Behind the Scenes

  • Behind the Scenes
  • Breaking Out of the ‘Pai-seh’ Culture

    By Sabrina Ng

    We’ve all been there before, that dreaded ‘Who wants to lead the prayer?’, and in almost telepathic unison, pairs of shifty eyes start darting downwards and bodies start sliding down in their chairs towards the floor.

    I may exaggerate but I’m sure we all know it to be true in one way or another. And if you’re wondering what I’m trying to get at with that illustration; in our local Singaporean lexicon, we call it ‘pai-seh’.

    In proper English, to feel pai-seh is to experience feelings of shyness and/or embarrassment. It is perfectly normal to encounter situations where we can’t help feeling that way − but to be pai-seh regarding our faith and calling, this stems from something much deeper.

     

    The Fear of Man

    What exactly is this pai-seh that is so rampant in our society, and what does the Bible say about it? Essentially, the ‘spirit’ of pai-seh is the fear of man. Pai-seh is not biblical, and will hinder us from fulfilling our destinies.

    ‘For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God?
    Or am I trying to please man?
    If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.’
    – Galatians 1:10

    In church, many shy away when asked to lead a prayer, a song in worship, or take up a leadership role, thinking that they’re not good enough, that they would be judged by the level of their skill; this is pai-seh at play.

    When we allow this fear to take precedence in our lives, we succumb to thoughts of intimidation, insecurity, inferiority, and inadequacy. And if we let negative thoughts and fears consume us, we hinder ourselves from fulfilling all that God has called us to be, and robbing ourselves of the blessings we could otherwise have.

    Who are we trying to please? As Christians, we need to be more concerned about God’s business than other people’s opinions (including our own!) Remember, we are created in God’s image for His glory and to glorify Him. And being created in His image, we have been predestined as sons and daughters, called according to His purpose – there is no excuse to say that we are not worthy.

    ‘Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God.
    Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves,
    but our competence comes from God.’
    – 2 Corinthians 3:4-5

    Through Jesus Christ, we have already been given the confidence to walk in the calling that God has for each one of us. So what if we don’t have the best singing voice or are only able to pray five sentences? It has never been about being the best; God looks at the heart – at our sincerity and authenticity. Practice will make perfect, but ultimately, God is more concerned with our progress than our perfection.

     

    A PK’s Journey

    No one is exempt from the spirit of pai-seh and I’ve come a long way in my own journey of overcoming it. In my teens, I became acutely aware of the weight of expectation placed on me as a PK (pastor’s kid). Though I liked singing, I shied away from the spotlight, preferring to fade into the background (literally hidden behind a pillar) as a keyboardist on the worship team.

    As the years went by, the need for worship leaders in my church arose and I reluctantly agreed to step in to fill the gap. The initial period was challenging and I frequently questioned my own abilities. I was much happier just serving Him behind the piano; there were many people more spiritually mature, more musically talented than me who could probably do a better job, why would God make my life so difficult? Why would He set me up (the pastor’s daughter, no less!) to fail in front of so many people?

    Yet, in spite of my self-doubt and regret, there were occasions when I experienced glimmers of joy while leading worship, and they shone like diamonds in the darkness. God was impressing upon me the call He placed on my life, assuring me of the gifts He has given me to fulfil it. Slowly but surely, I began to walk in confidence and into the fullness of all that God had prepared for me.

    Throughout my journey, and even today, I am still learning that I needn’t be shy about what God has gifted me with and placed in my heart to do, because there is no competition in the Kingdom. God has given each of us gifts, not to bury and hide away, but to edify the body of Christ. We may not be the best, but let us be the best that we can be in our pursuit of God! He has something in store for each one of us in our journey of faith, so let us press forth, no need to pai-seh!

  • Behind the Scenes
  • Coping with Despair: The Importance of Emotional Health

    By August Lai

    A number of years ago, I was diagnosed with a chronic auto-immune disease. At that time, I had been living what I considered a full life. I had a job which I found meaningful, was actively serving in church, plugged into a life group, and had just participated in a major musical production. I felt good about myself and excited for the future. Then one morning I awoke with severe double vision. It persisted, so I sought treatment for it. After weeks of doctors and tests, I was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis.

    In the initial weeks following my diagnosis, I propped up a brave front for everyone around me but behind that sat a bubbling cauldron of despair, anger, and sadness. I started avoiding my friends, withdrawing from my family, and I couldn’t concentrate at work.

    It was in the midst of this that I gave up trying to make sense of the disease. I was adrift in a storm at sea and I realised I was trying to control the weather! I could only turn to God. After weeks of wrangling, I was challenged to release all the control and plans I had over my life. It was as if every bit of control I gave up to God would be exchanged for a small piece of supernatural peace. Months passed before I could honestly declare to myself that my life truly belonged to God.

    In retrospect, one of the most challenging aspects was how this emotional roller-coaster affected my life. When my emotions were ragged and frayed, it was difficult to connect with others, rest well, make good decisions, and be rational. Emotional health is not a state in which there is a lack of stress or problems; rather it enables one to cope well when life unexpectedly takes a turn for the worse. Here are two lessons I learnt which I will hold close to my heart for the rest of my life.

    Community

    In times of crisis, we need others who are willing to come alongside us to share the burden for a season. That’s when friends and family with whom we have strong relationships will rise up in prayer and support; trusted leaders can offer sound counsel when we are too exhausted to make good decisions. Without a supportive network, even a small one, I would be mired all alone in my irrational thoughts and fears. An engaged community can encourage you to anchor daily upon the truth of God rather than despair. Proverbs 24:6 tells us, ‘For by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory.’ Do not underestimate nor forsake the power and safety that comes with community!

    Identity

    Prior to the diagnosis, I had never seriously considered what it meant to be a child of God. I was not living from a position of surrender, so I would try to fix every problem I encountered with my own wisdom. Eventually I ran into a problem that all my wisdom could not fathom nor resolve, and I was forced to turn to the One higher than I. He then taught me about the heart of an Abba Father and I learnt how to be His child. I love this quote which goes like this: ‘God never promised us a storm-free, life but a storm-proof one.’ Within our relationship with Him can be found all we need to weather the storms of life – and it starts with knowing who we are in God! Isn’t that amazing? When we are assured about our God-given identity, we can then do what Hebrews 4:16 encourages us to: ‘Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.’

    By God’s grace, I was eventually healed from my condition. I am grateful not only for my health but also for my purpose which He continues to uncover for my life. There is great value in tending to your inner life, ensuring that you are emotionally stable and secure in who you are. I pray that you will be blessed in your season and discover renewed strength from the revelation of His great love for you!

  • Behind the Scenes
  • Assembling Your Guitar Pedalboard

    Pedals, pedalboards – words that perk up the ears and quicken the pulse of almost every guitar gear junkie guitarist around.

    We all dream of having our ‘ultimate dream rig’ – whether it’s our favourite Boost and Drive pedals (even Fuzz, for those who are of that inclination?), or the ultimate Modulation pedal for a divine ethereal effect, and of course our various time-based pedals like Delays and Reverbs.

    And who can ignore the ‘packaging’? Choosing a board to accentuate the look on the pedals, LED lights for aesthetics, and so on… It’s a rabbit hole, and it’s bottomless

    Nevertheless, here are some thoughts that I have put together based on my own personal journey to share. It is by no means conclusive, and definitely not the gold standard of guitar pedalboard set-ups, but rather some of the thoughts and experiences that I have collected as I have walked my musical journey.

    Tone is king!

    Before we even talk about a board, we have to understand that TONE is everything. What tones and sounds are you looking to craft and get out of your pedals?

    Knowing what tone you want will help you in decision-making when it comes to purchasing pedals. But how do we understand the tones that we want?

    Listen, listen, listen. Keep listening broadly and make a note of guitarists you enjoy listening to, and the tone they produce. After you do that, do research – see what fellow musicians think in terms of assembling gear to achieve those tones. Then, don’t just take people’s word for it, but try it out for yourself. YouTube is great, but inconclusive; always play-test the product in person so see if it sits well with your ears. We are all wired differently and we all listen to music differently, so it’s important that you like what you’re listening to as you’re playing.

    Building the components of the board.

    With that said, here are some basic principles that I always consider when building my board, starting with signal flow.

    Boost pedals -> Drive pedals -> Modulation EFX – > time-based EFX
    (
    We’re going to leave out the Volume or Wah pedals for the time being)

    As a general rule, we always put our Boost and Drive pedals right at the front of the chain, before any Modulation or time-based pedals. The rationale for this is simple: Boosts and Drives affect our tone directly. It’s what we want to fix and determine first, before sending that tone through Modulation, Delay or Reverb. 

    If we get our tone right, Modulation and time-based EFX help to bring it from good to great, but poor tone cannot be fixed/covered up by anything that follows.

    Boosts

    There are various boosts or pre-amp pedals out there, and it is really up to your individual taste (again coming back to the idea of tone). There are some extremely clean boosts like the RC Booster, that gives a nice, clean jump in volume, before sending the signal to other boosters to fatten up the sound. Some people even use some drive pedals, turn the gain real low to give a semi-dirty boost. This fattens up the tone before going to the drive pedals.

    Drives

    Different people have different tastes when it comes to drives. Drive pedals come in varied versions, from high-gain sounds to fully distorted or even fuzz sounds. Some of us have a combination of 2 or 3 drive pedals to have various stages of overdrive or distortion. In most cases, I would have a lower gain pedal followed by a higher gain pedal to increase the ‘dirt’ in the tone. Also, I could add a final piece which would be a fuzz, but that said, fuzz pedals aren’t as versatile and are seen as an ‘acquired taste’.

    Modulation

    In recent years, Modulation pedals have come back in a strong way. Such has been the emphasis on atmospheric sounds, especially in worship music, that these effects (and reverbs) have come to the fore for the guitar player. My personal preference is that modulation should be subtle (too much and it may end up like bad KTV sound). I mainly use these sounds in conjunction with reverbs. The Strymon brand has been really popular in the last few years for such effects, and using various combinations can really push the boundaries of the audio spectrum. The only limit is your imagination and creativity!

    Time-Based EFX

    Delays! Everyone loves delays…ha! Some purists dig the analog, tape-sounding type of delay. However, the trade-off in getting that coveted analog delay tone is the inability to digitally control the time or tempo of the delay (imagine manually trying to turn the knobs to set the tempo to the bpm – while playing!)

    On the other end of the spectrum are the digital delays where there is the very-necessary ‘tap tempo’, and various presets and even MIDI information to be explored.

    Again there is no right or wrong answer to which end of the spectrum to use. You have to find the delay pedal that suits your needs in terms of sound as well as ease-of-use. Strymon, Eventide and TC Electronic have proven to be very popular in recent years.

    Volume

    To round it off, some of us like to use a volume pedal. Do bear in mind that a volume pedal ‘sucks tone’ out of your sound. It really depends on your intended application, and how crucial is it to your playing. That said, there are workarounds and pedals that help to preserve as much of the tone as possible, if you still prefer using a volume pedal. For instance, JHS has provided a solution for that in terms of a modified Ernie Ball volume pedal.

    Putting it all together. 

    After choosing your pedals, you have to assemble your board. There are ready-made boards available (like PedalTrain) commercially, or you could look for carpenters to make custom boards. It really depends on your budget and what you are looking for.

    One final component – wiring or cabling, which is just as important as choosing your pedals. Good cables can enhance your signal, reduce noise, and hence improve your tone. It is also important to keep wiring tight and tidy, as it then makes it operating the board easier.

    With that, your board will be ready to go!

    Even after saying that, there is no end to the search and quest for perfection. There are always better effects, better cables, and nicer pedal boards; your musical and tonal preferences may even change over the years…

    The most important thing is to keep listening and keep experimenting, as music is very dynamic; it’s always evolving. Keep experimenting, budget well, and remember, it’s all in the quest for ‘great tone’.

     

  • Behind the Scenes
  • Learning to Celebrate the Success of Others

    One of the most exciting events the Awaken Generation Team has the privilege of hosting every year is our annual ‘Mid-Year Showcase’ – where a few of our songwriters, together with the musicians from other streams get to work together to arrange and present the original songs they have been working on throughout Semester One. It is definitely a huge highlight for us as Mentors to see our students get the opportunity to share their creative work in front of an audience, and ultimately revealing an aspect of the Father through their testimony and sharing. One of my greater highlights though is actually witnessing a beautiful culture emerge amongst my songwriting class – a culture that celebrates the gifts and successes of their peers.

    No doubt that creatives or humans, in general, will be confronted with an uncomfortable feeling that arises from insecurity one time or another – a feeling of discomfort when you see someone else succeed (especially in your area of gifting) leaving you feeling inadequate, insufficient, and left behind.

    God is in the business of breaking off this spirit of jealousy, envy, and ‘kiasu-ism’ from our lives. I believe God wants to rewire our ways of thinking (Romans 12:2 – ‘be transformed by the renewing of your mind’) in this area, to set you free so that you can rejoice and celebrate with those who succeed around you.

     

    Here are 3 truths I’ve learned to start walking in freedom in this area:

    1. Know that God is a God of ‘More Than Enough’!

    If God chooses to bless someone, that does not mean He now has less to bless you with!  Our God is Jehovah Jireh, a God of unlimited resource and of abundance. If someone else gets blessed or receives a breakthrough, learn to get excited instead, because if God can do it for him/her, He’ll be able to do it for you! Meditate on the truth that He is MORE than enough for you.

     

    2. Develop a heart of a spiritual father/mother/mentor

    Brothers compete with one another, but a father’s desire is to see their children’s successes surpass them in every way. Grow in your mindset as a disciple-maker, and know that your greater purpose is to sow into and raise up effective leaders in the Kingdom of God who will go further than you. We are part of the same team and want to see the bigger vision of God’s kingdom established on earth, and we need one another to achieve that!

     

    3. Trust that God has a unique plan in your life that only YOU can fulfil  

    Look at your thumbprint – no one else in the world has the same thumbprint as you do! I believe this is an external expression of your inner destiny that is in the same way, completely and utterly unique. Psalm 139:14 says that you are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’. As much as I would like to, I am simply not able to reach the same people as you, because I’m not you; I don’t have the exact same gift mix, personality, culture, DNA, spheres of influence, calling, and position as you. No one else can fulfil your destiny, except you! So, choose to break off the spirit of comparison, and learn to steward what God entrusted specifically to you and steward it well for yourself, not comparing yourself to others.

    My prayer is that the Lord will make you a CHAMPION for others. May God give you grace to be an encourager – just as Barnabas was to Paul. Allow God to take you into the fullness of the destiny He has for you, and know that it is His desire to promote and prosper you in every way.

  • Behind the Scenes
  • 5 Things That Make for Awesome Lyric-Writing

     “It’s only words, and words are all I have, to take your heart away.”
    (‘Words’, The Bee Gees)

    Music has always been a big part of my life – there’s usually a tune of some kind in my head no matter the time of day. But melody aside, it’s the lyrics of any song that really sticks with me even for years. Whatever the mood of the day, there’s always a good lyric to express and bring clarity to what’s really going on in our hearts, and this is all the more so when it comes to songs of praise and adoration unto God.

    So, for all you aspiring songwriters/wordsmiths, here’s a list of ‘5 things/steps’ you can take to hone your craft and make your lyrics awesome: 

    (1) What’s the Big Idea?

    As with all things, perspective is important. With each line or completed verse, ask yourself how it addresses, contributes to, or propels the main message/idea of the song. Each lyric is like a brush of paint on a canvas – how does it add to the picture you are painting? If there is one image or phrase that you want to leave your listeners with by the end of the song, what would it be?

    If you find yourself struggling to answer these questions in a sentence or two, chances are that you might need to spend a little more time reflecting on what you are really trying to say.

    (2) Go Back to the Source

    When you seem to have hit a roadblock with what you are trying to say through your lyrics, go back to the source of inspiration what was it that caught your attention and inspired you in the first place? Whether a picture, phrase, passage of scripture or moment of revelation, return to it and take the time to unpack your thoughts slowly. Linger there and invite God in, asking Him: “Where are You in this?”

    Chances are, no one is really pushing you to finish your song (unless it’s an #AwakenGen Songwriting assignment!), so converse with God over it and listen in closely. What is it that you have heard from the heart of the Father and what is it that you really want to say in response? I do believe that God is speaking to us all the time, but we need the discipline of slowing down to listen closely with intent (“Speak, for your servant is listening.” – 1 Sam 3:7-11). 

    (3) Write Relationally

    Once you’ve sorted out your big idea, put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) and write. Write down everything that comes to mind first – there’s always time to edit it later, so don’t curb your creative expression by pre-judging yourself and cutting off the flow.

    I find that it helps tremendously to also be clear who you are writing to. As you write the verses, chorus, bridge, bear in mind: who is this really directed to? (check out Deuteronomy 31:19-22 for a great example) Be specific – it is for the Church? The broken and hurting people? Is it a reminder to yourself, or perhaps, a love note to God? If it is a prophetic word that’s meant to be like a wellspring to dry bones, who should it be channeled to (Isaiah 50:4)?

    We write to express ourselves and have that desire for expression only because we are made to be relational. Understanding who you are speaking to/writing for will help shape the words you choose, and the way you structure them.

    (4) Metaphorically Speaking (Show, Don’t Tell)

    Now, for the nitty-gritty. Once you’ve got a working draft down (remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect!), examine each line closely and consider whether there is a better way to express it. A fantastic rule I’ve learnt from AG Songwriting mentor Ian Chew, is “Show, don’t tell”.

    There are myriad tools you can use to achieve this purpose – alliteration, contrasts, rhyming, symbols, metaphors, description of sensory experiences, wordplay, etc. Experiment, and don’t be afraid to try new methods that are out of your comfort zone; get into the habit of re-examining your creative inclinations/idiosyncrasies and challenge yourself to express things in a fresh way. One of my favorite things to do is write down a sentence and flip the keys words in that sentence to explore if they somehow bring a different angle to what I’m saying. For instance: “Do you know who I really am?” vsDo you really know who I am?

    I believe that good songwriting is oftentimes about laying hints and teasing a listener into exploring and unfolding the mystery themselves. Like a cat with a ball of yarn, release just enough so that the listeners pull on it and unravels the rest on their own. And guess what? It’s totally biblical! Jesus was always speaking in parables. For instance, in Matthew 20:1, Jesus says that the kingdom of heaven is “like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers” – what on earth does that mean??

    He’s always leaving some kind of mystery for us to discover. If the most Creative Being in the universe adopts these methods, count me in. 

    (5) There’s Always Time for Rhythm and Rhyme

    At different points of the writing process, stop – look through what you’ve written and read it out loud. Songs are meant to be auditory so don’t just look at it on a piece of paper or laptop.

    Does it flow well, or does it somehow feel choppy and misaligned? You will have a sense of it somehow. While our lyrics don’t always need to have rhymes, it should carry an inherent rhythm (or meter). The internal rhythm of the words that we write and the flow of our expression is very much the heartbeat of the song, and this especially true whenever we endeavor to write lyrics from the heart.

    It’s like the principle of ‘Selah’ in the Psalms: Pause. Listen. Realign.

    Lastly, (‘bonus’ point, yay!), our input almost always equals our output. I find that the more widely I read and listen, the more inspired I am to write. Build into your life the discipline of writing and create space to do it. The pen is not just mightier than the sword – it is a different kind of sword that requires sharpening as well.

    As you write, keep your ears, minds, and hearts open to how God might be moving all around us. It’s a great discipline to have a notebook at hand, just to make sure we don’t fail to capture the things that God is showing us. He’s always speaking – even singing – around us, and I believe that our role as songwriters is merely to listen in and be a scribe to the songs that He’s hidden all around us.

    The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue,
    to know the word that sustains the weary.
    He wakens me morning by morning,
    wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.”
    (Isaiah 50:4)

    Click here to find out more about Awaken Generation’s Songwriting stream!

  • Behind the Scenes
  • Developing a Pastoral Heart as a Worship Leader

    By Trisha Khoo

    As you read the title of this blog post, you may wonder why a worship leader would need a pastoral heart. Wouldn’t that be the pre-requisite for someone with the title of “Pastor” rather than a worship leader? I used to shudder whenever I heard the term “pastor” used in the context of worship leading, or worse, if someone used it on me. The pressure was almost crippling. But as I further understood the role of a worship leader and what it meant for the congregation I led each Sunday, I was gradually convicted that to steward my call well, I needed to develop a pastoral heart.

    The English word ‘pastor’ comes from the Latin word pastor, which means ‘shepherd’. And the primary role of a shepherd is to care for, lead, guide and protect his sheep and anyone who fulfils these functions serves as a shepherd. As worship leaders, we may not occupy the office of a pastor, but we have the most awesome task of putting scripture, prayer and faith-filled declarations on the lips of our congregation members weekly. The very songs we lead in corporate worship can be used by God to encourage, convict, align and draw people to Himself. This is especially powerful when it is coupled with a unified message brought from the pulpit. So what is necessary for developing a pastoral heart? Let me give you 3 points to ponder over.

    First, we need to realise that Jesus is the ultimate Shepherd. In John 10, He declares Himself as the true and good shepherd and exemplifies what a shepherd is and does. Psalm 95:7 says “For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand.” When we lead in corporate worship, we serve the function of under-shepherds to the True Shepherd. We operate under His authority. As He has called us to lead, He will empower us as we step out in faith to shepherd His sheep. Now, that’s liberating!

    Second, understand that our task is to lead our congregation to Jesus, not to ourselves. It is important for us to intimately know and be known by our Shepherd. Put simply, if our hearts are aligned to Jesus, we will lead and shepherd from a place of revelation; and our congregations will follow us because we lead them to the very One we follow ourselves. And that’s powerful!

    Finally, we care for our sheep and learn to put their needs above our own. Here’s where practical issues like song choice and style preferences need to be considered. For example, the latest Bethel song would sound amazing and the band will do a superb job with it. But if it’s going to distract, or worse… hinder others from encountering Jesus in the time of corporate worship, we miss our mark. Or if we choose songs that have questionable theology, we also do our congregation a disservice. We need to know the people we lead, care for them and be responsible in our roles as worship leaders.

    So be encouraged. As you invest in developing a pastoral heart, you will serve your congregations well, and the True Shepherd will be glorified!

  • Behind the Scenes
  • Revival Nights: Why We Do It

    By Ian Chew

    Looking back from 3 years ago when Awaken Generation hosted its first Worship Night to today, I am humbled and thankful for how God has moved powerfully in our meetings every single time. We’ve seen many touched by the tangible presence of the Lord, people getting healed and set free, and even non-believing friends encountering God’s peace and love. One of my favourite moments was when over 20 different churches represented in the room started praying for one another. It was truly a “glory to glory” experience.

    This year, we’ve rebranded our Worship Nights to “Revival Nights”, and here’s why: We believe there is a significance when worship and prayer converge unto Singapore’s vision for revival in the nations. We earnestly echo the dreams and desires of the generations in seeing Singapore fulfill its Antioch call, and in witnessing a spiritual outpouring as never seen before. Just to add, I am personally convinced and convicted that the next great revival of our time will be ushered in and marked by worship and incense that rise from the united Bride of Christ.

    “The priests then withdrew from the Holy Place. All the priests who were there had consecrated themselves, regardless of their divisions. All the Levites who were musicians—Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun and their sons and relatives—stood on the east side of the altar, dressed in fine linen and playing cymbals, harps and lyres. They were accompanied by 120 priests sounding trumpets. The trumpeters and musicians joined in unison to give praise and thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, the singers raised their voices in praise to the Lord and sang:

     “He is good;
    his love endures forever.”

     Then the temple of the Lord was filled with the cloud, and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God.”

    – 2 Chronicles 5:11-14

    We love to see the body of believers coming together in worship; regardless of church or denomination. When we gather “regardless of divisions” and come to a place of agreement in the spirit, there is a corporate anointing that is released from heavenly realms that permeates throughout the body of Christ (Psalm 133). God is attracted to unity. In fact, when the priests, musicians, and singers, stood together to minister to the Lord, His glory so filled the temple it became overwhelming. What transpired in this event led to an unprecedented rule and reign of peace for Israel in King Solomon’s time.

    As Bill Johnson says in his book Experience the Impossible, “Worshipers are positioned by God to summon nations to their destinies.” When we host the presence of the Lord on earth, it influences and shifts spiritual atmospheres over our city. In worship, we are essentially recreating the conditions of Heaven here on earth; and anyone who comes into it has the opportunity to be transformed by it. The level of faith created in such an atmosphere of worship is unlike any other.

    Most importantly, we strive to never forget to keep the main thing the main thing. We worship God simply because of who He is. Doxology is the ultimate goal. At the same time, we recognise that our Revival Nights are not an end in themselves – rather, they serve as a rallying point, a launching pad, an incubator of dreams; that God would awaken, stir, and set believers off on a trajectory towards the revival narrative He is writing in the nations today.

    We consider ourselves incredibly blessed that we get to be a part of the story, and my prayer is that you will fulfill yours too. Amen.

    Click here to register for our next Revival Night!

  • Behind the Scenes
  • Pastoring Creatives

    By Calvin Hong & Shawn Wong

    If you’re a leader in any capacity – in church, a company, your family – you’d have probably found out that leadership is an art. A leader requires flexibility, sensitivity, courage, and innovation, among other qualities, in order to be effective.

    In a creative environment, there are challenges that present themselves perhaps more frequently and overtly than usual. Some examples are a critical spirit, pride, perfectionism, and an ‘orphan’ mindset. All these stem from how each person answers this question: “Who am I?” Basically, IDENTITY – the fundamental bedrock that determines not just how effective we are, but every aspect of how we live life.

    As leaders at Awaken Generation, our whole role is to nurture creatives, and we get plenty of opportunities to do so with our songwriters, singers, musicians, and dancers. I believe leaders are often too quick to pass judgment on creatives, that they are too ‘emo’ or ‘edgy’ to pastor. The quickest solution becomes to typecast them, rather than get in the thick of it and help them to discover who they truly are. Leaders are often too quick to correct the ‘expression’ rather than to take time to call out their identity. Remember, it’s out of identity that creative expression flows.

    In pastoring creatives, it’s important that we recognise their gifts, but at the same time learn to work with their hearts. So as leaders, the very first heart-journey we must take with them is their path of identity.

    Establishing Identity

    Oftentimes creatives rely on their talents to prove themselves, but we need to help them express themselves from a place of knowing they are children of God. Why is this important? Because their talents don’t determine their worth; instead, their identity in God does. Once they have grasped this truth, transformation will happen, not just in their art or work, but in the way they live their lives.

    It’s usually the ‘orphan’ mindset that causes this insecurity; this mindset tells us that there’s not enough recognition to go around, and we always have to one-up ourselves and others to be appreciated, approved of, and loved. The problem is that orphans turn to the wrong source when they should be looking to God. This ‘one-upping’ game never really ends – orphans will remain orphans until they find their identity in the Father.

    Many creatives may find their value in the ‘quality’ of the art they create. But if we base our value on circumstances or what others say or think, we’ll always be disappointed, because these are fleeting and unstable. However, God never changes; He is the one constant, the fixed point. Likewise, our identity, rooted in Him, never changes – that is the most reliable basis of our value and self-worth.

    Bill Johnson (Bethel Church) once said, “If you live by man’s praises, you will die by their criticisms.” Delicious food for thought!

  • Behind the Scenes
  • Collaboration: The Model of Kingdom Creativity

    By Shawn ‘Walrus’ Wong

    God loves collaboration. Right from the beginning of time in Creation, we see the Trinity collaborating in perfect unity to form life.

    The Father who spoke, the Word of God (a.k.a. Jesus) was released. By the authority inherent in the Son, the Spirit of God, who had been hovering over the waters since verse 2, empowered the atoms and molecules into motion. The earth, hitherto formless and void, scrambled to align itself to the command that was spoken, like paint adhering to the motion of the Painter’s brush on canvas.

    As wonderful as the outcome of Creation was, let us pay attention to how it came about. Notice that each person of the Trinity had an integral part to play in the eventual result. It was a combination of the Father’s command, the Son’s authority, and the Spirit’s power. An example of perfect teamwork – 3 distinct persons acting with aligned values, demonstrating the spirit of unity like no other. That, we believe, is a model for what creativity was meant to be for us – collaborative.

    In January, AG held our first-ever Songwriting Retreat, where songwriters from different churches and denominations gathered to craft songs for our next live worship album, which will be recorded in July. We were so humbled by how the Lord blessed us with original, powerful worship songs that we believe will impact the nations.

    (Above: AG Songwriting students working together on a song.)

    One of those songs started out with a lyrical idea that I had about God speaking light into darkness. As a group, we came up with a melody for those lyrics, added more sections, and worked tirelessly to refine it into the best version it could be. After two days, we had finally completed the song!

    What struck me about the whole process was that by the end, 7-8 songwriters had contributed to it. The people who helped finish the song were totally different from the ones who started on it. There was no way I could have written the song on my own, without the group’s collective input.

    We were never meant to operate in a silo. The Bible is replete with stories of people coming together for the success of a specific purpose or project.

    When the Lord saw the Tower of Babel being built, He said, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them.” (Gen 11:6) Remember, God was saying this about a project that He did not even support! What more, when we begin to listen to His heart and come together in unity to create pieces of art that are Spirit-breathed?

    Let us decide today to throw out the spirit of competition, and to put on a spirit of humility that says, “Yes, though we may be quite different, I’m willing to learn from and work with you.” If a brain had an idea, it would do little good without eyes to look for the pen and paper to write it down, or legs to get to the desk when it finds them, or a hand to pick them up. We were always created to operate as One Body. As Lou Engle put it, “We can only fly UNITED”; and he wasn’t talking about the airline.

    We believe collaboration is the model of Kingdom creativity, that no piece of art can reach its utmost potential apart from a community – friends who love one another, are rooting for one another, and whose values and goals are aligned. Remember, if we are one people and have the same language, nothing which we purpose will be impossible for us!

  • Behind the Scenes
  • How to Empower Your Sound Team

    By Caleb Chan

    em·pow·er
    /əmˈpou(ə)r/

    verb
    make (someone) stronger and more confident

    The role of a sound volunteer is becoming an increasingly crucial need in churches, spanning from simply ensuring that there is sound, to helping create an atmosphere for God-encounters to take place.

    More and more churches and leaders are beginning to recognise the need for, not only available but equipped sound volunteers in the church. However, most don’t know where to start.

    In this post, I hope to help get you started on 3 powerful investments you can make to empower your sound volunteers to rise up and meet the needs of your church.

    1. People Investment

    Unfortunately, the sound team is usually not an area to which much value or attention is given. In my previous post, I encouraged sound crews to view themselves as part of the Worship Ministry. I would like to encourage leaders to view the sound team the same way.

    The sound team is often made up of volunteers who want to be a part of the worship team but do not play an instrument, non-serving members who have been called upon to fill a need (that was how I began), or musicians who double up on sound every other week. It can quickly become a gathering of passionless volunteers who report weekly, turn systems on, and push volume faders.

    You could always start with a simple “Thank you”, and if you already do that, go further! Empower them! If you see a need to meet up with your worship leaders, band members, or singers, then also include your sound team. Involve them in the briefings, debriefs, bible studies, appreciation dinners, meals, and anything else you plan for your worship team.

    Make investments into the lives of the volunteers and crew on your sound team. When you sow into this relationship, I believe you will reap volunteers who serve passionately because they know they are a part of the bigger picture.

    2. Equipment Investment

    A practical way to empower your sound team is to invest in necessary equipment.

    We want our songs and sermons to be heard clearly and audibly, but sometimes our equipment is no longer able to support the ever growing needs of the church. Newer and more capable gear are being released at lower prices these days and it might be time to consider an upgrade.

    I’m not suggesting you go out and purchase the best mixers and speakers available, but perhaps keep in mind that you plan to empower your sound team by providing them with better tools for the job.

    Listen to their needs and opinions, and work towards a good goal. Upgrades can also be done in phases if the budget does not yet allow for a full major upgrade. New gear might also renew interest and desire in your team to learn more, which leads me to my last point…

    3. Training Investment

    You could give a car to an unlicensed driver and he is likely to get into an accident and wreck it.

    One of the best ways to empower your sound team is not only to equip them with the right tools but the necessary know-how in using the tools to operate effectively. There is a common saying that it’s the ears behind the sound that make it sound good. We may never have the perfect system, but we can certainly optimise what we have. To do that, your sound volunteers need to be trained.

    It does not take an engineer with a diploma or degree to achieve good sound, no matter how technical sound can be. There are certain fundamental concepts that can help provide a platform for sound volunteers with no experience to start off. Just as much as we would not like to roster an inexperienced guitarist on the music team, it is unfair to roster a sound volunteer with no training and expect good sound.

    Again, I challenge you to make these investments. Have a plan to develop and empower your sound volunteers and I believe you will see – or hear – the difference!  Empowered sound teams empower worship teams to usher in the Presence of God.

    For more information on Awaken Generation’s Sound Training Courses, please click here.

    Caleb is a full-time live sound & recording engineer and mentor with Awaken Generation.