Tag Archives: sovereign grace music

Thoughts on producing Badminton Road’s first EP

It was nearly a year ago when I had the privilege of leading the band for our College Graduation service. Most of us had sung and played before with each other during chapels and conferences. Apart from serving together at college, we’d have not much in common!

But when we ran through this arrangement of “Crown Him With Many Crowns” for the first time, I had a sense that there was something a bit special about this band. In His kindness, since then we’ve had a year of wonderful opportunities to glorify God’s name and encouraging His people as a college band (Badminton Road).

I’m happy to report that we’re releasing an EP next Friday, 22 November – six songs from our Croydon community. You can pre-order/pre-save on BandCamp, iTunes, Spotify, Google Play and other digital platforms soon. And once exams and our last days of College are over (yay!), we’ll get to work on charts, lyric videos, song stories, and other helpful resources.

There’s all kinds of stories we could share of God’s incredible provision to make this EP happen – from last-minute donations, perfectly timed schedules, grace to solve band disagreements, unexpected ability to sing difficult parts, and non-Christians who watched us depend on God again and again. But for now, I thought I’d share three ways working on this project has impacted me.

1. My heart for God’s glory to fill the earth has grown.

The EP title, Among the Nations, comes from Psalm 96:3 –

“Declare His glory among the nations,
   His marvellous deeds among the peoples,
   for great is the LORD and most worthy of praise…”

Week after week of meeting workers serving in difficult places, near and far, have shown us that others who live out this passion too. And we wanted to encourage them (and ourselves) to press on and persevere in the unfinished work of proclaiming the gospel.

So when Kim, our lead vocalist, suggested we try a multilingual version of Sovereign Grace Music’s “Behold Our God”, I thought it was a bit too hard! But she was right — it’s turned out to be such a great idea! The words are fantastic: you have the amazing truths of Isaiah 40:12-14, the good news of Christ “humbled to the grave” for our sins and “risen now to reign”, and a chorus inviting us to “behold our God, seated on His throne.” So what better way to celebrate that than to bring together friends from different countries and cultures, and to sing these truths in all of our heart languages!

Each of us have a favourite moment on the EP, but I have several from this song:

  • The first line in the bridge reminds me of our friends in Central Asia who sing praises to Jesus softly, for fear of neighbours turning them in to the police. It’s a small way of remembering our persecuted brothers and sisters.
  • We got to feature students from our international community. There’s something amazing about watching your friends praise God in their heart language – whether it’s Japanese, Korean, German, Irish, French Urdu, or even Nepali!
  • We included a duet in Mandarin and Cantonese. With all the unrest and tension tearing China and Hong Kong supporters apart (even in churches and our families), Veronica and I got to briefly display, in song, a taste unity and harmony that’s possible when we glory in Christ Jesus.
  • The final chorus, we just sing in our own languages – to remind one other that our future reality in Christ isn’t monolingual, but far better:

“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.””

Revelation 7:9-10, NIV

There’s so many other magic moments throughout the EP – I’m so grateful for each singer and instrumentalist who poured their desire for God’s glory to fill the earth into each take, each strum, each line, each sample. May it move us to serve the Lord in whatever way we can to see His Kingdom advance!

2. My appreciation for working in intercultural teams has increased.

It quickly became apparent early on that we weren’t capable enough to do everything on our own. We so needed the Spirit’s help! Thankfully, we’ve had an amazing team of supporters praying for us and encouraging us since the project began. Whether it’s the team from Sovereign Grace (Bob, Bekah, Grace) who have reviewed translations, sorted licensing issues and shared words of encouragement, or the SMBC alumni musician community – Nick Freestone (whose song features on the album), Trevor Hodge, Brian Leung and others, we’ve seen first-hand how any work for Christ can’t happen on one person’s steam.

We saw God’s kindness in our team of contributors too. We were all different people – some introverted, some extroverted; with different communication styles, gifts and preferences. We like different food, have different upbringings. But with this project we got a chance to negotiate differences and serve with what we had in common in mind: our love for the gospel, God’s Word, and our brothers and sisters. We still had our distinctions and disagreements, but they weren’t as important.

3. I’m learning that we serve to be replaced.

It’s humbling and thrilling to think that we’re not the first musicians to have graced the steps of Benson Barnett House. From the barbershop quartets of the 50’s and 60’s, to the Music Conferences in the early 2000s, to worship songwriters such as Rob Smith, Trevor Hodge and Alanna Glover, there have been plenty of graduates singing and writing for the sake of His holy name.

We hope Badminton Road follows this rich heritage by providing a new avenue for creating and sharing music that glorifies God, and encourages our family in Christ in Croydon, Catalonia and beyond. But we don’t want to presume our longevity – God determines when our contributions are helpful, and when it’s time for us to fade away and others to do a better job than us. (Besides, it’s hard to stay together as a band when we’re all leaving for different countries in a few weeks’ time!)

We’ve come to go – and so our College’s Centenary Song, written by Rob Smith, reminds us of our main purpose:

We will declare your glory among the nations
We will proclaim your greatness in every land
Until the trumpet sounds and all the earth resounds
With the praises of the Lamb!
We will declare your glory among the nations
We will proclaim your mercy from shore to shore
‘Til every knee shall bow and every tongue confess
That Jesus Christ is Lord
Jesus Christ is Lord

We Will Declare Your Glory” by Rob Smith

I’m thankful to God for this opportunity to make this album with Rob Smith, Kim Patterson, Jack Batchen, Matt Williams, Jacob Oh, Jotham Booker, Luke Padgett and the many, many others near and far who have contributed their time and treasures. And I’m excited that you’ll all get to hear it in just a week’s time!

Until 22 November, you can pre-order Among the Nations on Bandcamp for $7 or more and download 2 songs now – with all proceeds going towards the College’s 100-for-100 Scholarship Fund.

Soli Deo Gloria – may His glory fill the earth!

US Holiday/WG11 Conference – edify, songwrite, organise, gather live

Day 3 of WorshipGod 11. One general session, two more seminars, and an evening of singing for a live album recording. We worship a generous King, showering kindness on us!

Edify

For the morning session, the worship was led by Sojourn Music. Their songs have a unique indie-folk sound to their songs, and lead using a neoliturgical style, incorporating elements such as responsive reading and structuring the songs using the gospel (from adoration, to confession of sin, to the work of Christ, to assurance of peace etc.) Very fascinating and fresh take on many of Isaac Watt’s hymns. I would particularly commend the song “Absent From Flesh” from their latest album, The Water and the Blood.

This morning, Bob Kauflin taught from 1 Corinthians 14:1-33. Rather than explain a particular view of spiritual gifts, he tried to show that the Apostle Paul’s main idea through this passage is to encourage the divided, self-centred Corinthian church to ensure that what we do in our gatherings edify, or build up each other. Not only that, God is the one who edifies His church when we gather. Another helpful message with very practical implications on how we organise our church services – for example, do we provide some way for the congregation to build each other up (whether planned or spontaneous)?

(Note: You can listen to the MP3 of the message here)

After the morning session, Cheryl attended two more workshops on sound engineering topics, while William went to two others:

Songwrite

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In a seminar titled “What Makes These Songs Great?”, Steve and Vikki Cook (writers of memorable songs like “Glories of Calvary”) walked through the melodic and lyrical features that help to make a worship song that stands the test of time. I found it helpful as it was the first teaching on songwriting I’d heard that pursued musical and lyric excellence not for it’s own sake, but so that it better communicates and shares the life-giving message of Jesus. It’s also sparked a dormant interest in my own feeble attempts and songwriting.

Organise

In this seminar, Ken Boer (Music Director at Covenant Life Church) gave helpful principles and ideas for how to organise a growing ministry team – this was very practical and covered things like personal productivity and organisation, timekeeping, team organisation, and leadership of ministry teams. I hope there’s things I can learn from this to better serve our teams back at Howick Baptist.

Gather live

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Recording the live album was fantastic. We sang through fifteen songs that trace the shape of a corporate gathering. The songs went from adoration, to confession of sin, to proclaiming the work of Christ, to assurance in our struggles, to preparing for the preaching of the Word, to remembering the Lord’s Table, to a sending off/benediction.

(Here’s a video of us recording/singing one of the new songs, “Generous King”)


The music was tight, the lyrics we were singing were all gospel-focused and gave truth in fresh words and phrases. My voice became really hoarse from singing praises to God so much. I kept thinking, imagine how wonderful it will be in Heaven to have glorified bodies to not only have the desire, but also the ability to praise the Lamb upon the throne forever!

We’re looking forward to when the CD comes out, approximately in November. In addition, they recorded lots of footage on camera so there will likely be video as well. How exciting that this could help to spread gospel-rich, life-changing songs!

Next: mission-focused meetings, instrument shopping, Sunday meeting

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Update (26/08/2011): here’s the full series of our time in the USA.

Part 1: Fly, land, drive
Part 2: train, jam, steak
Part 3: sing, meet, glory
Part 4: rehearse, seminars, NZ connection, Thabiti
Part 5: edify, songwrite, organise, gather live
Part 6: mission-focused meetings, instrument shopping
Part 7: Covenant Life, tears, crepes and goodbyes, Giant groceries
Part 8: DC take 2, travelling back, final reflections  

————————

– William

US Holiday/WG11 Conference – rehearse, seminars, NZ connection, Enfield, Thabite

Day 2 of WorshipGod 11.

A full day of 2 general sessions and 2 seminars, as well as dinner with a family with strong NZ connections. Wow, thank you Lord for such an amazing day!

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Rehearse

There was some more comedy from Mark Altrogge in the morning (it seems like a WorshipGod thing for Mark to encourage and make us laugh with the things he says!)

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Rich Gunderlock and the Bairds led us in singing this morning. This included some songs they had written, including “Completely Done”. I appreciated the way they pointed to Jesus through singing, praying, Scripture reading and words of encouragement.

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The teaching this morning was from Bryan Chapell. He’s written a book called “Christ-centered Worship” which I’ve bought, look forward to reading it soon!

Bryan Chapell taught from Isaiah 6 as a picture or rehearsal of the gospel, and how it can inform the way our services can similarly help us to rehearse the gospel progression: from glory, to grace, to mission.

(Note: You can listen to the MP3 of the message here)

Seminars

We split up and attended two seminars during the afternoon.

William
The first one (run by Bob) covered principles and suggestions when thinking through how to choose songs. There were plenty of really good ideas and things to consider – will be looking forward to see how to apply them when I’m choosing songs in the future.

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The next seminar was even more interesting – a few worship bands signed up to play a song each. Bob gave feedback, encouragement and constructive feedback. What was particularly valuable was some of the comments about band dynamics, voicing, arrangements etc that Bob gave from his accumulated experience with contemporary praise bands.

Cheryl
Two workshops by Doug Gould, a sound technician at Covenant Life Church, were very helpful. Lots of good explanations for how to reduce stage noise, how different types of microphones work and what they’re useful for, and more. These are workshops and learnings our own sound engineers at HBC would be blessed by.

Thabite

For the evening session, Thabite Anyawile – the Caribbean Spurgeon – brought the Word to us from 1 Timothy 4, emphasizing that the Word of God is to be central in our preaching. I would recommend this message in particular to both pastors and worship leaders, as there are principles and applications for both. If the Word is to be central in our gatherings, both should be on the same page!

(Note: You can listen to the MP3 of the message here)

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Some miscellaneous highlights:

    • The worship in song tonight was led by Enfield – and the energy and zeal they had was AWESOME!

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  • We got to have dinner with a family who have a special love for New Zealand. Susan Perdue spent some time in Taranaki as an exchange student in NZ, and still have special connections with her adopted parents that she stayed with. Philip and Susan have three children who are all very talented musicians – their eldest son, Chris, showed me his mandolin – what a neat instrument!

 

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  • It’s a fascinating experience being in a church where there’s a traffic cop to direct traffic in, and where there’s traffic jams after each session. wow.

 

Next: More seminars, Joseph, Live album recording

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Update (26/08/2011): here’s the full series of our time in the USA.

Part 1: Fly, land, drive
Part 2: train, jam, steak
Part 3: sing, meet, glory
Part 4: rehearse, seminars, NZ connection, Thabiti
Part 5: edify, songwrite, organise, gather live
Part 6: mission-focused meetings, instrument shopping
Part 7: Covenant Life, tears, crepes and goodbyes, Giant groceries
Part 8: DC take 2, travelling back, final reflections  

————————

– William

 

US Holiday/WG11 Conference – fly, land, drive

Reflections on our trip so far – exhausting and exhilarating! And the conference hasn’t even started yet!

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Fly

Flying in basically seemed like an extra long day (since we crossed the dateline)… it’s the furthest from home both of us have ever been. We flew on Virgin Airways, which was the cheapest option. It also meant three separate flights – Auckland to Sydney, Sydney to LA, LA to Washington. We tried to sleep on the Sydney-LA flight – not much success thanks to our body clocks. at the inflight entertainment was pretty good though. Also got some long-awaited reading done, started on Dr Edgar Andrew’s very well-written “Who Made God”, and continuing through “Worship by the Book” edited by DA Carson.

Land

We landed in Dulles International Airport (just outside Washington DC), and from there had to go pick up our rental car at 9pm, foreign country, and all the roads were back to front. Initially our idea was to pick up a US SIM card and then use my mobile phone’s GPS. Unfortunately that became out of the question once we realised that no one sells SIMs around here! After being stung with extra insurance costs and GPS hire charges (doubling our original online quote) – I (William) got behind the wheel and started our 40 minute drive from the airport to the host home.

Drive

OK. I will not lie – driving on the other side of the road is terrifying. I’m used to trying to adjust to the centre lane on my right, and looking out for the blind spot on my right before changing lanes. Now all this is on my left… it’s freaky. Still not used to it. Please pray for us when we are driving, we would love to see you all again!

The GPS was so helpful though – told us exactly which lanes to take and so on. We eventually made it to our host home in Clarksburg, Maryland, and were welcomed by Peter and Sherly Giglio (“JHEE-leeo”, not Gig-leo). They’ve been such wonderful hosts so far – they have about 6 other guests with them and are just very casual and welcoming about it all. Such hospitable people! Sherly’s testimony of coming to salvation in Jesus Christ was so wonderful to hear as well.

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Got to our rooms and finally got to lie down on a comfy, American bed after over 24 hours and crossing 17 hours’ worth of timezones!

Some miscellaneous thoughts so far:

  • Every American we have met so far has been very friendly. I wonder if it’s our Kiwi accents.
  • Speaking of accents, I can feel mine starting to slip already (I’m notoriously chameleon-like with my speaking accent, it changes very quickly to the environment I’m in. Sorry in advance when I get back and it’s all muddled up!)
  • it’s hot here. It’s almost as humid and tropical-feeling as our last trip to Kuching, Malaysia!
  • yes, the toilets flush the other way. It is very bewildering.
  • Driving in miles per hour isn’t too difficult – you can “feel” the km/h equivalent
  • While I think we were overcharged a fair bit with our car rental, at least we got a Lincoln MKZ out of it (complimentary upgrade).

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Thanks to God! We’re safe, no travelly effects (except for some jet lag), driving was OK, and everyone so far has been very friendy to us!

Next update: Whistlestop Capitol tour, Merthyr Tydfil Wales, Bolivian steaks, Es tu Gracia!

Update: here’s the full series of our time in the USA.

Part 1: Fly, land, drive
Part 2: train, jam, steak
Part 3: sing, meet, glory
Part 4: rehearse, seminars, NZ connection, Thabiti
Part 5: edify, songwrite, organise, gather live
Part 6: mission-focused meetings, instrument shopping
Part 7: Covenant Life, tears, crepes and goodbyes, Giant groceries
Part 8: DC take 2, travelling back, final reflections  

————————
– William Chong

HBC service redux: 24 October 2010

Just thought it might be helpful to share in a post, a bit of the thinking that goes in the background when planning a Sunday service. Throughout the week, there’s a fair bit of prayer, communication with the preacher, bible reader and the rest of the music team to do our best in leading the folks at Howick Baptist in corporate worship.

Here’s a recap from the Sunday just gone (24 October 2010).

Call to worship

The following is taken straight from my worship leading notes:

From Hebrews 2:6 we read:

It has been testified somewhere,

“What is man, that you are mindful of him,
or the son of man, that you care for him?
You made him for a little while lower than the angels;
you have crowned him with glory and honor,
putting everything in subjection under his feet.”
Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. (Hebrews 2:6-9 ESV)

And as the writer of Hebrews quotes here from Psalm 8, he’s onto something here… he shows how this Old Testament passage wonderfully foreshadows and points to Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. It’s a reminder that the whole of scripture points to, and bears witness about Christ. My prayer is that our praises, our songs, our readings, our message, all of it this morning will also point to, and bear witness to Jesus, our blessed Redeemer.

Let’s stand and worship together: “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth.”

1. How Majestic by Mark Altrogge. We had a tight group of contemporary-style musicians this week (guitars, bass, drums, piano, singers), which helped to give the song the energy and drive for this lively opening song, based on Psalm 8. Ended the song on the dominant, on a sustained C chord, to make the transition from this song (in F major) to the next one (in E major) more natural.

2. Glories of Calvary by Steve and Vikki Cook. A firm favourite at HBC. It’s a call to believers to remember that the gospel isn’t just a ticket to get into Heaven, it’s what shapes the rest of our earthly race. My favourite line, which has so much meaning packed into it:

“Lord take me deeper into the glories of Calvary”.

3. Jesus Came to Earth by Solomon Campbell, Dave Campbell, and Bob Kauflin. This song first came to my attention when I snuck into a Sunday School service a week I wasn’t on team. The children have a separate time of singing for about 10-15 minutes, and one of the songs that stood out to me was this one. It’s as clear a presentation of the gospel as you’re going to get (in the vein of Paul’s 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 declaration). I think the smiles on the kids’ faces when we started playing the song was worth the effort learning it!

4. How Sweet the Day by Stephen Altrogge. The thinking behind this one is that Peter recently asked the worship leaders to give some fresh Advent (or Christmas-appropriate) songs a go, to supplement the healthy staple of Christmas carols that we usually do. This one came to mind as one that the congregation might possibly be able to pick up. It’s got a light, happy tune and a catchy chorus:

“Oh sing for joy, lift up your voice
Let us sing for joy, the whole earth rejoice
Let us sing for joy to the Son
For Jesus our Saviour has come!”

5. The Greatest of All by Pat Sczebel, chorus by Fanny J Crosby. A song we taught during Peter’s study through Romans 8:1-17 a few months back. The chorus is taken from Crosby’s hymn “Redeemed”, but set with a fresh rousing melody. The verses are almost a paraphrase of the main themes from Romans 8.

Scripture reading: Revelation 5:1-14. Cyrus did a super job of engaging the congregation with the reading of this passage. You don’t sit and drift off when his booming voice is going!

6. The Power of the Cross by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend. What more needs to be said after singing this:

This the power of the cross
Christ became sin for us
Took the blame, bore the wrath
We stand forgiven at the cross.

Awesome.

Sermon: 1 Timothy 2:1-7. Our senior pastor Peter Somervell preached a convicting sermon from the text, imploring us to pray and intercede for the lost, no matter how distant from salvation we may assume they are. There’s none to lost to save, and if we don’t intercede for them in prayer: mayors, politicians, co-workers, relatives, friends, enemies… who will?

7. Let Your Kingdom Come by Bob Kauflin. I’d actually prepped (and the team rehearsed) with another closing song, Jesus Thank You. But after reading the outline of Peter’s sermon, I realised I had totally misjudged the thrust of the sermon topic (believing it would be geared towards verse 5, Christ as mediator). But the big-picture story he laid out convinced me that it was better to end with a song to encourage the church family to be faithful in the Great Commission, and to sing:

Let Your song be heard everywhere on earth
Till Your sovereign work on earth is done
Let Your kingdom come!

So it does pay to check emails on a Saturday night!

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Some other thoughts:

  • This morning’s songs were deliberately geared to proclaim and recall different aspects of Jesus Christ. This was partly to reflect one of my favourite verses in this morning’s text, 1 Timothy 2:5 – “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus…”
  • It was only when Simon pointed it out on Thursday that I realised that the set list, bar one, consisted entirely of Sovereign Grace Music songs. It’s a testament to how our church has steadily grown over the years to be more and more accepting of contemporary, theologically-rich worship songs – and I guess it just so happens that SGM put out many of them!
  • For some reason during the fourth or fifth song, the effects pedal for my guitar died. Lesson learned: don’t rely on battery power for this effects pedal!

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P.s.: For those who are waiting for the next in the Colossians 3:16 worship music blog series… well so am I! I’m mainly waiting for more time to flesh it out and write again. It’s been pretty busy with work commitments, and unlike Jamie Brown or Bob Kauflin, I’m not a full-time worship leader!

– William Chong