Here are a couple of gems we just found in our church studio featuring Julie Thompson (with the GLC Trio).
We still miss her….
This is a blog entry I never would have wanted to make. As most all of you know by now, Grace Life Church’s own Julie Thompson (I called her “Jules”) died last week from a medically rare, freak illness. I won’t go into the sad details. Let’s just say it was a Sovereign God’s time to call Julie home.
Among many things, these thoughts have risen to the surface of my heart over the past week:
I didn’t know how much Julie meant to me until after she left us. Of course, I loved Julie….She has been a dear friend and sister to me in the seven or so years we worked together. However, I couldn’t quantify my brotherly affection for her until it was too late. To be quite honest, there seems to be something wrong with that. Maybe it’s a product of still inhabiting a fallen world. Maybe it is my own shortcomings….
With that in mind, I will purpose to work at assessing the depth of my love for all people with whom I interact—especially the three ladies in my home (my wife and my two daughters). I will try to capture the wound of this past week in a bottle and drink deeply from it to the end that I will more biblically value each and every person in my little corner of the world.
How I wish I could get 60 seconds with Julie so I could just tell her what she meant to me. Not that 60 seconds would be long enough—or 60 minutes for that matter…but you know what I mean.
Being a soloist/praise team member/choir member is a leadership position. One thing I didn’t see coming is the depth of connection that folks had with Julie who only knew her from her singing in our services. Of course, I would expect an unspeakable sense of loss for her husband, Scott, and her five beautiful children, Isabella, Rosie, Oliver, Vivienne, and Anne Genevieve. I would be surprised if her parents, Lyle and Linda, her in-laws, Jimmy and Judy, her brother, David and his wife, Natalie, her sister-in-law, Stacey and her husband, Will and the entire family didn’t go into mind-numbing shock at the news of Julie’s sudden passing. Folks in Julie’s small group, in our praise team and choir also feel as if they lost a family member.
What I didn’t expect is that folks from all over the world contacted ME to express their sorrow. Why would they call, text, and email me? It didn’t have anything to do with me. It’s probably because they didn’t know who else to contact. It could also be that they understood Julie’s leadership role underneath mine (and underneath Bro. Jeff’s). They went right up the authority chain to me because Julie didn’t have a musician’s role—she had a ministry role. One thing is for sure–I didn’t realize so many people associated her with her Music Minister. She wasn’t just a singer. She was a communicator. And she did so in the context of the local church. In so doing, she held a Christ-honoring influence over most everyone who became used to her presence on the services—from our congregation, to our church plants and partners, to anyone who watches our services at our website. These folks didn’t just hear news of Julie’s death, they experienced loss!
What does this mean for us as Music Ministers? We have to make sure that we understand the massive influence of those who are given the responsibility of standing before the congregation and singing/playing/reading/speaking. We have to properly communicate to folks who are already in our churches’ Music Departments and to those who seek membership that it is not a light, casual thing with which to be involved. It is a ministry that does wield influence and models Christianity to our communities and world. It’s much more than making music. It’s making ministry.
Julie understood that. As you may have heard in her testimony, once she became aware that God had given her a new heart, she didn’t want to return to singing in church until she knew God was ready for her to (by confirming it in her heart, her husband and church leadership). She had sung in church for years (since she was 15 or so) but didn’t know Jesus as Savior and Lord. During that time, she would tell you that she didn’t understand this principle at all. It was more about impressing people with her talent. But once that new heart was beating in her soul, any and all glory received was to be directed to her King.
This is why at Grace Life Church we have standards, drawn from scripture, that are lovingly looked to for those who are members of our Music Department. We expect folks in our choir to also be in personal accountability through their small groups. We expect them to be a member in good standing. We expect them to be at church even when they aren’t singing on the service. We expect them to have a good testimony to the community. (None of this in perfection—but a heart to repent into maturity in these areas.) It is not a light thing to be seen Sunday to Sunday before the congregation. It is a de facto leadership position—whether the musician realizes it or not.
She cannot be replaced. I wish I had a few more Julie Thompsons waiting in the wings. I don’t. Fact is, I have never met anyone quite like her. Julie had a standard for musical excellence that I have seldom seen in any musical circles. Maybe, before I knew her, those standards were to the end of her own glory. I don’t know. But what I do know is that when she would push me to make a choir special more effective, when she would agonize about her pitch on one particular note, when she would insist that we would all pronounce a particular syllable a different way (that’s stuff I’M supposed to be pushing!) it was all to the end of communicating her Savior’s gospel.
Pray for those who will now have to step up and possibly sing some of the solos Julie used to sing. They are huge shoes to fill. Fortunately, none of this was about Julie. Otherwise, filling them would be impossible. Thank the Lord, all of this has been, is, and will be about our matchless Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Therefore, while Julie cannot be replaced, others can develop their own ministry and relationship with our congregation and others that watch our services.
It is my prayer that the young ladies and gentlemen in our church now and who may end up at our church in the future would be inspired by Julie’s standard and effort to rise to it and—dare I say—even surpass it, not by making music for art’s sake but for God’s glory. That would make Julie smile, just as it makes me smile to know that I had the privilege to be her friend, her brother, and her Music Minister.
Here is another song featuring Julie Thompson. We had a trio together (Julie, me, and Pam Noblit) and had a blast singing together. I cannot tell you how much I’m going to simply singing with her–much less everything else that she was (sister, Scott’s wife, mother of five, soloist, etc.)
Here’s yet another new Grace Life Video. This one I wrote back in 2006 and integrated it into an original children’s musical I wrote based on “Pilgrim’s Progress” called “A Christian’s Journey”. I adapted it for our adult choir and had them sing it in the Shoals Christmas Praise we presented last month.
Here are the lyrics:
This righteous Man of innocence
Laid aside His own defense
And bore the wrath and wretched sin
Of all who put their faith in Him
And then at the appointed time
When God the Father gives the sign
This One will joyfully present
The souls His grace caused to repent
And the Lamb will be the light
In the city of our God
Our faith will then be sight
And we will stand in awe
“Worthy is the Lamb!”
With one voice we will cry
The Lamb will be the light
In the city of our God
All creation cries to see
The day of righteous liberty
Then new life in full display
We hasten on the coming day
We will rule and reign with Him
No longer bound by fallen sin
The matchless glory of the King
Will completely cover everything
Worthy are You
Our Lord and our God
A few months ago, we made the move (kicking and screaming) into the 21st century by changing our vis aids at Grace Life Church from Power Point to ProPresenter. It was in the time of totally reworking our Orders Of Service which was a product of careful, prayerful re-assessment—something every church should do.
After living with ProPresenter for several months now, I’m going to boil it down for those who have not made the change yet as well as a few other tidbits.
ProPresenter freshens up the look. There’s little doubt that the moving backgrounds (that Media Shout can also do) give a nice upgrade to the look of the screens. There are also some nice additional font options that I have not found in Power Point.
ProPresenter streamlines some things. It has the wonderful “Apply All” option that Power Point doesn’t have. In other words, if you make a change to one of the screens that you need to make to all of them, you can click “Apply All” and it’s done. Unfortunately, it will also change everything, including any cues that you have in a smaller font size. In other words, “Apply All” will make all the fonts in all the screens the same size as the screen in which you’re editing. Therefore….
ProPresenter demands a careful sequence of work. I have found that, unlike Power Point, it not only matters what changes you make, it matters in what order you make them. You really have to make your selections in the following order: (1) font style (2) shadow level (3) normal/bold/italics (4) left/center/right align (5) font size (6) individual screen edits
ProPresenter makes changing the background extremely easy. Unlike Power Point, where you have to go into the Screen Master and copy and paste, with ProPresenter, it’s one click. Plus having multiple backgrounds within a service is MUCH easier than Power Point.
ProPresenter presents some challenges. Moving backgrounds have actually made some of our folks here queasy. That’s something I didn’t see coming. We had to upgrade our choir monitors to a larger screen because the fonts weren’t as easily seen as the Power Point ones were. Some of that had to do with my selection of more modern, artsy fonts though. Also, some of the flashier, fancier backgrounds that work well on the congregation monitors didn’t work at all for the choir monitors. At this point, we aren’t even using any moving backgrounds. We might be able to go back to them once we figure out if slowing down the animations works after all. We just haven’t gotten to that yet.
ProPresenter allows import of Power Point files. But it’s not as simple as it sounds. This was a ‘must have’ feature before I made the change. But even after importing a Power Point file, there is still much editing to be done (at least 20 minutes’ worth) on each file (each song is it’s own file in the way we do things).
ProPresenter has iCloud. If you work from multiple computers, as we do here at Grace Life Church, this is a must. ProPresenter will allow you to download the software to multiple computers (unlike Power Point) but it will only allow presentation mode on one computer at a time. (Those with greater computer knowledge will understand how this is done—I don’t have that knowledge!) We haven’t made the change yet, but once we begin using ProPresenter in our choir room right before a service, this will be a necessary feature. (I’m still using Power Point in the choir room as of now.) This feature also allows me to work from my laptop and save to the cloud instead of having to always work from the computer in our O Pit (which runs the service vis aids).
I know many who read this can tell that I may still have lots to learn about using ProPresenter (any input is welcome). I wouldn’t have progressed even as far as I have without the invaluable assistance of our Media Pastor, Tim Martin. But I wanted to share a bit with those who may be pondering a change and hopefully this entry will help you make a better-informed decision.
Yesterday we began a new season in the life of our church. We began an entirely new Order Of Service on our Morning Services. In the past, we would do something like this:
10:28 Pre-Service Music (w/Orchestra)
10:30 Welcome from Pastor/Announcements/Missions Report/Opening Prayer
10:40 Time of Fellowship
10:42 Congregational Singing (3 songs)
10:53 Offertory Prayer/Receive Tithes and Offering
10:55 Congregational Singing (1 song)
11:45 Closing Song
Yesterday we changed the Pre-Service life music to almost 15 min. of Music Videos. We changed the welcome and announcements to a 5-minute video (called GLC-TV). We only sang 2 songs before the sermon instead of 4. We sang more after the sermon. It looked like this:
10:15 Music Videos
10:30 GLC TV
10:35 Congregational Singing (1 song)
10:39 Offertory Prayer/Receive Tithes and Offering
10:41 Congregational Singing (1 song)
11:30 Congregational Singing (2 songs)
11:40 Receive New Members (Just this Sun)
Why make these changes?
It gives a better segue from Small Groups to Main Service. While we didn’t want to interrupt the interaction with folks mingling before the service after they dismiss from Small Groups, we did want to give our people a better way to engage while waiting for the service. Playing music videos is a way to do that. We will also, on a rotation basis, have live music (praise team, band, or solos), or scripture readings (live or scrolling on the screen) with music bed as other options.
It streamlines the service. GLC TV will do in 5 minutes what live speaking would take 10-15 minutes to accomplish. Plus the announcements are more attractive and draw the congregation’s attention a bit better. It also eliminates the possibility of any mistakes in information that might occur (or at least lowers the chances). It also gives each minister a personal touch with the congregation. It also frees up Bro. Jeff’s (our preaching pastor) attention to focus only on the sermon and not have to worry with giving announcements.
It moves the sermon earlier in the service. This might help with those who struggle with attention spans or have to leave early due to other commitments (family appointment, work schedule, etc.)
It gives our congregation an opportunity to sing in response to the sermon. I’ve often wondered if we have the order of singing and preaching backwards. Historically, churches have done 80% of their singing before the sermon. We even think of the song service as a way to prepare a congregation for the sermon (and rightly so). However, I’ve all to often observed that it’s after the sermon that our congregation is really ready to engage in singing. Their hearts are full to overflowing as the gospel has been thundered from the pulpit.
Sometimes it’s just good to change things up. All of us are prone to get into a rut. Where we have freedom from God’s word, it’s sometimes a healthy thing to shake up the pattern to freshen things up and give your congregation a different perspective and help their attention spans.
This new Order of Service is very much in a fluid state. We’ve still got to bring the Choir and Orchestra back this Sunday. To be honest, this OOS presents some problems for the Choir. I’m praying that we’ll be able to figure out a good, effective, and proper way to keep the Choir central to the singing at GLC. Stay tuned!
Here’s today’s radio spot I did with Monk Boone at WSTS 100.9 FM. Today we deal primarily (although in a tip-of-the-iceberg kind of way) with Worship Wars in the church as we continue talking about the role of music in the church.
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