West Coast Tour


The past 2-½ weeks have been an absolute whirlwind. We arrived back home from our west coast tour at 7:00am on Wed. morning and to say that the band was tired would be an understatement. We traveled over 6,000 miles by car with our gear and whatever else we could carry with us in tow. We went from one extreme to the next. Experiencing near freezing temperatures as we were leaving Louisville, KY to sunny and 75 at our first stop of the tour in Yuma, AZ. Of course all traveling was done in the comfort of our air conditioned and heat controlled all terrain vehicle, so I guess we can’t really complain.

After our first stop at Foothills Southern Baptist Church where we had the joy of serving pastor Joe Johnson and his church family (very kind and gracious hosts who love Jesus and people very well) in Yuma, AZ, on Wed. (2/11) It was one of our most diverse worship nights and exactly what the church should look like, multi-generational and multi-ethnic. We saw people from all different walks of life lifting their hands in worship and bolding singing God’s Word. After the worship night, we took a brief respite then headed off to Irvine, CA, passing through San Diego (seriously one of the most beautiful parts of the country I’ve ever passed through), and arriving in Irvine, CA sometime around mid-afternoon the next day.

We had the privilege of playing for CRU (Campus Crusade for Christ) at The University of California Irvine on Thursday (2/12). It happened to be our only “college” event of the tour but was really refreshing for us as a band being able to connect with students and staff, especially after having travelled close to 2,500 miles in the past 4 days.

We loaded up after being treated to a California staple “In and Out Burger” by our wonderful host Jon Roper (Director of CRU UCI) and his wife. Is “In and Out Burger” really that good? Well, we like it and Californians will fight you to death over it, so we’re inclined to agree.

After a late night/early AM drive to Fresno, we headed 30 minutes down the road to Chowchilla, CA to play a DNOW (weekend youth retreat, 2/13-2/15) at Valley Harvest Church. For the next 3 days our band continually bragged about 75 degree weather, palm trees, while our friends and family were suffering through 8 degree temperatures and 8 inches of snow. Obviously we’re still being sanctified:) The weekend was absolutely wonderful. We were treated like family by pastors Bobby Dibler, Brian Mott and our amazing host Gaylyn Mott. We heard testimony of how God was working in the lives of students and leaders and changing hearts through The Gospel. What’s amazing is that we were able to see hearts changed because of The Word, sung and preached at every church/organization that we went to, in what was for us a foreign land. God’s Word transcends community, culture and geography. No matter where you are it stays the same and is always relevant.

We spent 3 amazing days with our friends at Valley Harvest and headed back down to southern California for 2 days off (2/16-2/17). We toured the Fender USA Factory, Disney Land (Richie’s request) and some of the band even went to Huntington Beach in Orange Country to see the sunrise. Unfortunately due to Southern California traffic they were a tad late, even after leaving at 5am.

Our next stop was at Valley Baptist Church in Bakersfield, CA where we had the privilege of playing for PULSE Student Ministries where over 250 students from the community were able to hear the Gospel. Jeremy Doyle, the high school pastor at Valley was extremely kind and gracious during our brief time in Bakersfield, providing, food, housing and of course a place for us to serve.

We headed off to the Sacramento area where we played at Cypress Baptist Church (2/19). Chris Crain is one of the pastors at Cypress and wanted to challenge his student’s understanding of what worship looked like, so we had the privilege of teaching the students through song and word on Biblical worship. Chris has poured his heart, resources and energy into Cypress Baptist Church over the years and we can see the amazing work that God is doing through him and the leadership at Cypress.

One of our last stops on the tour was the Winter Youth Retreat (2/20-2/22) at Jenness Park, located in Cold Springs, CA where we were able to reconnect with their amazing staff and a number of students and leaders that we met this past summer at FUGE Camps. Director Barry Lloyd and John Jeleti were extremely gracious hosts, taking care of the needs of a band on tour that happened to be a very long way from home and making us feel like family. We had the privilege of seeing 12 students (that we know of) make professions of faith in Jesus Christ over the weekend. I never grow tired of seeing The Gospel transform people during corporate worship. It reawakens sleeping believers and it brings people who were lost to the loving arms of our amazing Savior.

After finishing up at Jenness park on Sunday, we decided to brave the cold and the snow and travel through the Sierra Nevada mountains to our last stop at Bridgeport Christian fellowship(Sunday Night, 2/22), in Bridgeport, CA. Nichole Crim was our contact person and host while we were in Bridgeport and we were blown away by her amazing hospitality. Kevin and Nichole moved their family to Bridgeport, CA, a small fishing town, away from family and friends a number of years ago, following a call for Kevin to pastor a small church in north central California, Bridgeport Christian fellowship. It’s amazing hearing stories like these where people are truly giving up what they love and cherish, even family and friends for the sake of the Gospel.

We stayed in Bridgeport Sunday night and headed back to Louisville, KY traveling over 2,200 miles in about 48 hours so we could get back home to family, worship leading and teaching responsibilities. We were absolutely blown away by the love and support that we received while out on tour on the west coast. Our goal was to reach and encourage students and leaders with The Gospel. Each and every church, host, pastor and leader allowed us to serve with joy and energy because of the love that they showed us. We’re blessed to be able to share The Gospel through song and wait with eager expectation for what God has in store.


Newsflash: Your 18-Twenty Something Worship Leader is Immature(Don't get angry:).

This past Sunday I had the privilege of serving a local church in my area as a guest worship leader. It was a joy to be able to work with the musicians who happen to be fantastic people and are eager to serve the church with their musical gifts in corporate worship. We had a wonderful time of fellowship during rehearsal and it was clear, while we all clearly enjoyed making music, it really was about pointing people to Jesus through song and not our individual gifts and musical ability.

I was reminded, as I have been so often over the past 6-8 months, of what a privilege it is to lead God’s people in worship. Also, what a terrifying responsibility it is as well. I’ve had moments like that this year, at different events/churches/services, where I had a profound and clear and at times, terrifying realization that I am a steward of The Gospel, entrusted to share the good news through song and to lead people through the truths found in God’s Word and as much as is humanly possible, remove barriers and help people engage during corporate worship.

Leading people is not about me and at the end of the day, it’s not even about the team that I serve with, it’s about bringing to light the truth of The Gospel in song and helping people to see that Truth in the clearest way possible.

The church happens to be a really unique place for “musicians”. Only in a “church” can a spiritually immature and musically inexperienced 18- twenty-something year old be given the chance to lead (steward The Gospel, care for people’s hearts, lead a team of equally broken people) 50-1,500 people in song and the only qualifications that are required are that they sing, play guitar and are a Christian (and often times in that order). Most bands and artists would kill for 50 people at their next show, let alone 1,500. The only 18-twenty somethings I know that are playing for that many people outside of the church are signed to a major label deal. So, your worship leader and ___________ are playing for 50-1,500 people every week and the difference is that your worship leader is in charge of caring for people’s souls and ministering the Gospel through song and ___________ ‘s job is to entertain. That’s a huge responsibility and a responsibility that I don’t think many pastors consider nearly as much as they should when they hire their next “Chris Tomlin”. As worship leaders(especially young worship leaders) and musicians in the church, we can tend to confuse leading worship and entertainment and often times the two become one and we don’t even realize it. 

I’ve found that a struggle common with many worship leaders and music teams (I’ve seen it in myself), is a very subtle and sometimes not so subtle sense of entitlement that gets developed from “leading” in front of 50-1,500 people every week. We hear, “you guys should make cds!”, “I went to a Hillsong Concert last night and you sound just as good!” or “You guys could be the next Passion!” We become “local Christian rockstars” in our church communities and hear encouragement from well meaning people who are genuinely trying to encourage us because they’re blessed by our ministry.

However, such praise, while encouraging, should be taken with a grain of salt. In knowing that we are not defined by the praise and criticism we receive, that can help us put it in the proper perspective and keep our motivations and hearts pure (er). Also, such aforementioned praise can often be overblown and unrealistic and can tempt worship leaders and music teams to dreams of “Christian Worship Rockstardom” (Hillsong, Bethel, Passion, Elevation, etc.), when the calling God has placed on their lives is to serve their local church communities (which is a huge honor and privilege).

Our jobs are to serve people with The Gospel and not our music dreams and personal artistic aspirations.

One of the challenges is that often times the church is the only outlet for musicians to play and use their gifts. Not every guitar/drummer/bass player has an outlet for what they do. This is one reason why it’s so important to remind people that their job, whether tech or lead vocals, is to bring people The Gospel and as much as is possible, provide a distraction-less environment for people to encounter Jesus in.

Every song selection, set-list, lighting adjustment, tech decision, venue decision that worship leaders and music team members make should be met with the question, is this going to help people see Jesus and His Word or me and my ministry?

The reality is, is that most church bands and worship leaders (99%) are not called to the type of ministry that groups like Hillsong and Passion and others like them are called to but being called to serve the local church, whether 50 or 1,500 is an amazing privilege and responsibility that we should not take lightly as worship leaders and church musicians.

We are called to be faithful, not rock stars.

No More Pre-Service, Top 40 Radio Covers Please. Thanks.

I came across an article the other day that went on to discuss the latest trend in worship music. EDM. Electronic Dance Music. The author briefly touched on the musical trends in mega churches over the past 20 years and how styles have changed about every 5 years, eventually reassuring guitarists that their prominent role in today's worship music shouldn't really diminish because EDM is too out there, most churches don’t use a click (which is basically a necessity for this genre) and it’s a bit too complicated/requires too much of a time commitment for your run of the mill volunteer church musician/worship leader. Basically, EDM worship music is not going to last, have no fear.  For universal appeal stick to a basic pop sound for contemporary worship.

Given that the article was addressing the “Hottest Trends” in worship music and referring strictly to musical style and that it was a bit tongue in cheek at times when describing worship “trends” and “fads”, I found myself smiling at the humor of the “worship culture” that we’ve created. I was also struck with one glaring thing after I finished the article. I think we’ve missed the point. Big time. The Gospel.

Articles like this seem to be popping up more and more. Some author is discussing the trends in worship music and what all of the “mega churches” are doing. It’s this really weird sub culture that isn’t really a Christian sub-culture since “Christ” really has nothing to do with what’s being discussed but it’s happening in church and supposedly it’s all for Christ, so I guess it’s “Christian”. It just seems to me that it’s more important to be relevant, trendy and un-offensive in this day and age than it is to be Gospel centered. 

I have friends that want nothing to do with the church’s attempts at “relevance” with regards to a church service or any type of weekly church gathering because it just seems fake to them. It can also be kind of confusing and a lot weird. I’m also pretty sure we’re not attracting people to church with our poor attempts at mimicking pop culture in our gatherings.

An un-churched individual walks into one of our gatherings, they’re greeted warmly by people, offered coffee and asked to join the rest of the group in this massive industrial looking cathedral. The band starts playing a Philip Philips song (insert any top 40 song) and it’s awkward because, they just heard it on the radio on their way to what they thought was church or maybe they just heard the artist in concert the night before and what they experience when they arrive is this awkward looking eclectic group of people playing a really weird and to honest, mediocre version of the actual song that they just heard the night before. They thought they were going to church, not a mediocre karaoke club.

The lights go down, the band starts and they’re punched in the face with this weird mix of EDM, Mumford and Sons and U2 (complete with lights and fog, surprise we’re giving you a rock show as well!) because the pastor and the worship leader (who are genuinely trying to reach people) want to appeal to all and be relevant at the same time.

After the church passes around the plate and another mediocre version of a top 40 radio hit/k-love song is played, the pastor comes up and delivers a motivational message that is some type of mix between the smiling pastor they saw last Sunday on TV and Oprah. 

They leave, extremely weird”ed” out at what they just experienced and they still have no clue who Jesus is because the church was so consumed with being relevant that Jesus got worked out of the mix accidentally. Whoops, there goes Jesus. We accidentally replaced Him with a weird, mediocre, “un-offensive” EDM, Mumford, U2 top forty band, and motivational speaker, who told them that all they really have to do is change their thinking and that regardless of what they’re going through, stuff will get better…which is actually extremely weird and kind of insensitive all at the same time.

When the church tries to be relevant, stuff can tend to get weird. When the church starts to replace what Jesus said and taught with coffee, flashy light shows, mediocre, inspirational tunes and a motivational speaker who looks like Steve Jobs and sounds like Oprah, the people that they’re genuinely trying to reach get really freaked out and can tend to miss Jesus, who is the reason for our gatherings because they’re distracted by all of our attempts at being relevant. Instead of giving people the gospel we give them a bunch of things thrown into a blender that actually lack any sort of spiritual nutrience….but wait…we played “Oceans” and “In Christ Alone”, those songs should make up for our “Gospel-less” service right? 

We need to be constantly reminding people of the Gospel and incorporating it throughout our gatherings. We also need to stop trying to copy what every other church is doing, what ever other worship band is playing and just be what our communities need us to be, real, honest, authentic and relentlessly bringing the Gospel into our gatherings. Life is way too hard to be given fluff and cotton candy on Sunday morning when what we really need is substantive, Gospel centered worship and preaching. If we happen to strike the same musical chord as the culture does, great but most of the time we won’t and hopelessly trying to copy what the culture is already doing isn’t really going to help. We need to stop playing follow the leader and start creating something unique, something Gospel centered, something new. When we do that, when we stop playing copycat to whatever the hottest trends are in churches that are 50 times our size and completely different from a cultural standpoint, relevance will come. Great music will come, great art will come. People are attracted to authenticity. When we keep the Gospel at the center and stop bowing down at the alter of cultural relevance, people will be changed and affected in deep life-altering ways that no top-forty-worship-cover band-thing (that sounds really weird) could ever do. Sing The Gospel and preach the Gospel. The rest will fall into place.

He Will Hold Me Fast

I wanted to share a song that we've started singing at my church. The name of the song is "He Will Hold Me Fast" written by Ada Habershon (1861-1918) with additional lyrics and music written by Matt Merker. It is an amazing reminder that we have our hope and eternal security in a God who will not let us go. The love of Christ, evidenced by His sacrifice assures us of this hope and truth. Regardless of what we've done or what we will do, Christ will hold us fast. There is nothing that can be done to pull His love from us.

Verse 1:

When I fear my faith will fail, Christ will hold me fast;

When the tempter would prevail, He will hold me fast.

I could never keep my hold through life's fearful path;

For my love is often cold; He must hold me fast.


He will hold me fast, He will hold me fast;

For my Savior loves me so, He will hold me fast.

Verse 2:

Those He saves are His delight, Christ will hold me fast;

Precious in his holy sight, He will hold me fast.

He'll not let my soul be lost; His Promises shall last;

Bought by Him sat such a cost, He will hold me fast.

Verse 3:

For my life He bled and died, Christ will hold me fast;

Justice has been satisfied; He will hold me fast.

Raised with Him to endless life, He will hold me fast

Till our faith is turned to sight, when he comes at last!

You can hear a rough recording of the song here: 


Christ's sacrifice on the cross was enough to satisfy the wrath of God an pay the debt that we could not afford. It's amazing to listen to and sing a song that reassures us of the scriptural truths that Christ's sacrifice was once and for all on the cross was enough to cover the weight of my sin. "For my life He bled and died, Christ will hold me fast; Justice has been satisfied; He will hold me fast"

These are the type of songs that we need to incorporate into our worship gatherings. I would say that songs like these are typically lacking in many worship services around our communities. It's not that we should fill our services with only songs like "He Will Hold Me Fast" but it's part of the liturgy that's missing in many of our churches. We need to remind ourselves of The Gospel everyday and we also need to be reminded that because of The Gospel, our surety before the throne stands and there is absolutely nothing that can pull us away from The love of Christ. We need to challenge ourselves to dig deeper in the songs that we sing and the truth that we proclaim.