Planning Conference Worship: Ross Lippencott

Ross Lippencott is a gifted singer, songwriter, guitar player who has also worked in church ministry for a long time. He was instrumental in planning much of the worship at the recent “World Discipleship Summit” in which around 11 thousand Christians from around the world participated. We have an interesting conversation about his personal history in music as well as all that went into planning the congregational singing for the conference. We discuss such things as:

  • Key objectives he considered in planning the conference music
  • Important values we should hold to in our worship teams
  • Ways we can bring the gospel to artsy people
  • How generational dynamics can play into worship ministry

Wait for the Lord O My Soul (second posting)

Happy Monday everyone! I posted about this song earlier this year. Here I’m posting an updated recording since I have now released an album with this as the title track (more about that below).

Starting in April, my wife and I took a three-month sabbatical from our ministry duties at the church we work for. (I spoke here to our church about the concept of sabbath and sabbatical just before we went.) Even though I had studied and learned the logical idea of sabbath, I feel like it was something in my head and maybe just a bit of my heart but certainly not yet in my body and my bones. It was so hard for me to stop! (The very word sabbath is derived from the Hebrew word for stopping.) As God was just beginning to form for himself a people-group unique in the world, Sabbath was given as a gift to this group of former slaves, whose very identity had been in their production value, the number of bricks they could bake on a daily basis. God says to them you have to stop! Stop and remember who you are. Stop and know you can trust in me. Stop and know that I am enough for you. All the festivals and feasts that defined the identity of the people were built on top of sabbath rhythms. Even the origin story of the cosmos had sabbath as its crowing moment and key literary organizing feature (the Bema and Bible Project podcasts have much more to say about this if you’re interested).

I realized that even though I had taken vacations before, it had been at least 25 years since I had let a Sunday or two roll by without being deeply involved in all the workings of the church. Even though I might leave town and worship with another congregation, I would set everything up for my local church, remaining intimately involved in everything going on while I was away. But taking three months away meant I had to let go. I set up a sermon series and preaching rotation for our time away and delegated various responsibilities and then I had to just step away. It was so good for me (and so good for the church). It was good for me to spend hours and hours in reading, prayer, meditation, listening to spiritual podcasts, taking long hikes in nature. And I also spent time recording music!

One of the books I read, This Beautiful Truth, has as its thesis that beauty and art and creativity is one of the answers to the question of theodicy. Like the mystics taught, God is so big, so vast, so endless that he can never be understood through purely rational and logical means. He has to be encountered in ways that go beyond–into areas of artistic expression and delight. (God’s own answer to Job is not to rationally explain but rather to point to aspects of his amazing creation.) When approached this way art can become an act of worship. As I meditated on this I realized I had become so hampered from releasing new music by perfectionism. This quote from the book rang true, and both inspired me and really hit me hard:

Every work of art reaches out across the centuries, and each is a vision that casts a flame into the darkness. The wonder is that one great light wakes another. The song of one wakens the story of another. The story she told became the poem he made that kindled the painting in yet another’s hands. Each is a work of obedience. No artist can cast their flame of vision without a twinge of fear that it will simply fade or even pass unseen. But each is also a work of generosity: precious, private worlds offered in a self-forgetfulness that pushes aside vanity, insecurity, and perfectionistic pride.

Sarah Clarkson, This Beautiful Truth (p. 187)

I realized I had around 20 worship songs I had written over several years I hadn’t released because I wanted them to be so perfect, I wanted to get my amazing musician and singer friends to help me work on them and was always too busy to make it all happen. My own voice has limitations, especially as I age. My own recording abilities are not as good as other stuff out there. But my heart was not in the right place. Sabbatical reflection helped me to surrender and realize how I just want to be like a flower or a tree or a mountain that reflects the worship and God and witnesses to his amazing grace. Who cares if there are better or more professional ways to perform or release these songs. Who knows how God can use my “fishes and loaves” and do something better or bigger with them. So I decided to spend some of my sabbatical time recording the first batch of these songs–the ones that had been written during times of waiting or spiritual struggle, wrestling surrender to God’s plan and my own limitations. Many of these were written were written simply enough to be congregational songs, but also they were borne of journeys through darkness and coming through to the light of the other side.

The posture of waiting is the posture of worship. It is interested that the book of Acts starts that way–Jesus is talking about the kingdom of God and his followers want to know how it’s all going to unfold. Yet his answer? To WAIT. His Spirit is going to be the central character in the narrative to follow. Our job is just to wait and witness. We don’t have to have it all figured out, we don’t have to direct all the action. We can trust in his goodness and guidance and enjoy the ride. Yes we will need to speak up, to act in boldness and courage while participating in God’s mission in the world. But it all starts with our souls patiently waiting on him.

Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;

    Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
    to my cry for mercy.

If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
    Lord, who could stand?

But with you there is forgiveness,
    so that we can, with reverence, serve you.

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
    and in his word I put my hope.

I wait for the Lord
    more than watchmen wait for the morning,
    more than watchmen wait for the morning.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
    for with the Lord is unfailing love
    and with him is full redemption.

He himself will redeem Israel
    from all their sins.

Psalm 130


Go for Excellence – Interview with Travis Moore

Travis is a great songwriter, producer, and worship leader (part of the Denver Church of Christ). We talk about his current projects, how he sees the relationship between faith and art, has some great advice for worship ministries (especially in small churches): Go for excellence, have a good work ethic, play to your strengths, and create a culture where it’s fun! Get yourself out of the way. Here are relevant links to our discussion:

Travis Moore Website:  https://www.travislmoore.com 

Wild Goose Chase:  https://songwhip.com/wildgoosechase 

Always on My Mind:  https://songwhip.com/aomm

Tuff Tuff: https://www.instagram.com/tufftuff.music 

Denver Church Quarantine Worship Videos:  https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLDTLwuAmVj9wZGID94yn1kC_Al2xerqbc

Ties to the Light music:  https://songwhip.com/tiestothelight 

This Beautiful Truth by Sarah Clarkson

Yebba Tiny Desk Concert (warning: some explicit lyrics)


ICOC Worship Collective

I haven’t posted in this space for quite a while. My wife and I were able to take a three-month sabbatical after 22 years of full-time ministry, and as part of that I stepped back from leading worship, speaking and writing engagements, and so I took a break from the blog as well. I hope to write more soon here about the concept of sabbatical and share a bit of what I learned. (I was also able to use part of that time to do some “devotional recording,” and here is an album I released of what I recorded; look forward to sharing more of that in the months ahead.)

After our sabbatical came to a close we ramped back up in preparation for an international gathering of the ICOC family of churches, the World Discipleship Summit, entitled “Renewed Vision.” (The Vision Conference in Orlando was originally supposed to have taken place in 2020, and we all know what happened with large gatherings that year.) Renewed Vision was an incredibly inspiring time together, like a festival of 9 days or so of joining in worship and prayer, sharing stories and scriptures. Towards the tail end of that week we had a get together for anyone involved in worship ministry that was there at that the conference. Around 200 worship leaders from around the world joined together for a time of singing, encouragement, and talking about the future of working together in the worship ministry of the ICOC fellowship of churches. What an amazing time! There is nothing like singing together with a room full of singers! We made a little fun of ourselves, sang a medley of songs written by members of ICOC, and had a time of trying out some new songs written by people in the group. (Thanks to Khalid James for recording this audio on his phone!) I think anyone who visits this blog would really enjoy listening to the whole two-hour session. Please add any comments below to join in the conversation as well.

As part of that time together we were able to introduce a few new congregational songs that are presently being written and shared among our congregations. Here are videos of these songs being introduced (videos courtesy of Erika Tan):

Guilt to Glory – Jahson and Noelle Saunders (Broward Worship) | ICOC Worship Collective
Wait for the Lord My Soul – J. Brian Craig | ICOC Worship Collective
Your Voice – Tina Crawley and Joshua Taliaferro | ICOC Worship Collective
Psalm for the Soul (Hopeful) – Jahson and Noelle Saunders | ICOC Worship Collective
You Come to Us – Ross Lippencott | ICOC Worship Collective

Prayers for Ukraine

We are of course all praying for our many dear brothers and sisters at this dark hour. This is a video of us singing “Be with Me, Lord” at a leadership conference in Kiev years ago. As I watch this now it brings tears to my eyes thinking about how much the Russian and Ukrainian brothers in the Kingdom love one another so dearly, and how the “Beasts” of worldly powers seek domination via violent means. Praying desperately for peace. Praying for our Lord to be with our brothers and sisters and to hear their prayers.

The second verse is in Russian. I jumped in with these great Russian and Ukrainian musicians and it’s a mix of local and American singers on stage. The bulk of the audience was singing the whole thing in Russian (there were about 5,000 people there).


God Give Us Vision

Can’t wait for the World Discipleship Summit this summer, entitled “Vision.” My best friend Marshall Mead is leading the church in Orlando and directing the conference. He recently recalled on a couple different podcasts how he had a mountaintop experience were he had an experience of hearing from God that he would direct the conference and it would be called “Vision.” Of course the small detail that what was “Vision 2020” would be postponed by a global pandemic and would later be “Vision 2022” was not revealed.

The last WDS was 10 years ago this summer and was called “On the Mountain of the Lord.” I recently stumbled across something that connects the two conference themes in a cool way. I hadn’t realized that the “Land of Moriah” where Abraham was tested (which would later be called the Mountain of the Lord and would be connected with the site of the temple) means “the Land of Vision.” And when it is translated “it will be provided” the literal Hebrew is “it will be seen.” Abraham literally says “God will see,” which is interpreted as he will provide. (The Bible Project has a released a really cool new app that has great podcasts and video-game-like guides that make some of these connections and themes; I’m loving it.) Anyway I just think it is so cool how the only two WDS’s that our family churches have ever had are joined in this way by this foundational story of testing. The Mountain of the Lord = The Mountain of Vision.

Anyway, on to sharing my song today. Collaborating with others I am sharing a song for the conference, “God Give us Vision.” We tried singing it this past Sunday with my Region of the LA Church and it seemed to go really well. (We recorded it live, so I’ll share that some time soon also.) The song is taken from several passages of scripture and is really centrally about the idea of praying that God will open our eyes to what he is already doing in the world and how he wants to use us. It has been said “I should not ask what kind of mission God wants for me, but rather what kind of me God wants for his mission.” I just want to be on the ride with God with whatever His Spirit is doing in the world – His will be done, His kingdom come. And I want to pass that along –I believe an important part of this conference is younger men and women “having vision and seeing dreams” for God’s kingdom, just as it was passed on to me by others who have gone before me. So that is what the song is about –standing humbly before the presence of the triune God (as we sing about in the bridge), asking him to open our eyes to what he wants to do in the world with each generation and how we can be a part of it.

Reference passages
1 Pet 2:9-10
Joel 2:28-32 / Acts 2:16-21, 32-33
1 Peter 1:10-12
Heb 2:1-4

GOD GIVE US VISION (lyrics)

God give us vision
Open our eyes to you
This is your mission
And we are joining you
Bringing your light and life
Lifting your name on high
God give us vision
God give us vision

From out of darkness into light
Our worldly nature crucified
You call us now to be a holy nation saved
To sing your praise

Death and the grave is overcome
Your Spirit poured on everyone
With each new generation, open eyes to see
Visions and dreams

Holy, holy, Lord Almighty
You are merciful and mighty
All your works will praise your name
In earth and sky and sea

Holy, holy, our King Jesus
By your blood you have redeemed us
As the prophets had foretold and
Angels longed to see

Holy, holy, holy Spirit
Breath of heaven draw us near and
Speak through us this great salvation
For those who believe

Chorus
Bb / F / Dm / C
(repeating)

Verse
Dm / C / Bb / Bb
Dm / C / Bb / Bb
Dm / C / Bb C / Dm C/E
F / F / Csus / C (break)

Bridge 1 and 2
Bb / Bb / C / C
Dm / Dm C/E / F / F F/A
Bb / Bb / C / C
Dm / Dm / Gm / Gm

Bridge 3
Bb / Bb / C / C
Dm / Dm C/E / F / F F/A
Bb / Bb / C / C
Dm / Dm / C / C (break)


More than Conquerors

Hello everyone and happy Monday! I mostly share original songs on this blog but once in a while I might share one by another artist. This is one our church loves to sing by Rend Collective. I have written before about having different kinds of songs at church (like guy-type songs) besides deep and intimate worship ones (which I love). I believe a good worship service has a good mix of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs–different styles, upbeat and joyous and well as down-tempo and introspective. This is one of the upbeat, fun, party-at-church ones! Sunday should be fun as well as spiritually meaty, in my opinion. And banjo helps.


Wait for the Lord My Soul

Hey everybody, happy Monday! Wanted to share a new worship song I wrote this past year while in quarantine, called “Wait for the Lord My Soul.” The lyrics are taken from Psalm 130. This was our second time singing it with the church, and yesterday it was fun to have Alex lead it instead of me (first time I sang it was on our livestream a day after writing it). What a blessing to hear the voices singing it now in person.

We are just beginning an eight-week season as a church going through a book called Emotionally Healthy Spirituality and a companion book Day by Day. Learning to wait, to be still, to trust in God’s forgiveness and salvation are coming up again and again in the materials we are going through. It’s hard for me to slow down, to breathe, to even spend two minutes in silence (as we are doing several times a day). I just want to do and do, go and go, keep producing, keep busy —tempted to value myself by what I get done. Yet I serve a God who rested —he knew when to say enough, when to stop (inferred by the very word Sabbath). The words of this psalm and new song are helping me to learn to stop, slow down, teaching my soul to wait for the Lord.

WAIT FOR THE LORD MY SOUL
(based on Psalm 130)

I wait
Wait for the Lord, my soul
I wait
Wait for the Lord, my soul
Like the morning

I put my hope
in Him, in Him
Redeem me from
my sin, my sin

His Name, His love
His word, His word
We cry, we hope
We serve, we serve

Israel, put your hope
in the Lord
For his love never fails
He himself
Will redeem our sin
We wait for him
We wait for him

WAIT FOR THE LORD MY SOUL
in D

Chorus
D/F# G2 / Bm A
D/F# G2 / A
(repeat)

Verse
Em / Bm A
Em / G A
(repeat)

Bridge
F#m7 / GM7 / Bm7 / A
GM7 / D A / Em / Em
A / break


Up to Now You Wondered Why

Hey everybody, happy Monday! Hope you had a great holidays. Yours might have been marked with sickness, like ours. I ended up with Covid myself and stuck in quarantine for a few days. Thankfully my symptoms were mild and I spend some time making some simple music videos for some of my Ties to the Light songs (and one for my daughter Cora). I thought I’d share one today called “Wonder Why.

Songs like this I try to keep kind of general enough in lyric for people to be able to own them and apply them to their own life and situation. But I’ll share with you guys a bit more detail. In this case the song was inspired by a specific campus conversion story. The person was praying that God would show them his way and his people (it’s it so cool how often that is part of people’s stories). They looked out their window and literally saw a sign for where the church was meeting. They came to church, studied the Bible and became a disciple of Jesus.

I love the idea that God allows different things in our lives to lead up to decision moments — turning points that make all the difference for the rest of our lives. Even difficult things, failures, or hardships… “life led regrets up to this moment.” God is there all along –in countless lives and spiritual journeys. God knows every heartbreak, hears every whispered prayer as we go through the ups and downs of life. If only everyone would turn to him. If only everyone would recognize, as this person did, “Love was looking out for you all along.”


You Are My Everything – Cora Craig

This is a song my daughter Cora wrote that a pulled from the live stream of our service just over a week ago, when the teens picked all the songs and led us in much of the worship service. This song talks about how really knowing God, really coming into the light allows you to truly be yourself. Cora has a whole album of great songs she has written (and we are working on recording a few more new ones).

Here are the words and chords:

I was such a fool, so blinded
In a dark room that you lighted

You are my, my everything
You mean the world to me

No I can really be who I am
Down this road you will see the horizon

You are my, my everything
You mean the world to me

Such a beautiful sight, you and I, and I
I get afraid when I cross that line

verse
Bm / G / D / A

chorus
Bm / G/ D / A

Bm / G / D / Em A