with doors which are wide open and inclusive, but at the same time we are all going to be known for specific things, or to target specific age groups or demographics. Hillsong is known for its music, HTB for Alpha, Passion Atlanta for…well more music, NorthPoint for its teaching…and on and on. Thats not to say they don’t do children ministry or bible classes or mission…but their identity and their USP are wrapped up in certain well known areas.

We Know Who We Are

We are exploring at EBC what it means to be a 24/7 church, and so although we put a lot into our Sundays, we also run Messy Church during the week, youth events, toddlers and children’s work, and a flourishing older persons ministry which has several meetings across the week. This gives us as a church a fairly broad appeal demographically, but it does mean we can narrow the age focus on a Sunday morning as we know the other age groups are so well catered for during the week at other events.

So like The Who song at the beginning of this post; who are you? Do you know your church’s identity, it’s USP, it’s primary outreach? Or do you need some time as a team to go through some questions to help sharpen your focus? Either way, make sure you know.

Made For More

I think I came across B Reith completely by accident when he was offering a free remix album of his How The Story Ends album…and as is so often the case, I had to then find his back catalogue because it really was that good.

B. Reith is one of those artists who is comfortable crossing styles and genres… he sings amazingly (what I’d give to have a range like him), raps convincingly, and plays/produces/performs with considerable talent too…I dislike him immensely…

Made for More is one of the great songs off his last album (and there are many), featuring Lecrae and Lisa Gungor (as it says on the link). Powerful song. Listen to it.

Lead Me

We did some training this morning as a staff team, based on a talk which was given at this years Drive Conference by a guy called Clay Scoggins (seriously, could the guy sound any more American?!). The breakout was called How To Lead When You’re Not In Charge, and it was great. I went to the Drive conference back in 2013 and it was inspirational in every respect.

There was lots to take out of the talk, I have comprehensive notes, but some of the instant/brief take homes were:

  1. Choose Positivity
  2. Think Critically
  3. Reject Passivity

So we can grumble about what is happening around us, criticise negatively (and we’ve all been on the receiving end at some point), while sitting there with a “its inevitable” attitude. There is the infamous phrase “Fiddling While Rome Burns” which comes to mind…or “Shuffling Deck Chairs on the Titanic” although often in these situations the perpetrators don’t even shuffle the deck chairs and merely watch from a distance grumbling as the ship sinks…

Self Examination First

I know I’ve been guilty of this….”they didn’t ask me”, “I could do it better”, ” what they’ve forgotten is….but I’m not going to tell them because I’m not leading…” etc. The reality is we were all made to do something, we can all lead, even if we’re not at the front, or have a desk and plaque which says “Leader”. I read a lot of Seth Godin (I recommend The Icarus Deception and Linchpin for starters), and one of the ideas he regularly returns to is to Choose Yourself. We can wait for the call, work our way up the ladder, hope for a promotion, or sit back while those more senior/better paid/with a title do the work. And there is a place for that of course. But in reality, if we can see something which needs doing, or a way of doing things better…isn’t at the very least better to speak up, offer to help, or maybe just do it?

If Not You, Then Who?

We are all chosen, we were all made for a purpose on this earth, and sometimes the option to just choose ourselves is the best thing we can do.

We were made to be more than this
Oh, and we weren’t meant to fight wars like this
Something’s gone wrong
We’ve been broken
Who can fix us now, fix us now
We were made out of love not hate
Oh, and we weren’t meant to to give up on faith
Something’s gone wrong
We’ve been broken
Who can fix us now, fix us now

The Power of Three (or more)

I’ve written before here of my admiration, appreciation and all out love for John Mayer. While we all wait for him to release something new (it can’t be long now, can it?), here’s a clip from 2010 of The John Mayer Trio performing Try in New York:

…also featuring the talents of Steve Jordan on drums and Pino Palladino on bass, for a band of three, they make an amazing sound and show.

One of the enviable roles of being a worship leader is the rotas…and I get the privilege of doing this every term. Some may rather be playing songs, practicing their instruments, listening to new songs (or old songs) and customising their pedal boards/drum kits/music folders…but not me. No, there’s nothing I like more than sitting with a calendar and a list of people and their availability, and then working out how to fit them together… OK, so some of this paragraph may be a lie…

We put the rota together, we aim for a balanced band with the hope that come Sunday they will lead the congregation in musical worship, make a joyful and balanced sound to the Lord and through the service help the congregation encounter the Holy Spirit. And some weeks it goes really well, some weeks it goes OK, and I’m pleased to say we very rarely we have a problem.

But what does happen from time to time is we get the balance off a bit…whether it’s because we’re missing piano one week, or we only have female singers, or there are two guitarists and no drummer… We all have to work with who we’ve got, and although we are fortunate to have a good mix of musicians, we still have weeks where we can’t have drums, bass, guitars, keys and singers. And some weeks we sigh, and some weeks it feels a bit sparse, and some weeks it just works.

The point is, as illustrated by the clip; you don’t need a huge band of musicians to make a joyful noise. The John Mayer Trio is a trio (the name is a giveaway….), and we can trace the lineage back through the years…only having three people in the band didn’t hurt The Police, or Cream or The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Nirvana got on fine as a three piece as did ELP, Green Day and Muse. And taking this set up even further (or should that be diminishing?), The Black Keys, The White Stripes and Royal Blood have not struggled with being a duo…nor The Pet Shop Boys, Daft Punk and The Civil Wars.

They work (very well!) with what they have, and they make it a feature…The White Stripes and The Black Keys would sound odd if they added a bass player, just as Jimi Hendrix or Nirvana lose nothing from not having a keyboard player or female harmony. So how can we apply this to a Sunday worship team?

  1. The Fraction Principle: which we have talked about before, but in a nutshell, everyone plays to a fraction of their ability/level according to how many are in the band. So if there are five of you, a fifth, if three, then a third. You don’t overplay, but similarly, you don’t underplay. Strumming barre chords won’t cut it if there are only three of you.
  2. Listen: Three pieces (and two pieces) work because they make sure their sound fills the entire spectrum. So the bass player fills the bottom end, the guitar or keys fills the middle and adds colour, and the vocals go on top. If you’re leading on guitar or keys, don’t stay too high or too low…you need to fill the middle ground.
  3. Arrange: Every song benefits from being arranged…if you all start at the beginning and hopefully get to the end together, you’ve played the song, but everyone (including you!) will be worn out. So stops and starts, dynamics, changing sounds for different parts of the song and harmony will add texture and colour, even if the song only has three chords.
  4. Flexibility: It is much easier to work as a smaller group, if there’s only three of you then you can be really dynamic, if you’ve been playing long enough you can make changes on the fly and stop and start and communicate instantly. It’s the difference between driving a well tuned and balanced sports car (small band) as opposed to trying to steer an oil tanker through jelly (big band not really paying attention….)

I have been as guilty as the next person for bemoaning not having a drummer/missing keys on Sunday/only having girl singers, but if we approach it as a power trio and Try with what we have…I think we’d all be surprised by the results!

Here to Serve!

I don’t think I have any guilty pleasures…as I don’t feel guilty about them! And while many of them may be distinctly “uncool”…I am now of an age where I don’t feel too bothered about them. So…confessions: I still love Level 42 from my 80’s teenage years, I have penchant for rom coms (as I have confessed to before), and these past few Wednesdays two of my favourite US TV shows have started their new seasons in the UK, Castle and the country juggernaut which is Nashville.

Great songs, pretty actors, lots of fabulous guitars and outstanding music week after week. Admittedly some of the storylines are a bit “soap”, but captivating and light at the same time. I also love the fact all of the actors can sing and play…when the audition process took place it was a prerequisite….no dubbing or voice doubles…if you were going to act as a country star, you had to sing like one too!

OK, all well and good you may say. Nice music. But how does it link to the blog? Glad you asked…

Well, 3 seasons in we’ve seen the ups and downs of most of the character’s love lives, big concerts, intimate gigs, ruthless record execs and even murderous fathers. And there are at least three songs in each episode…often at The Bluebird Cafe (I wish we had one locally!). And our “stars” are always there in one way or another….at the front or behind the scenes.

This is where it gets complicated?

So Gunner and Scarlet (who sing in the clip above) met at the cafe while she was waitressing and he was working sound. And they’ve gone on to be signed, make a lot of money from publishing, done tours…but they still come back, and serve behind the bar, work the sound board. Avery Bartlett was a wannabe star who dropped his band so he could pursue a deal in LA…the deal went sour, he came back to Nashville with nothing then got hired to be guitar slinger for one of the biggest artists…major tour, living his dream. And he still comes back to the Bluebird to help behind the bar, work the sound desk, support the artists. Deacon Claybourne, the guitarists guitarist who has played with everybody and is renowned…still makes the time to help at the bottom. Zoey Dalton is realising her dream to be a singer…but she still serves at the Bluebird.

Any regular readers will know we did our church weekend a couple of weeks ago, and again, this servant behaviour was modelled by our band, by our leaders, by our congregation. So although the musicians were very visible at the front over the weekend, they were just as active behind the scenes in the setup and clear down, the loading of vans and lugging of boxes.

Happy to serve!

Our leaders may have led us over the weekend, but they were also there on the Thursday preparing the marquees, putting our chairs, refilling the urns for hot drinks and taking out the rubbish.

And this happens every weekend at EBC…those who are in an upfront role are also working tirelessly behind the scenes, serving refreshments, winding cables, hoovering and taking care of business! We’ve always said if you are serving up front, you need to serve up back too, and I’m pleased to say it’s something we don’t have to enforce, our teams just do it! And I hope it is the same in your church.

I used to listen to Kids Praise albums when I was a little kid….Psalty the singing songbook…was it just me? And the songs have stuck with me…straight out of the bible, easy to remember:

If you want to be great in God’s kingdom

Learn to be the servant of all.

Nashville doesn’t have room for divas, and neither does church. 

Jesus Loves Me

As we approach the Easter weekend, I’m sure you have your services and content in place, and are preparing to remember Jesus’ death on the cross this Good Friday.

I stripped our stage at church bare this morning, so all we have is an illuminated cross. We have an agape meal tonight, and joint all age services for Good Friday and Easter Sunday. I know Christmas is great…but really, Easter is our most important time of the year.

I love this new song from Chris Tomlin. I remember singing “Jesus Loves Me” back when I was in Sunday school (as it was then), and the line still resonates:

Jesus loves me this I know, ’cause the bible tells me so.

It doesn’t have to be much more complicated than that, does it?

Jesus, He loves me, He loves me, He is for me.

Jesus, how can it be, He loves me, He is for me.

Happy Easter everybody.

Easter Ideas

I’m sure it hasn’t escaped your notice that Easter is just around the corner. Well I say that, but I’ve only just noticed I hadn’t organised a band for our Good Friday service…doh! Anyhow, I thought this would be great opportunity to share some of the songs and medias which we have used over the past few years… So, without further ado:

Thief by Third Day: I’ve always found this an incredibly powerful song, telling the story of Jesus’ crucifixion from the perspective of the thief beside Him. In fact I’m working on a script which could be used as part of an Easter service inspired by just that.

Forever featuring Kari Jobe. I love this song, although we haven’t yet tried it congregationally (I’m not entirely sure it will work as a congregational song…please correct me if you have done it), it is still incredibly powerful and uplifting. Easter Sunday for sure. And more clips from The Passion of the Christ…

We use a lot of SkitGuys videos and scripts for our services (when we’re not writing our own material) because they are well produced, bang on message and generally just really, really good. This drama/video is called The Birdcage, and is worth a watch.

Nichole Nordeman and Crimson. She is the most amazingly poetical artist, I highly recommend all of her albums (there are only 4 to date, and nothing since 2005). We put this song to a very simple video just showing crimson drops into a pool radiating circles…an amazing song.

And lets finish on this: When Love Sees You, sung by Mac Powell (of Third Day) from The Story project, the corresponding album which was written by Nichole Nordeman (and every track on there is amazing)…this song (and this video) always just stop me in my tracks. Hope that’s given you some useful inspiration and ideas for Easter.

With Every Act of Love

Our Senior Minister came across this song, which is surprising, as his general musical taste is awful (Genesis/Phil Collins anyone….?) We use it last Sunday as part of our Follow series (from Northpoint), where we were looking at What We Wear…which, as you can probably imagine, is more than being just about clothes…

Collosians 3: 12-14 says:

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

So compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. And over all these virtues put on love. Beats jeans, T shirt and trainers (which is my usual daily outfit…)

The lyrics to this song are just amazing, I am going to check out more of his material. But it is the bridge that to me is the most powerful:

God put a million, million doors in the world
For his love to walk through
One of those doors is you

What are you wearing?

I am one of those doors. And so are you. But I’m not too proud to admit I don’t put on my compassion outfit regularly enough, or my kindness hat. Harry Potter had a cloak of invisibility which I was envious of, but I have a cloak of humility that too often I’m too arrogant to wear. And while I consider my self a gentle and considerate person, I know there are plenty of times my “patience trousers” wear thin. And I won’t mention my “love” outfit here for fear of it being misconstrued…but if all above and beyond was approached With Every Act of Love…well, as I’ve said before, the world would be a better place.

So clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Then with every act of love, be one of the million million doors that God put on the planet.

What could you change about your outfit today?

So Help Me God

I’m just emerging from a particularly busy and difficult season in my life. Our senior minister has been pretty unwell since last summer, so I was doing a lot of extra work at EBC (which I really enjoyed doing) in addition to my usual responsibilities. But I only “work” at church 1.5 days a week, and the rest of my working week I work for my own company doing royalty accounting and specialist music business advice for musicians, bands and labels. And I am very happily married with three wonderful children…who are all at school, have homework, go to bed late and still get up early…(I thought it would all change once they were out of nappies?) And I do try (sometimes!) to have a social life and date my wife…who is also working full time! So with all of the above, and of course Christmas…I was (we were!) somewhat frazzled by the end of 2014

Now I’m pleased to say I’ve come out the other side, church have been particularly kind and given me a lot of recovery space in January (I felt semi-retired to be honest…but they assured me I am wanted back….) and now we’re at the end of February, I am right back into the thick of it. And we’re again ramping up…we did a great joint service at the beginning of the month with our friends at FBC, we’re planning a big church weekend in May, service prep is well under way. I’m in the middle of setting up a new limited company to take the music business forward, there is just as much homework to do, the house needs redecorating desperately (our middle daughter Naomi has been diagnosed with severe dust allergies, so we need to rip out the carpets and remove the soft furnishings a.s.a.p.) and we’re still attempting to squeeze in a social life and actually date.

When I were a lad…

I remember from when I was but a young boy (not that long ago…) we used to listen to the Kids Praise cassettes in the car, even today I can remember most of the songs which Psalty the Singing Songbook used to sing. Do My Best came from Kid’s Praise 5, Psalty’s Camping Adventure, and the opening line was

“I can do most anything, through Christ who strengthens me. Even climb a mountain when I’m four (even three!)”

I am sure that under many other circumstances we would have just crumbled, and there are still days when it’s the most we can do to crawl out of bed in the morning. But I know I’m not doing any of this alone. We work together as a couple. We do it together as a family. We share it all as a community at our church. And we do it all through God, who strengthens, guides, and carries us when it’s too much.

This is an oldie but goody from dc Talk…so the clothes may not have dated well, but the song and the sentiment are bang up to date:

You’re there when I call
And You’re there when I fall
Even though I don’t deserve it all
You, You light my way
Through the night and the day
And from You I will not stray

So help me God
To put my faith in You
So help me God
Before I come unglued
Call it my addiction
I can’t get enough of You
So help me God
To put my faith in You

I have days, and will continue to have days where I try to do everything under my own steam, and in my own strength. But more and more I’m learning that if I share the load, stop trying to do it on my own, and look to Him who is here for me…I can do a much better job of everything. So Help Me God. 

All About Love

As a bonus Friday extra from yesterday’s post which was All About Love…here is Steven Curtis Chapman and All About Love.

See, told you it was All About Love. Happy Valentine’s for tomorrow

We’ve got CD’s, tapes
And videos, radios and TV shows
Conferences, retreats and seminars
We’ve got books and magazines
To read on everything from A to Z
And a web to surf from anywhere we are
But I hope with all this information
Buzzing through our brains
That we will not let our hearts forget
The most important thing

Is love, love, love, love, love
It’s all about love, love, love, love, love
Everything else comes down to this
Nothing any higher on the list than love
It’s all about love

Now they’re fighting in the Middle East
And they’re fighting down on 7th street
And there are fights in my own house on given days
It’s like something’s lurking deep inside
That can’t seem to be satisfied
But life was not meant to be lived this way
‘Cause it’s true for every man
And woman, every boy and girl
That our only hope for living
Here together in this world

Is love, love, love, love, love
It’s all about love, love, love, love, love
Everything else comes down to this
Nothing any higher on the list than love

This is the reason we were made
To know the love of our creator
And to give the love He’s given us away
Yeah, the Maker and the Father
And the God of everything
He says to love love love
He says love love love
Love love love
‘Cause after all it’s all about love

God says, love, love, love, love, love
It’s all about love, love, love, love, love
Everything else comes down to this
Nothing any higher on the list than love
‘Cause after all it’s all about love
It’s all about love, love, love, love, love
It’s all about love, love, love, love, love
It’s all about love, love, love, love, love

What Love Really Means

You probably can’t have failed to notice it’s Valentine’s Day this weekend (if you have, go ahead, there’s still time to get flowers/chocolates/card/iPad (if you follow the Apple ads) etc….) Have you ordered? Good. Let’s carry on…

Love is a many splendored thing. Love lifts us up where we belong. All you need is love….as Ewan McGregor sang to Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge. Love makes the world go round. The Truth About Love. Love, Love me Do. Strange Love…I have over 500 songs about love in my iTunes library, Steven Curtis Chapman wrote an entire album for his wife called All About Love (it’s great), whether you’re an incurable romantic or have a heart of stone, you can’t escape it. And this song by J.J. Heller is just incredible in words, melody and sentiment.

I’m currently reading Andy Stanley’s new book, The New Rules for Love, Sex and Dating…and while I am only just on chapter three, it is (like all of his other books), an essential read. Chapter one is called “The Right Person Myth”, and it unsurprisingly looks at finding Mr or Mrs Right. Spoiler alert: there isn’t one. You should read the book, but I’ll give you this quote:

“Looking for the right person is a great idea as long as you don’t assume that finding the right person ensures everything will be all right”.

The right person doesn’t mean everything will be all right. Now I am a self confessed incurable romantic, Love Actually, A Lot Like Love and Notting Hill are firmly (and proudly) in my top ten movies of all time, and I have an idealistic image in my head of my wife and I, strolling into the sunset arm in arm, happily ever after. Now clearly my wife chose me because I am Mr Right, I am obviously a great catch and who wouldn’t want to be married to me but we work really hard at being married, which is why we are still happily married. Of course we’re very compatible, there was an attraction there initially which has only grown over time, and we genuinely enjoy being together…which helps. But it’s not like it every day…I know there are days Hannah would quite happily push me out of a window… probably deservedly.

The Bible is of course full of love: God so loved the world that He gave His only Son; Love your enemies; Love your neighbour as yourself; Above all love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

God’s story is a love story, He who loved his people, He who wants the best for us, He who is forgiving and loving. And we as Christians are called to love… and if we loved more instead of judging, comparing, condemning or generally not being interested in others…wouldn’t the world be a happier, better place? And I’m not resorting back to sugar coated happy ending movies again…if we did love our neighbours as ourselves…and they did the same…and so on…how different would everything be? That may be incredibly simplistic…but a little bit of love goes a long way.

So this Valentines as you exchange gifts with your beloved, or send cards to your secret crush, or maybe just sit at home quietly disapproving of the whole consumer driven cardfest and overpriced roses gone mad…try to remember what love really means.

He cries in the corner where nobody sees
He’s the kid with the story no one would believe
He prays every night, “Dear God won’t you please…
Could you send someone here who will love me?”

Who will love me for me
Not for what I have done or what I will become
Who will love me for me
‘Cause nobody has shown me what love
What love really means

Her office is shrinking a little each day
She’s the woman whose husband has run away
She’ll go to the gym after working today
Maybe if she was thinner
Then he would’ve stayed
And she says…

Who will love me for me?
Not for what I have done or what I will become
Who will love me for me?
‘Cause nobody has shown me what love, what love really means

He’s waiting to die as he sits all alone
He’s a man in a cell who regrets what he’s done
He utters a cry from the depths of his soul
“Oh Lord, forgive me, I want to go home”

Then he heard a voice somewhere deep inside
And it said
“I know you’ve murdered and I know you’ve lied
I have watched you suffer all of your life
And now that you’ll listen, I’ll tell you that I…”

I will love you for you
Not for what you have done or what you will become
I will love you for you
I will give you the love
The love that you never knew