Tonight is the start of a three day conference here in Toronto called Unite in Worship. The next few days are full of workshops, keynote speakers, and awesome music. There are lots of topics, including youth and children's ministry, but I'll be focusing on the worship leading workshops.
Most of the music for the conference is praise and worship, and I have to say: This is not my favourite kind of music. Yes, there are some great praise songs. But overall, I find the lyrics are too simplistic for my taste, and the repetition drives me nuts. Sixteen repeats of "God, you're good" is not particularly inspiring for me. That said, I get the importance of this music, and I can't help but be amazed by the impact it's having on people. It's drawing people to the church and to God, and you can't brush off the importance of that.
I have a lot to learn about leading worship, and I feel this conference is one of the best opportunities for doing this. In just a few days, I'll get to experience the worship styles of at least 8 different bands and leaders, plus songwriting seminars, recording information, and keynote speakers. That's just good learning! In addition, despite my non-love of most praise and worship music, I just think it's so important to keep exposing yourself to different styles of worship and music. As a musician and songwriter, it's critical to take in all kinds of music. But as a Christian, I also think it's important not to get stuck in the my-worship-is-the-best-worship situation.
Tonight opened with a worship session led by Robin Mark. Robin has achieved some fame for an awesome praise song, Days of Elijah. (I told you I liked some praise songs. This is one of them!) He led music for about an hour with his band, which included some beautiful Celtic details with flute and recorders. He ended the set with Days, and it was amazing! To sing the song, led by the man who wrote it, with a great band, and a completely psyched-up audience was just incredible. God had already entered the house several songs ago, and now it was time to celebrate!
The keynote speaker tonight was David Edwards, a 6-foot-4 southerner with ADD and a killer sense of humour. At times, he was so quick and so funny you'd think you were watching stand-up. And then in the blink of an eye, he had you turned back to God. He spoke about creating an environment in worship that makes space for, and welcomes, God. He brought us into the book of Exodus, when Moses is about to follow God's plan and is expressing his doubts about his mission. God gives Moses three signs to show the people so that they will believe that he is an ambassador of God. David showed us the lesson in each of these three signs, and related it to how we can prepare ourselves for ministry. He also had some great words to say about researching the Biblical references in the songs you sing. All of this was such a valuable talk for me. As my ministry starts to grow and take shape, it is so important to keep God in the front, and to use it all just to serve him. Tonight was a humbler and a boost all in one shot. (Not quite sure 'humbler' is a noun, but you know what I mean.)
The night ended with the Late Night Cafe, featuring the band newworldson. I heard them last year in a smaller set up, but tonight, they were amazing! They mix sounds of gospel, reggae, soul, and funk to make their own spiritual sound. The audience was tired when they entered the room, but by the end, they were grooving and clapping, and even a little dancing. Very cool, and yet completely focused on God.
Tonight was great, but tomorrow is a very long day. Off for sleep ...