Archive for the ‘ Lessons from Leading Praise ’ Category

New Student Welcome Night: Take 11

Once again, the time has come… I search for some music that people with a wide range of religious/non-religious backgrounds might be able to enjoy, and throw it out to our band. Each worship team member meticulously listens and studies to professional recordings of the songs to figure out their part, or at least come up with a passable substitute. We come together and try to put it all together and be “the band” that we’re charged with being. Richard D. gets a light show together to do whatever he can to make the way we look consistent with the way we’re supposed to sound. (And, boy, do we need the help!)

All this for a program to welcome new students to the UC Berkeley campus in hopes to introduce God and truth to them in the process…

gracepoint_berkeley_nswnThis year marks the 11th year that I’ve been put in charge of the music portion of our New Student Welcome Night. For the past few years, I’ve been asking our members, “Aren’t I getting too old to do this? I wasn’t cool before as it was, but now I’m OLD and not-cool!” This year, as I’ve put on a little weight, I’ve tried to modify my excuse to, “I’m too fat for this”, to little avail. Guys like Ander and Jon Chou try to reassure me, “No, no… you HAVE to do it. You’re cool! You’re not fat… just a little fluffy…”. But I can see right through all that, as I think they just don’t want to lead it themselves.

Seriously, though, I consider it a huge privilege to be right there at the start of the program, at the biggest outreach event of our church’s calendar. I consider it a privilege not because of the fancy program we can put on, with the conglomerate logistical and creative expertise from so many different parts of this church, but rather the whole reason we do it. I consider it a privilege because I know how so many of the salvation testimonies that God has blessed our congregation with have started with people getting introduced to the gospel through our NSWN. We have the luxury of having front row seats of our great and awesome God working in so many people’s lives, bringing them to know him and the salvation that he offers. That’s what fuels the excitement in the air for everybody involved, because we have much expectation of what’s to come, and how we can man up and partake in the harvest that God calls us to.

So, regardless of whether it’s a cool, young person leading the music time… or if it’s just “old and fluffy” me again, I’ll rejoice with greater anticipation of how we can help advance the ball up the field for the kingdom.

… year 11… I just hope I’m not still doing it when Jesse gets to Cal.

– James Kim, Gracepoint Berkeley Worship Director

Congrats and a Lesson…

Larry the Cucumber

The "real" Larry the Cucumber


Jon aka Larry the Cucumber

Last Saturday, Jon Chou (our lead bassist) got married to Carol Kim.  Just wanted to extend a message of congratulations to him, but also a lesson for all of us.  Anybody who knows him can testify that Jon is smart.  He got incredible scores on the LSAT and MCAT, scoring 99 percentile in both.  He is also extremely talented musically, seemingly able to play any musical instrument he touches.  And he also has perfect pitch.  When I was describing this to Joe Horness at our winter retreat last January, Joe said, “Wow. Don’t you just hate people like that?”  He laughed when I said that God is just in making Jon look like “Larry the Cucumber” from Veggietales.

But all of these things about Jon being impressive and all, what I respect the most about Jon is that those things don’t seem to be a big deal to him.  He shrugs it off as if they’re just the way that they are and that’s that.  Looking at his life and the tangible decisions that he’s made, I attribute that attitude to his relationship with Christ.  You see, you could be the smartest, wittiest, most talented person.  But being in a relationship with Jesus means acknowledging the fact that you’re a broken sinner, somebody who before the holy God deserves condemnation, who has received clemency and restoration from Him who gave his life to make it possible.  All the other things that may seem so impressive in this world simply fades into irrelevance as that resounding truth conquers you.  From what I know and can tell from Jon, that’s why he can have all that he does, and yet have his “it’s no big deal” attitude towards it, for which I think is God-honoring.

So, now that I’ve robbed some of Jon’s reward in heaven, here’s the lesson.  Whatever talents and skills you might have and put to use for God’s kingdom, if they are a “big deal” to you, then consider the possibility that in the work of honoring God through your “service”, you might actually be dishonoring him.

“You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise.”
— Psalm 51:16-17

I make this suggestion to anybody who is starting to participate in the Worship Team at Gracepoint:  Take a break from your participation to deal with God in what areas of pride or sin that God is prompting you to deal with, if you so need to.  Make sure you have regular, honest contact with spiritually mature people who know you and aren’t afraid to tell you the truth, as painful as truth may tend to be.  Worship God with a contrite and broken heart, so that what comes out of your mouth and your actions actually means something honoring to Him, because really, that’s far more important that what you bring to the table with your talents and skills.

Coming from one whose pride and ego are always looking for food, my exhortation is this… bring yourself to a place where all the impressive things about you aren’t a big deal to you, simply because even if you didn’t have them, you know that you’re a forgiven sinner, and that is enough.

… even if you look like Larry the Cucumber…

– James Kim, Gracepoint Berkeley Worship Director

Lessons from Leading Praise: Know the Song pt 2

Here is a story contributed by our David Lee, our Gracepoint Fellowship Church, Austin worship leader.homer_doh

“…as I lead the austin band, there was one sunday where john lin was leading and we were getting ready to do our closing song which was a new one. During invitation time one of his students comes to the front and he goes to pray with him. P.manny then tells everyone that we’d be closing w/ a final song. John is still praying and ppl are looking at me waiting for me to start the song. I’m standing there with my guitar and start strumming the intro when I realize that I forgot how the song goes; so I stop, walk over to dom and ask him how the song goes and he gives me a blank stare as if to say “ur on ur own”. Finally, john walks to the front and we resume after much laughter. Luckily henry wasn’t recording.”

Lessons from Leading Praise: More than Words

I have learned an important lesson regarding choosing praise sets – though the words are very, very important, I need to think about more than just the words when I prepare a set.

Potential problems that can happen if I only think about the words:

1) a fun rock-style song followed by a Celtic-style song followed by a somber hymn

2) 3 or 4 songs that are all difficult to play and all the instrumentalists (including myself) are wondering why we decided to play so many difficult songs at one time

3) 3 or 4 really boring sounding songs – words might be great, but everyone wants to go to sleep

Those are just some examples. I think this lesson became really clear for me one Sunday during run-through when we were working on “In Christ Alone” – the one that goes – “In Christ alone, my hope is found. He is my light, my strength, my song…” As we were practicing I just realized, “um, this song is kind of difficult to play. Are we together or all off-beat? Do we have any dynamics going on? Etc.” And I just felt like, “wow, I hope we make it through today’s set.”

So, after that weekend, as much as I might really like the lyrics of a song, I look at the bigger picture and look at other factors – how it sounds musically, how it will be for us instrumentally, how it fits with the other songs, etc.

Susan IskandarGracepoint Hsinchu Taiwan Worship Leader

Lessons from Leading Praise: Know the Song

Here’s one…

Lesson: Know the song before you try to teach it to the congregation.

I’ll never forget “Where the Love Lasts Forever” by Hillsong United. I was asked to learn it on a Tuesday morning, so that we could use it for that evening’s prayer meeting. I bought it, listened to it, figured out how to play it (it’s not that hard) sufficiently (or so I thought) for that evening.

That evening when prayer meeting began, I was particularly passionate in my prayer, shouting out my prayers against the background music that blasts out so that people can’t hear other’s prayers. But then came time to sing. We got to that song, and I started singing it, by myself, to introduce it. I fudged my way through the first verse, and then came to the chorus… stared at my chordsheet and then slowly stopped playing… silence… Paul (my good friend and our keyboardist sitting next to me on stage) gave me an odd look, more odd than he usually gives me.  I then said into the mic…

James: um… sorry, I can’t remember how this song goes…

Kelly Kang (leading prayer meeting, into her mic): oh.

Congregation: < some uncomfortable giggles >

James: Kelly, maybe you can sing it with me to refresh my memory?

Kelly Kang (Pastor Ed chuckling next to her): that’s ok… let’s just move on to the next song.

Congregation: < not so uncomfortable laughter >

James: ok… man, I KNEW this was gonna happen one of these days… OK, let’s sing this next one here.

Of course, I’ll never forget that song ever again.  But at that point, I just blanked. People were forgiving and I don’t think it ruined anybody’s prayer time that evening. At least I hope not.  Let’s just say I’m just glad I go to a church called GRACEpoint.

James Kim – Worship Director

Lessons from Leading Praise

Since this is my first post on our praiseband blog, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Ander and besides being a member of the Gracepoint Fellowship Church praiseband, I’m also serving on staff in Acts2Fellowship Gold, one of our UC Berkeley campus fellowships, and also lead the a2f gold praise band.

Contrary to what most people think, I’ve never had any dreams or ambitions of being a leading praise. I know that most of you are probably rolling your eyes and thinking “suuuure” but its the truth. I’ve always enjoyed singing but never did I ever dream of being on stage  doing in it in front of a few hundred people. In any case, I’m up there now and leading praise has taught me some things.

Here’s a couple…

1. It ain’t easy: I led praise for acts2fellowship gold this past year and like I told James, our worship director, I appreciate what he does so much more now that I know how much goes into putting together a praise set. I hope you guys don’t think we[praise leaders] just pick songs that we like and sing them. I always apologize to my band because I’m always late in sending them the set. The reason is because I want the words of each song to have meaning and to reflect a message of who God is.

2. You mess up: We had plenty of these this past school year. I can look back at them and laugh it now but at the time it’s nerve racking. I remember it like yesterday: there I was, standing in a dark room of 100 GPB with just the lights on me surrounded by silence. We had just finished a fast song and the band was transitioning into a slower song but which required the keyboardist to change effects on her keyboard. Since this was only our second time, she hadn’t figured out how to program it yet and so she had to scroll through the different effects looking for the one she wanted. Let me tell you, even though it was 30 seconds, it felt like an eternity! I remember thinking to myself “What if i just walked off stage?” Well I didnt, instead I just stood there feeling and looking nervous. Well, she finally did find the effect and we finished the set without any problems but boy was that a traumatic.

James’ response to this story when I told him…

Me: (I finish the story)
James: Hahahaha!

Thanks James, thanks.