2013-08-10 18.45.51


Our city just finished up the 78th Annual Old Fiddler’s Convention. It is the largest and oldest fiddler’s convention in the world. Thousands of people camp in our local city park for the week-long festival of bluegrass and old-time music, and thousands more come to listen and enjoy the mountain music. This all occurs about two blocks from our church, and I was honored to open up the convention in prayer on Saturday night. I love sharing Christ in our community and I am already thinking about how we can start a Bible study during the day in the park next year, so if you have any ideas let me know. It’s a crazy week for our city, but it’s an incredible opportunity for sharing the love of Christ.

We listen to bluegrass all the time since my son loves playing guitar, mandolin, and banjo. Here is a video of my son competing on Monday night in the youth mandolin competition.

One of the other youth competitors from Monday night was on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno Thursday Night. Here’s a video of his performance

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As a former youth pastor, I remember years ago trying to lead worship with my Spin360 accompaniment tracks and an acoustic guitar (I’m showing my age here!). Since we didn’t have a full band, I would play the CD and just play along with the music. So when I found about Worship Pad Loops from Shalon Palmer, I was interested in trying them out.

Worship Pad Loops are pre-recorded keyboard tracks that you can play along with. There are versions for each different song key. They provide a full sound that you can incorporate into your band if you don’t have a keyboard, or just play along with on your guitar. They also work great as transitions between songs during worship. They can even be used as background tracks for videos.

I tried these out one day with one of our musicians who was recording several songs and the loops sounded great. We decided not to use them for the project he was working on, but I do think we will use these in the future. They can be used with songs of any tempo, and since they are based on the root of the key you are playing in, you can play them throughout the entire song. You can include these on a computer or an iPod since each loop is a 20 minute mp3 song. As with most products, the best way to understand this is to watch a video of it being used.

These work great for most songs, but remember if there is a key change or if the bridge gets a little crazy, they may sound out of place. I am interested in using them during times of reflection and prayer during special services at our church. The sound is just right to provide some ambiance without being distracting. The set is $29.99 for all 12 mp3 files for each key. And if you use the code faithengineer, you will receive 25% off.

From their website:

The Worship Pad Loops plays a mixture of professional studio recorded ambient pad sounds and guitar swells that remain in harmony or on the root of the key you are in.

One of the favorite uses of the Pad Loops is for songwriting. For 2 big reasons. One is that playing the loop in the key you’re writing in gives you a constant reference that you can sing along with, without having to be playing an instrument. Two is that these pad loops are so spectacularly awesome at creating ambience, that you’ll be in meditation mode creating a musical masterpiece in seconds.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of these loops to try out and review. I provide honest reviews and only recommend products that I believe in and use. See my full disclosure policy here.


Earlier this week, we had our community wide Bible School for kids. Each year, we bring together numerous churches to work together and host a great week of ministry to children in our community. We meet in our community park and have lots of fun, but our main goal is to build relationships and share Christ with the kids. Each night we had over 200 children and almost 100 volunteers helped throughout the week. Our youth from Cornerstone did a great job serving, teaching, and helping each night. Our theme for the week was extreme sports, and we taught through five words that explained the Gospel: God, Sin, Substitute, Believe, and Life. It’s been a long week, but we saw many lives changed through the power of the Gospel!

Tim Byrne, a professional skateboarder from Portland, Oregon helped us kick off our opening night. He did an amazing job skating and sharing his faith. I also was able to spend some time with him and he is the real deal. I love his heart for youth ministry.

I want to give a huge shout-out to all our awesome volunteers. We had people helping with music, teaching, registration, sports, snacks, cotton candy and sno-cones, security, and cleanup. Thanks to everyone for all your hard work. The picture above are all volunteers who stayed to cleanup and tear-down everything after we finished.


Wayfarer Camp 2013

July 15, 2013 — 2 Comments



Last week, we took a group of our Cornerstone youth to the Wayfarer Beach Camp in Myrtle Beach.  We really didn’t know what to expect, but I’m so glad we decided to go. Over the past 17 years, I have been to numerous youth camps, conferences, mission trips and concerts, but Wayfarer was one of the best events we have ever participated in. It was truly a life-changing event for our youth, and we are already planning on taking a much larger group next year. It was the first time that two of my children went as part of the youth, so I had to work hard throughout the week not to embarrass them :-) Here is what made this such a successful week for our ministry.



Wayfarer Camp is built around the ministry philosophy of the group 3DM. They strongly believe in building a discipleship culture in the local church. I have participated in workshops by 3DM, and I have read many of the missional and discipleship books by Mike Breen of 3DM. We had numerous times to meet together with our students to unpack and discuss what they were learning. Throughout the week we asked our youth the questions”What is God saying?” and “What are you going to do about it?”  The camp leaders said that their goal was for students to have a spiritual experience based not in a room, but with a group. The large group teaching flowed naturally into our group times, and I appreciate the camp trusting the local church leaders to disciple and lead their students. Our youth had many spiritual breakthroughs during the week and I am continually amazed to see God at work.

Large Group Teaching

Dave Rhodes and Chris Brooks were the two lead speakers for the week. Both did an incredible job of teaching and leading students through our theme of faith, hope, and love. So many youth speakers fall into the trap of guilt and manipulation, and I loved the fact that this camp focused on God’s redemptive power. The students learned that their obedience flows out of their identity in Christ, and they were deeply moved by what they learned from Scripture throughout the week. By having two different teachers, the message was not tied to a personality. Both speakers also engaged and talked with the students instead of preaching at the students. You could tell both had a huge heart for ministry and discipleship. They also provided several great experiential responses to the messages, so that the students could participate and learn through different learning styles.


David Walker led worship for the week of camp and did a phenomenal job. Seeing almost 400 youth together praising God is an awe-inspiring. From the first day, he engaged the students. He shared from Scripture, he shared his heart for worship, and he demonstrated how to listen to and respond to the Holy Spirit during worship. Our students kept talking about how much they enjoyed the worship times. They liked the authenticity of the the worship and they liked that it didn’t feel like a performance. The music was loud and powerful, and the students responded with passion.

Service Projects

One of the things that made us consider this camp was their emphasis on serving. While there, we were able to participate in two service projects. We worked with Barefoot Church painting, landscaping, and cleaning up, and then we cooked dinner for a local soup kitchen. A huge part of our mission at Cornerstone is engaging our culture, and this camp reinforced what we have been teaching. I love seeing students serve others, and it helps them realize that camp is about much more than fun and games.

Youth Worker Training

Each day, the Wayfarer team poured into training our youth leaders. We were blessed to be able to take Chris and Brandy with us, and Jennifer did a great job leading the trip for us. For me, it was a great week of getting to know our students better. I have not been as involved with youth ministry over the past couple of years, but this week was refreshing on so many levels. I enjoyed getting to know the other youth pastors, and it was great hearing stories of how God was moving in the lives of students throughout the week.


wayfarer-cornerstone-group worship

accidentalA few weeks ago, I read a book by Pastor Larry Osborne called Accidental Pharisees: Avoiding Pride, Exclusivity, and the Other Dangers of Overzealous Faith. I heard Larry Osborne share about this book during a church conference simulcast, and I wanted to find out more.

In the American church, trends come and go. One of the current trends is a much needed emphasis on the importance of discipleship. I have read and been challenged by books like Crazy Love, Radical, and Not a Fan. But I have noticed that many read the same books and walk away with feelings of guilt and shame, feeling that they will never measure up to a standard of extreme Christian discipleship. That is where this book steps in and provides balance and clarity to the topic of discipleship. God desires our obedience and faithfulness, but we must also remember that each person has different gifts and abilities. Not everyone is called to sell everything and travel to the other side of the world to spread the gospel to unreached people groups.

A book like this is helpful to bring balance and perspective. In our eagerness to promote discipleship, we must be careful to not start a new type of legalism, emphasizing works and efforts over grace. I enjoy reading books by Osborne, because they are practical and based on his pastoral experience as Pastor of North Coast Church in California. This is an interesting book because it counters some of my recent favorite reads. I do feel that at times, Osborne fails to obey some of his own cautionary advice as he critiques other movements and terminology within the church. Overall, this was a helpful book, but please don’t use it as an excuse for a failure to obey and follow Christ. It is far too easy to rationalize our faith and make excuses, so being radical is not always a bad thing.

Quotes from the Book

Continue Reading…


For the last few days, I have been trying out a new worship software package called Worship Media Creator. It creates video announcements, video countdowns, and custom backgrounds for worship. It also can function as worship presentation software in a pinch. The software is from the guys at SermonGear.com, and it can save you time if you are creating videos for your church. Here is a breakdown of what it can do:

With the Worship Media Creator, you can:

  • Build Customized Countdowns that animates to your music
  • Make video announcements in minutes
  • Create your own worship background loops, or add your own media library
  • Use built in templates to spread your message
  • Export your presentation to a video file to use in your existing projection setup, or project it live!
  • Share your projects and creativity with other churches

If you have ever tried to create your own countdown video, you will truly appreciate how quick and easy it is to create one in this program. This software really appeals to people who are intimidated by complex software, but it still has more than enough features for power users. However, it won’t magically turn someone with no graphic or video design skills into a professional. You still need a good understanding of gradients, shadows, colors, and fonts to use this program effectively.

The best way to understand a software package is to see it in action. They have a great video tutorial page, and you can even download a free trial version to check it out. Here are a couple of videos that show you how the software works.

Keep reading to see more examples and to see my final thoughts.

Continue Reading…

ChurchMag Top 20 - 2013Over the last few years, my blog has focused on both faith and technology. I have a passion for helping other churches utilize technology and social media. Since I’ve been finishing up seminary, I haven’t been as active in posting updates here on the blog, but I hope that will change over the next few months. I have a number of posts I’m working on.

ChurchMag is one of my favorite resources for Church Technology news. I’m honored that they have selected my blog as one of the top 20 Church Tech Blogs for the second consecutive year. Check out their list of the top 30 Church Tech Blogs to find other great resources, tutorials, and technology updates.

As an added bonus, you can subscribe to a twitter list with updates from the authors of the top 30 blogs. Thanks to ChurchMag for taking the time to discover and share these websites.

iOS7: First Impressions

June 12, 2013 — 3 Comments

2013-06-11 11.17.172013-06-11 11.17.37In case you haven’t heard, Apple announced this week the new version of iOS that will be released to the public this fall. iOS 7 will run on the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. You can find out more information about it on Apple’s website. One of the benefits of developing our church’s mobile app is that I have an Apple iOS developer’s account, which means I get early access to beta software from Apple. I’ve already installed iOS7 on my iPhone 5 and have been using it for the last two days. Here are some initial thoughts.


As with any beta software, don’t install this if you aren’t willing to deal with occasional crashes and problems. I had several problems installing it, but in the end, I was able to install it and restore all my programs and settings from iOS6. At first, it would not authenticate with Apple’s servers (even though my UDID is listed in the developer program), but after a restore and upgrade everything worked fine. I’m used to rooting android phones, so I was not surprised by the challenges.

Graphic Interface

The graphic interface is much different from the current iOS. I have read mixed reviews about it, but I like it. Apple needed to change things up, and I like their new direction. The screenshot on the left shows my current home screen, and the screenshot on the right shows the new control center that is reached by swiping up on the screen. The control center is the best new feature, although it doesn’t seem to fit the rest of the system graphically. The system does take on the color of your wallpaper, so it changes based on what you choose to be your background. The design reminds me of the MIUI Custom ROM for Android. They have learned quite a few lessons from Android and incorporated them into this release.


The Control Center is a huge time saver and probably the biggest improvement. iOS 7 also has better multi-tasking and better notifications. However, most of the features are just incremental improvements. Everything looks differently, but it still functions in a similar way. The apps have been improved, but don’t expect any huge surprises. Apple does typically add more features when the software launches, so this could change.


I would give this a B+, they improved iOS by taking it graphically in a new direction. I like the new look, and the 3D parallax feature really adds a sense of depth to the home screen and lock screen.  A few of my apps are crashing, so not everything is working perfectly yet, but that is to be expected with a beta operating system. I am actually amazed at how well it is working. I was expecting much worse. If you want to find out more about the software, then watch the opening video Apple showed at the Developers conference earlier this week.

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