10696217_775026555884481_6654606037303221373_nThis week, Dorothy and I experienced our first FIRST IMPRESSIONS DINNER.  This is a very nice dinner for new members and people who would like to know more about Level Grove.  Many churches have this sort of gathering and it was wonderful.  Each staff member “hosted” a table of guests.  We got to know them and they know us.  Deacons served the meal and the atmosphere was great.

About half way through the evening, each staff member spoke to the group explaining their respective ministries and Pastor Brian wound things up by sharing the Gospel what it means to be a Christian and church member.  Now, I have been on staff as interim music man for nearly six months and I was blown away with all of the amazing ministries this church has.

Recently I heard, “Bill, you need to understand, we are a little country church.”  I certainly  understand and respect what was being said, but the fact is, Level Grove was, but is now  far from a “Little Country Church.” It certainly still has the warmth and spirit of a small church, however, each week around 700 worship at LG.  In addition there is a fully graded Sunday School and almost countless local and foreign mission ventures.  There are Bible Studies almost every night of the week.  The youth pastor and facilities manager feed several ball teams each week as well as any number of other groups.  The pastor and  youth pastor personally teach Bible Studies virtually everyday, the children’s minister is consumed with individual and group events each week.   Literally hundreds of children and students are involved in summer camps and Vacation Bible School.

Of course, there is a very strong vocal and instrumental music ministry involving children through senior adults.  Very soon, a new youth music ministry will be launched as well as new senior adult ensemble.

All this to say, that Level Grove has a rich heritage, but is not living in the past.  There is a deliberate effort to touch as many lives for the Gospel as possible in the 21st century.   The ministerial staff is totally engaged in serving and many of the members are equally so.  Anyone attending the First Impressions Dinner were….impressed.  Of course, all of this is simply to exalt the name of Christ Jesus and I pray that impressions will translate to knowing Christ and  engagement in ministry.

Level Grove presents CHRISTMAS CELEBRATION “To North Georgia, with Love”  DECEMBER 5 AND 7, 7:00 pm  



Waffle House/Church

Most everyone, at least those who would bother to read my blog, have eaten sometime in their life at Waffle House.  My children often remind me that when on trips, I would say, “There’s a Waffle House,” they have great hamburgers.”

In January of 1991,  my ministry at the Atlanta Baptist Tabernacle was in jeopardy as the church “fathers” were considering closing the nearly 100 year old ministry Atlanta Baptist Tabernacleon Lucky Street, downtown.  I personally was not under attack, but the new approach, “new wine,” wasn’t fitting into the old wine skins of this great old House of God where thousands once attended and countless souls  came to know Christ.    Right or wrong, my good friend and pastor was being blocked at so many levels of this very unique ministry.  (The Tabernacle story might consume another blog down the road.)

Anyway, in addition to the stress at the TAB,  we had worked  hard preparing and promoting Baily Smith as our special guest for a major evangelist thrust. Then, just a day or so before the big event, Bailey became very ill and had to cancel. That knocked me a little lower.  Add to this it appeared that Bill Jr. was on his way to Dessert Storm as a journalist.  Yes, I was a bit “down.”     My heart ached for the church and my family.  We had left Florida to work specifically in this inner city work and now things looked bleak.  For about the first time in my ministry I was beginning to wonder if it was worth it.  Churches aren’t supposed to close. I know, I know, I am to trust the Lord in all things, but sometimes my flesh takes my eyes off of Him.  I admit it.  Yet, the Lord has ways of gently getting my attention and floods me with his grace and assurance.

Enter WAFFLE HOUSE…  Sunday worship at the Tabernacle was at 1:00 PM and I stopped at a Waffle House near home mid morning.  It was odd to be eating breakfast when i was traditionally at church Sunday mornings.    I walked in ready for breakfast, but feeling pretty low.  I walked in and heard, “Welcome to Waffle House,”  “Hello” “Sit anywhere you can find a seat.”  The fact is, there were only a few seats available.  The place was almost packed and there was great energy and “fun” in the room. (I would wager there was more joy in that restaurant than in most churches in Atlanta that morning.)   I sat down at the counter and immediately was served coffee and asked what I would like to eat.  The waitress was very busy, but took time to greet me and make certain I had what I needed.  As I waited for my order I looked around. There were a few people like me, dressed in coat and tie, there were folks in jeans and sweatshirts, there were old people, there were young people, there were children, and even a few teenagers. There were Asian, Blacks, Latino, “red and yellow, black and white….”   There was even a Sikh.    It was cold outside, but warm in every respect.  (I was reminded of the Cheer’s theme, “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name…” )

Waffle HouseI watched and listened to the staff scurrying around laughing, connecting with customers and each other calling out orders, “Plate with browns,”  “Waffle,”  “Smothered and covered,”  “Plate with raisin”  etc.  (I am always amazed the the cook can hear fifteen orders at the same time and get them right.)  Customers were joking with the staff.  Some were very quiet, but seemingly satisfied.   As people would leave, I heard, “Thank you, come back.”  See you next week,”  “See you tomorrow…”

As I sat there it hit me, A CHURCH SHOULD BE LIKE A WAFFLE HOUSE.  It was clear they were glad I came.  The staff was eager to meet  and serve me.  Every “kind” of person is welcome.  There was happy  music playing.  Staff and customers spoke and smiled.  I was fed and was satisfied.  When I left they seemed almost sad that I was leaving and I was eagerly invited back.

I left with a lift in my step and in my spirit. God used a bunch of total strangers to renew my strength and faith.  The following weeks, I became acquainted with the entire staff at that WF and was even able to help some of these amazingly hard working single moms, students, and a couple of senior adult women who had discovered that their Social Security was not quite enough to pay their bills and had gone back to work.

Now that was over twenty years ago, but I remember that day vividly.  (I actually wrote Waffle House and shared what I had experienced; they published a my letter in their company newsletter.

FAST FORWARD TO THIS MORNING:  I slipped into a local Waffle House on my way to Lowes to pick up materials for Christmas Celebration props.  I experience virtually the same thing. As I thought about it, I pulled out my phone and made some notes:

. Looks like Keystone Cops

.The cook made me think of a pastor.  He welcomed me and seemed happy with each order.  He was glad to be of service.

.The assistant cook/pastor, was busy working along side, but obviously eager for the main man to step aside so he could preach, I mean cook.

.The waitresses were upbeat and happy, though one began to stand at the sink whispering about another waitress, The church gossip

.The gossip was “nice,” but did try to tell most of others what they should be doing.

.Customers were visiting with each other.

.Then, believe it or not, while I’m sitting there writing my observations, a lady actually called out, “Did someone turn on the air conditioner, I’m freezing in here.”  Talk about it being like a church,  I literally laughed out-loud and everyone looked at me like I was some sort of dork.

Though some of the new “hip” churches are doing so, I’m not suggesting the church should serve waffles;  however, the “come one, come all, welcome to a happy place where you can find friends and be fed,” attitude  of the Waffle House should prevail in the local church.

What it really sad is that my article is that the church should be like a Waffle House.

The mantra should be “Waffle House strives to be like The CHURCH!”


Busy, but pumped!

My most recent blog discussed the “Too busy” syndrome.  Yes, I’m busy, but I’m not stressed about it.



LEVEL GROVE BAPTIST CHURCH MUSIC MINISTRY.  First of all, it is a delight to serve the Lord with this wonderful church family.  This church has vision and a great desire to make an impact on North Georgia.  These folks are fun, yet serious in their mission to share Jesus.  A few days ago, LG hosted between three and four thousand at the annual Fall Festival.  The people of North Georgia know that Level Grove is here and eager to share the love and grace of Christ.

LG’s CHRISTMAS CELEBRATION 2014 will celebrate the season and the Savior.  On Saturday and Sunday, December 5 and 7, 7:00 PM, approximately 80 singers and instrumentalists, plus a number of adult, student, and child actors, along with the LG Media Team, will present a multimedia celebration where the Gospel of Christ will be vividly shared and celebrated.

On December 14, 6:30 PM, the Children’s Music Ministry will LG Kids at Christmas.  Visit the Level Grove Baptist Church website for details of these and other special Christmas events. 

LAST WEEKEND, I had the honor to work with my dear friends, Clyde and Betty Chiles at First Baptist Church, Centralia, Missouri, near Columbia.   I traveled with Clyde Clyde and Bettethroughout the U.S. and the Middle East back in the ’70’s during my “road years.”  Of the over one hundred Turning Point Crusades I had the privilege to lead music, I don’t remember a single gathering where I did not see people come to know Christ.  Last week was no exception.   (Yes, I am still “old school” when it comes to being excited when adults, students, and children come to know Christ.)        The Centraila Choir was not large, but a wonderful family of singers.   Minister  of Music,  Danelle Matthews, is an amazing musician with a marvelous spirit and a heart for ministry.  I am honored to have partnered with her leading the music.

IN THE MONTHS AHEAD, in addition to the ministry at Level Grove, I will sing MESSIAH with the Truett-McConnell Music Department and the Lord has opened a number of other opportunities with the Sons of Jubal, The Regional Gideons Conference, concerts, conferences, and choral workshops.  I love what I do.  (I should have retired years ago….)

FAMILY:   Dorothy and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to meet our new great grandson, William IV.  As of  this writing, Will is about six weeks old and has captured the  heart of our entire family.  Of course, we cannot express in words how much we love our children and grandchildren. All are actively serving the Lord in local church ministries.  I knowDottie and Will blogs are often reserved for intellectual discussion, but in a few days, I think I will give an update on all the wonderful things God is doing through our crew.  If the Lord called me Home today, I would leave this world of all men, blessed beyond words.

I am so grateful to our Lord for calling me those many years ago and enabling me to serve Him.

So much going on….

Not sure why I wrote the words below on this particular evening. It isn’t what I sat down at my desk to write, but this is what came out.  Apparently the Lord wanted to speak to me and maybe you too….


Stressed OutI hear all the time from church members, friends in the community, as well as family, “I’m tired, there is so much going on…”         I come into to church and as upbeat as I can, I say, “Good Morning, how are you today.”  Then I hear,  “I’m tired….”  Interestingly, for the most part, I don’t hear this much from older people, the ones who have a right to be tired.  I hear this from  young adults, teenagers, and even children.  (It happened just this past Sunday.)

Generally, they are referring not only to busy schedules, but “drama” in their lives. Work, bills, running the kids everywhere, dance, ball practice, games, homework, keeping wife happy, keeping hubby happy, keeping the in-laws happy, shopping, community and church activities, and even stressed about vacations and holidays.  Add to this, not only handling their own issues of life, but all to often getting wrapped up in other people problems.  Hey, folks, chill out…

Many years ago I sang in a brief meeting with E.V. Hill, pastor of the Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles.  In a way only he could say, “You know, people say to me, ‘Pastor, you don’t understand, I have a’ peculiar situation.'”

Then E.V. trumpeted in his booming gravel voice, “EVERYONE has a pa- (quooooool)- iar  situation.”

Of course there are extremes in our individual  “situations;” extreme illness, job issues, major family issues, etc.  However, the fact are, for most of us, we are all extremely busy and no one is particularly impressed about how much busier you are than they.   Our situation is not peculiar at all.  But there are so many things that wear us out and keep us so busy that are of no real value.  I love the word from Francis Chan…

Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but succeeding at things in life that don’t matter.

Each person must deal with that decision within themselves, however,  it would be good for all of us, every few weeks, or better still, every few days, better still throughout every day ask the question,  “Are we wearing ourselves out, working hard on “good things,” when there are “much better things” that deserve our energy?”  Too often, even Christians, settle for much less than the best.   No need to list all the things we do that distract, yet I admit, I struggle with this as well.

Even when  I was very young in the music ministry, spiritual giants have said to me, “Don’t you know the Lord says to BE STILL!” (Always with the exclamation point!) These were admonitions to not sing so loud.  However, this misinterpreted verse has become one of my all time most precious passages from God’s Word.  Psalm 46:10 reads,

“Be still and know that I Am God.”  What an overwhelmingly powerful word from our Lord!

A theologian I’m not, however, I do know that this word from our Lord speaks directly to you and me,

“Chill Out, I’m in charge.”  “I am weak, but He is strong.”  “Be of good courage, I can handle it.” 

The Apostle Paul wrote penned it this way in Philippians 4:6 and 7,

“Be anxious for nothing (don’t worry), but in everything by prayer and supplication (serious focused prayer), with thanksgiving,  let your requests be made know unto God…And the peace which surpasses comprehension will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” 

Now, what is the point of all this rambling?  For too many of us, “the things of the Lord,” regular Bible study, prayer, weekly corporate worship,  fellowship with other believers, and living out our faith, is simply on a list of the many things we do each day.  Instead of the framework on which all of our life hangs, our faith is simply just another rung on the ladder.  Now, friends, who happen to be reading this composition, even as a believer for over sixty years and one who has been in the ministry fifty, I admit I have fallen into this very consortium.  Still, I must remember, and you must as well,  Matthew 6:3

“Seek first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.”

The preceding verses reveal the Lord is talking about what we will wear, eat, and drink, our general well fare.  However, if it were written today,  I believe He would add our schedules, the kids, spouses, the boss, our deadlines, etc.  If we allow God to be the “uprights” on the ladder, He will help us decide the order of the rungs.

There have been a few folks in my ministry, and even some right now, that when I ask them “How you doin?” I hear, in so many words,  “GREAT!  Ready for a fantastic day. I’m excited to find out what God is up to today.” Father, help me to be one of those….


Musical Talent, uh…gifts?

I  am certainly aware that if totally prepared or flying by the seat of our pants, God often steps in and does His perfect work through our music.  We sit down exhilarated or defeated, we realize we had absolutely nothing to do with what He did.  I also know that God honors work.  He has given us “gifts” to develop, hone, and use for His Kingdom and to be a conduit of His love and grace to encourage the saints and witness to the unbeliever.  (I know I have written on this subject at other times, but it is vividly on my mind tonight. For fifty years, and now at Level Grove Baptist Church, I have been surrounded by marvelous musicians with hearts to pour themselves into ministry.  I am simply sitting at my desk feeling very grateful.  Of all men, I am so very blessed.)

Anyone who knows me, is vividly aware I am no theologian.   As a matter of fact, every time I preach, I know God has called me to sing….so does everyone else.  Still, after being saved for nearly sixty years and being in the ministry for fifty, God has taught me a few things.  I have listened to lengthy discussions of men far smarter than me concerning music, talent and gifts.  Is music a “gift” from God or is it a talent that, when developed, helps us to manifest the gifts God has given us?

..Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith.  Romans 12

…there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord……to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.    I Corinthians 12

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1

At the end of most worship services, someone will say to me or to one of our team, “Oh, God certainly has given you a wonderful gift.”  These comments are true, are well meaning and heartfelt.  We understand and appreciate it.  Yet, as a  leader, a minister of music, I am so very grateful that many wonderful people have taken their “God given gift” and taken the time to develop and sharpened their “gift” to skillfully play and sing.  The musician is blessed, the saints are encouraged, the lost see Jesus, and God is “lifted up” and glorified.

Thank you to the literal thousands of saints who have partnered with me these many years.



I thought I knew what “retirement” meant.  WRONG!  I certainly didn’t expect to rock on the front porch until I drop dead, but I did anticipate a little slower pace.  Of course, for the most part I set my own pace and I guess it is in my nature to run full steam most of the time.  Still, I am thoroughly enjoying these days living in North Georgia, though I understand the COLD  weather is coming soon.

OUR HOME:  Dot and I are enjoying our new home. The mountains are a long way from the beach, but they are beautiful.   Our house is considerably smaller than anything we’ve lived in probably forty years, but it fits us well.  The setting is very nice and I enjoy working round the house and the yard.

FAMILY: Of course, living near our daughter and son-in-law is a great blessing as well as a great  help.  We have not had any of our children close in nearly fifteen years.   We even get to see our sons and their families fairly often.  Though we aren’t “ancient” and are still in the “youth of our old age,” Dorothy and I sure do love to have our children and grandchildren around.  Speaking of grand children….

Will IVOUR NEW GREAT-GRANDSON, William Carl Coen, IV arrived last month. We have met him only through Skype, but we hope to meet him face to face when we visit Will, III and his lovely wife, Christian, in a couple of weeks.  They live in Wake Forest, NC, where Will attends Southeastern.

Level-Grove-LogoLEVEL GROVE:  LG is a wonderful place to serve and I am having a blast serving as  interim music man. Pastor Brian James is focused and fun, as is the entire staff.    The choir has about 50 members averaging 45 or so each week. The potential, however, is obviously at least 70.  Some think I’m crazy, but I can see that if they get serious about inviting and encouraging people to sing, there could be at least 70. Of course, with a platform designed for no more that 53, we’ll need to get creative.  As I have said over and over again, though many have tried to kill it,  the church choir is not dead, at least as long as I am alive…..

OUR COMMUNITY I have had the opportunity to meet a number of people in the Cleveland, Helen, and Cornelia communities and have developed some great new friends.  I have had the opportunity to sing for several community clubs and events and more are scheduled later in the year. 

Wrap Up One ChurchONE CHURCH I am honored to have been cast as Pastor Robert Young in the new motion picture, ONE CHURCH, A true story that hasn’t’ happened yet.  This timely story concerns the government’s attempt to totally overtake all religion in America.  The movie is produced by JC Films and Tri-Rahn Productions and stars Jessica Lynch, the young soldier that was captured in Iraq in 2003 and was the first successful rescue of an American POW since World War II and the first ever of a woman; truly an amazing woman.  I got to know Jessica during the film and found her to be a lovely young woman with a marvelous sense of humor, yet a powerful sense of purpose.  The film also stars Jason Fredrick and Tim Ross,  two very fine  young men.

Outside of the very powerful and timely story, one of the things that literally “blew me away” was the wonderful spirit on the set.  With a large production crew, a number of extras as well as the cast, I did not  hear the first  cross word during the entire month I was involved in filming.  With many set locations, there was a lot of pack up and move on, load and unload, set up, quick wardrobe changes, flubbed lines, corrected lines,  etc, etc, etc.     Of course there was serious and tense dialogue, long  hours, a lot of “hurry up and wait,” standing in place for long periods of time, stopping to move cameras, what seemed to be only inches,  and yet,  cooperation and a light-hearted spirit prevailed.  Everyone simply did what was necessary, serious about our work, yet there was lots of time for laughter and just plain fun.  We became “family.”

The obvious reason for the beauty of the filming process was that the Lord was in charge, no question. The director, Bill Rhan, is greatly experience, a true professional, but Bill is an unapologetic Christian and his marvelous spirit set the pace for everyone else. It was so cool to watch it all play out.  The film will be released later in 2015.

TMCTRUETT-McCONNELL COLLEGE:  We live just about three miles from Truett-McConnell and the music department is filled with good friends.  Dr. Ben Caston is chair and Becky Lombard and Dennis Allen are professors.  These are godly people, are marvelous musicians and wonderful friends.  Several of the students have become good friends as well and I get to sing MESSIAH with them November 20.

Of course, not all of the music students will become “professional” church musicians, but this school is not only teaching them to become outstanding musicians, but also teaching them how to live and relate in the “real world.”  The is HUGE.  (More about this later.)

Sons of JubalSONS OF JUBAL:  I have been active with the Georgia Baptist men’s chorus, The Sons of Jubal for about ten years.  Though I know the extreme value of being part of such a group, for the first nearly fifteen years I was in the state, I felt I was too busy.  Now I realize the SoJ should be a priority for EVERY minister of music in Georgia.  SoJ is far more than a “glee club.”  The SoJ is like going back to the university or seminary every time we meet. I may be “retired,” but there has never been a time that I have met with the Jubals that I have not learned something to “take home with me.”  Sometimes it is a technique, often is a great spiritual truth for me personally or one that I can share with my singers back home.

Of course, the fellowship is amazing and the friendships and bonds are eternal.  We sing, pray, laugh, and learn.  Some of my closet friendships I have ever  had have been birth through the Sons of Jubal. More importantly, some of the most sacred encounters with Christ were during a Jubal concert or in a small group in prayer.

I believe any minister of music in Georgia is making a phenomenal mistake if he is not in the Sons of Jubal.  I have served large churches and small I know first  hand that there IS time.


Well, my blog has become a “newsletter”  this time, but I just felt I would share the journeys of a newly “retired” music man. As busy as I am, I am actually setting my own pace, as the Lord leads and opens the doors.  Though I’ve loved my full-time work over the past five decades, it is so cool to go home in the middle of the day or even stay home if I choose.   I remember something Billy Graham said as he got older; he said something to this affect, If I had it to do over again, I would have traveled less and prayed more.  

I am no sage that calls young ministers to sit at my feet, but I would certainly say that I have spent a lot of time doing things that really don’t matter.  I’ve haggled over a $10 purchase while thousands were being spent on other things.  I was once in a church business meeting where the main discussion that went on, for what seemed to be hours,  was  what kind of mower the church should purchase.  (That is a discussion for another blog post, you get my point.)  SPEND TIME ON WHAT  MATTERS AND SPEND TIME WITH PEOPLE.  GET OUT OF THE OFFICE, “LET THE DEAD BURY THE DEAD.”  I believe I may have been more effective in ministry if I had retired forty years ago……..

Of course, God called me to serve Him and I will do it until a draw my last breath and then I’m quite certain I will continue in Glory.



After fifty years of ministry and over thirty major Christmas productions,  assumed Christmas Celebration 2013 would be my last.  I haven’t directed a “traditional” cantata since the early 70’s.  In the ’79 and ’80 I began to stretch a bit, then in 1981, Christmas Celebrations (Year) were born.  In the early days, David and Karen Boyd partnered with me at First Baptist Church Bartlesville, Oklahoma and together, we developed the format of great music, media, comedy, dance, and drama to share the message of Christ.  Of course, a number of churches use similar formats , but we had a tendency to “push the envelope” a bit.  Literally hundreds of people have helped me to the point that they do all the work, and I am the “cheerleader.”

I’ve used every style of music possible, traditional (whatever that means), classical, country, gospel, rock and roll, jazz, and even used rap…once….I won’t do that again.

I have received some criticism over the years, particularly, when it came to “dance” in a Baptist church, yet everything was done for a purpose and was part of the story line.  One time it was “reported to my pastor” that I was allowing dance in the Christmas program.  I learned later that the pastor “sneaked in” to a rehearsal to see what was going on.    It was there, but it was so  part of the story he didn’t notice.   Of course, in more recent years, I have been much bolder, but have revived very little kick-back.  Facts are facts, parents, grandparents, friends, neighbors, etc, will come to see a child dance and sing.  Numbers have come to know Jesus.

I sought out abilities, interests, talents, and gifts of our church families and community members and celebrated them.  I’ve had twirlers, comedians, dancers, ballet, and of course, countless singers and instrumentalists.  Actors, builders, painters,  media specialists…..babies, children, teenagers, college students, adults and some really old folks as well.  In other words, members of the body of Christ.  (I’ve even  had a live animals, dogs, cats, sheep, a donkey…….yes, but we had a way to clean it up.)

We celebrated the “season” and then made a bee-line to the story of Jesus birth and the Gospel. “The tread of grace” runs from the overture to the finale’  Some of my favorite story lines…

1.  Reality TV:  We created a “spoof” on reality TV, and then asked the question, “If  you  can buy this a reality, how can you possibly deny the reality of Jesus?”

2.  The Bucket List:  A fellow had a near death experience and immediately created a bucket list.  Through video, he jumped out of an airplane, raced a motorcycle, sang in a county band, etc, but left off trusting Christ Jesus.

3.  I wrote on celebration around the story of a hotel piano player featuring my good friend, singer songwriter, Archie Jordan.

4. One of my early favorites was written about the child that still lives in each of us and paralleled the child like faith it takes to trust Jesus.

5.  Back in  the 80’s we did a Star Wars Celebration and then celebrated the one who made the stars and sent THE STAR.

I’ve repeated some themes and songs over the years, but have never presented the same celebration twice.

FIVE LOAVES AND TWO FISH:  I look at the “seasonal” portion of my celebrations as “the five loaves and two fish.”  Jesus shared His love and grace, and then fed the people.    Of course, there people today that need food, but most need clean laugh, a great story, wonderful music and we share Jesus.

The Lord surprised me with Christmas Celebration 2014 and maybe He’ll give me a few more.  This year, I get to celebrate with Level Grove Baptist Church in Cornelia, Georgia.  I will write about CC’14 in another post.


One Church LogoA very special opportunity  and  honor has come my way. I have been cast in the new motion picture, ONE CHURCH.  This is a film produced and directed by my long time friend, Bill Rahn.  This is a “True story that hasn’t happened….yet.”   This is a very plausible story of how the government could easily take over the church in the United States.  My role is that of Pastor Robert Young, a pastor of a small congregation that does not “drink the Kool-aid” so to speak.  In last night’s filming, Pastor Young was confronted by a government official that was “most displeased” with the activities of his congregation.   It was an extremely intimidating experience for Pastor Young, and to be honest, me.

I am reminded of my experience in North Korea.  Sixty years ago, the church was basically obliterated in that small part of the world and we vividly see the result.  Though  I am confident that “the gates of hell will not prevail against the church,” I do believe that we in the U.S. are just beginning to experience the “suffering” that is yet to come against body of Christ, specifically for those of us believe in the inherent Word of God.  As I look back over fifty years of ministry, our freedoms have greatly diminished,  much in  the veil of political correctness.

To me is a it is a scary film, yet I am grateful to be part of telling this powerful story.

The stars of ONE CHURCH are American hero and former POW, Jessica Lynch,  Jason Fredrick, Tim Ross.  The full cast and crew are truly amazing people with which to work and again, I am so honored and humbled to work with them.

We are filming during the month of September in Rock Hill, South Carolina.    The release date is 2015.  I invite you to visit the website, and One Church Film on Face Book.

The World is Watching….


This week I wrote a simple post on Facebook that receive a great deal of response. It simply read, “The world watches the way we worship.”  Those of you who know me, have heard that again and again over the years, but I am burdened at how our congregations not only sing, but how they look as they “worship.”  Interestingly, white American church culture has  taught their children “behave,” be reverent,”  “sit still,” “don’t run with sissors….” etc.  I understand the  intent, but I am afraid we have missed an important aspect to worship.

As a child, I eagerly wanted to run to, and throw my arms up to my dad.  I knew he loved me and I love him.  This is the relationship God wants with us.  That is not disrespect, it is worship.   To a degree, we  have thwarted our worship activity so,  as adults, though  we often fellowship openly in the lobbies of our churches, we walk into the worship center as if Jesus has died all over again.  Black,  Hispanic, Asian,  and  other cultures teach their children to openly and freely worship and thus as adults, are free to express openly their praise.   Our intentions were no doubt pure, but the result is that our witness too often appears we have no real zeal for our faith.  Reverence is acknowledging who God truly is and worship is responding to that knowledge.  The worship of the Bible was often noisy and active.  Not “rowdy,” but it sure was not passive.

Right now we are all trying to wrap our brains around the fact that so many Christians are suffering greatly around the world.   As horrific as it is, it is bringing a great deal of attention to ChristiansThe world is literally watching believers and asking, “Is their faith real?”  With all this attention, this might be greatest opportunity the Lord has ever given us to boldly and openly worship.   As discouraging as it is around us, if we will minister/worship out of the overflow our relationship with Christ, we will not be discouraged and the world, our world, will see Jesus in us.

A dear friend once told me he wouldn’t pray in church nor sing a solo because he didn’t want to “show off.”  This isn’t about showing off, this is about openly proclaiming Christ in the pews and on the street.  We don’t need to be obnoxious or silly,  but unapologetic in our faith in Christ.  Jesus said, “If I be lifted Up, I will draw all men unto me.”  “So let your light shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”  The Psalmist said, “He has put a New Song in my mouth, even praise unto our God.  Many will SEE it and fear, and trust in the Lord.”   And my “Coenian” translation of Luke 10:20, “Do not rejoice that you have the coolest or biggest music ministry, but rather Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”  That is worship!

To the music guys…..God has given us  the ability to lead worship with our music.  Let’s make every effort to not only present  effective music from the platform, but get to know, to teach, to engage the guy in the last pew. Encourage him and select songs he can sing and not just listen to. (I believe the most important music in the church that of the congregation.) Teach him to smile and express his faith.  Remind him the world around him is watching.  Children and guests are watching to see if what we say is real is truly real.   Worship is a serious endeavor, yet true worship is consumed in JOY and those God has entrusted to us need to be reminded that the people  around them cannot see their insides, we must allow that joy to reflect on our faces and in our singing.  That’s not “showing off,” that is allowing Christ’s light to shine through us.

I close with something really cool that happened a couple of days ago where I am serving as interim.  I was wandering through the crowd before the evening service meeting people as I normally do.  I met a young adult  woman who was sitting alone.  In talking with her, she told me she had only been attending a couple of weeks.  (BTW, I told her that I have just one place left in the choir for a young woman who had only been attending the church a couple of weeks….)  Anyway, though she appeared to be shy and by herself, she was surrounded by a group of people who were totally engaged in worship, singing, reading God’s word, praying together.  This young guest was ‘watching’ and she saw Jesus.  I believe I will see her in the choir very soon.




Several Thousand Singers

Earlier today I posted a Facebook note acknowledging I didn’t know if anyone read my blog.  Well, the past few hours, I have learned there are quite a few of you and I am a bit shocked, and for certain, humbled.   These blog posts are simply “overflow thoughts” of my current and past ministry.  As I sit here this evening, I have been thanking God for the literally thousands who have sung with me the past fifty years.  I have had the thrill of leading choirs of eight or ten singers and choirs of more than two hundred.   I started as a clueless kid and now just an old “song and dance man,” yet my heart fifty years ago was to glorify the Lord, be an encourager to the saints, and witness to those who don’t know Christ.  I have the same  heart today.

I love to think about it and it would be a real hoot to know actually how many singers and how many songs. There must be a least a couple of thousand singers and tens of thou… uh, countless songs.   However, as much as I enjoy thinking back, I am most excited about the “next song.”

If you are reading this post and are an active singer in your choir, praise God for you; please remain faithful.   If you are reading this and are not singing and know you should, get in gear, use your gifts, sharpen your skills and partner with you minister of music and the faithful singers in your church choir.  Be a part of a great army of “singers unto the Lord.”  Yes, I like large numbers in the church choir.   Quoting my good friend, John Waters, numbers are important because every number is a person and every person has a story.  Your “story” and faith journey shows as a testimony of faith in your singing.

The world watches and listens to the way God’s people worship…..

Attempt great things for God….Expect great things from God