In Praise Of Free Fallin’ As A Worship Song

tom-pettynyWhen the news came in yesterday about the sudden heart attack and death of Tom Petty I was deeply saddened. His songs like “Learning To Fly” and “I Won’t Back Down” have been great inspirations to me. His albums – whether solo, with The Heartbreakers, or of course with The Traveling Wilbury’s – have been the soundtracks to so many car rides and road trips.

Not to mention the fact that his iconic hit “Free Fallin'” is one of my favorite worship songs.

No, I’m not talking about the line about the good girl who loves Jesus (and America too). I don’t think “Free Fallin” is a Christian song by any means.

But I do believe – from firsthand experience – that “Free Fallin'” is a song that’s paved the way for the gospel of Christ to be shared to countless students across the country.

You see “Free Fallin'” is one of the most popular Young Life club songs of all time. Young Life clubs (of which I led my fair share) focus on sharing the gospel to unchurched teenagers.

Their model takes the shape of a student worship service and blends it with crazy games, goofy skits and secular music.

Instead of confusing or scaring off unchurched students with unrecognizable worship songs, at Young Life club we would typically play 3-4 secular songs to sing along together and make these students feel comfortable before playing one simple worship song and sharing a brief story about Jesus. It’s meant to be a starting point for these students – a way to share the gospel by meeting them where they are.

The idea is to forge relationships and common bonds over the shared enjoyment of these popular songs and goofy games so that leaders can earn the right to be heard about the life-saving gospel of Jesus Christ.

I can’t count the number of times “Free Fallin'” was one of those secular songs we used at Young Life club. It was such an easy song to learn. And such a simple and fun song to sing along with.

3040_527750826645_2660631_nThe song was nearly 20 years old by the time I was a Young Life leader. Yet kids still responded to it. (John Mayer had a pretty popular and pretty great cover of it that came out around this time too which probably helped.)

They knew the words. They knew the melody. They had a blast screaming it at the top of their lungs alongside their Young Life leaders.

Our students particularly liked to goof around with the lyrics, chanting the “living in Reseda” line over and over again during every verse.

After club I’d often drive students back home. We’d talk for a few minutes about the Bible story shared at club, what was going on at school, and life at home. Then I’d crank some Tom Petty up on my iPod and we’d continue the sing along as we rode around town in my truck.

Now I don’t think any of the students at our club or at the countless other Young Life clubs who sang “Free Fallin'” came to know Jesus simply because of the power of a Tom Petty song.

But I do believe songs like “Free Fallin'”, along with other classics like “Brown Eyed Girl”, “Don’t Stop Believing'”,  and “Sweet Caroline”, have been used by Young Life leaders for years to play a small role in leading high school students to the cross of Jesus.

Singing these classic songs together, leaders and students with arms wrapped around each other and bouncing to the melody, set the tone for many a great night together with students. It created an atmosphere of joy and inclusion that allowed the message of Jesus to be presented to open hearts.

I believe Jesus can use a completely secular song to connect generations and pave the way for His message to be communicated effectively. I have seen it work. I have lived it. I can testify to the power of it.

Because the gospel is meant to be shared relationally. Ministry happens and lives are changed not when people are shouted out on the street by a stranger but when people form bonds by doing life together.

Sometimes sharing life together is about explicitly preaching the word and communicating what the Bible says about sin and the cross.

And sometimes sharing life together is driving around town with the windows down listening to Tom Petty.

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The Beautiful Compassion Of The Record Store (A Post For Record Store Day 2016)

View More: http://jbltphotography.pass.us/alexandkateA trip to the record store these days is an act of compassion. 

Sure there are plenty of new releases out on vinyl. In fact vinyl records are the fastest growing sales segment in the music industry.

But most record stores fill the majority of their shelves with vintage LPs. These are the records that get traded in by people who have no use for them anymore.

Maybe they inherited a collection from their parents or grandparents and they’re just not that into music. Or maybe they’ve played the records a million times and just aren’t into the bands anymore. Or maybe they thought vinyl died out 30 years ago.

For whatever reason they don’t see any use for the old Cat Stevens or Doobie Brothers albums. They look at vinyl records as an outdated format just taking up space in their attic.

Yet when I and other collectors come in to a record store we see the value in the classic pieces of wax. Continue reading

Monday Morning Music: The Next Storm

I’ve always enjoyed the rain. While others get depressed by storm clouds in the sky I tend to find them soothing.

In fact, I think it’s kind of funny when people freak out about a little precipitation. I know some people who won’t leave the house or drive their car if they see a rain drop.

And to be fair these people are probably more sane and just living more safely than I am, so I can’t really fault them.

It’s just that I don’t think hiding from bad weather is any way to live your life. So if you’re staring into storm clouds this week, maybe you could use a little Monday Morning Music to motivate you to step outside: 

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The Real Lip Sync Battle

Who knew watching celebrities lip sync popular songs could be so entertaining?

There’s no denying watching Tom Cruise and Jimmy Fallon serenade an audience member on “The Tonight Show” with “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” is hilarious. Watching other famous folks dance and pretend to be pop stars is what’s made the spin-off series “Lip Sync Battle” the surprise TV hit of the year.

“Lip Sync Battle” works because it’s fake. We obviously know The Rock doesn’t sound like Taylor Swift. Seeing him pretend to is so ridiculously over-the-top fake – which is what makes it so funny and fun to watch.

Lip syncing is tremendous fun. But it’s also easy and ultimately fake entertainment.

Anyone can lip sync their way through a song. It’s entertaining enough at first. In the end though it doesn’t actually accomplish anything.

lip_sync_battle_still

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Monday Morning Music: All Your Favorite Bands

It’s Monday.

Your mind is consumed with all things you have to do for all the things you have due.

After a weekend full of forgetting all your cares, the alarm on your phone reawakens all your troubles.

If only there was a simple solution. If only there was a way to stop worrying about all your problems. If only there was a way to take your mind off of yourself.

Maybe you could use a little Monday Morning Music.

dawes-albumOver the past few years Dawes has been churning out raw and honest music that hearkens back to the glory days of Jackson Browne and other west coast songwriters. While many of their songs tell long and intricate stories, the title track to their latest album tells a simple one. Continue reading

3 Steps To A Successful Halftime Show

I’m kind of done with football at this point.

Between deflated footballs and ridiculous press conferences and domestic violence and post-concussion syndrome, I’m honestly ready for this season to all be over with.

Yes, I’ll be watching the game on Sunday, just for the grand spectacle of it all. But I don’t really have the heart to write anything football related right now. (If you’d like to read something like that I have done it before.)

katy-perry-nfl-650So instead of writing a piece on the big game, I’m going to focus on something far less upsetting: the Super Bowl Halftime show.

This year Katy Perry will perform in front of the biggest crowd of her life. Between the 70,000 or so in attendance at University of Phoenix stadium and what will likely be a record audience watching on television and online, the “Roar” singer will be placed on an incredible platform for arguably the most important 12 minutes of her career.

You might think it’s a pretty special award for Perry to be able to perform on the halftime stage. After all, she is one of the most recognizable pop stars in the world just 7 years after her breakthrough hit “I Kissed A Girl” placed her in the public eye.

But you would be wrong.

Performing the Super Bowl Halftime Show is not an award. It’s an audition. Continue reading