Mars Hill Music

The term hipster carries a lot of baggage these days, some good and some bad, depending on how the term is being used. However, at it’s best, hipster rock has the potential to infuse strong doses of much-needed originality and artistry into what can often be a paint-by-the-numbers Christian music industry. Seattle’s Citizens marks Mars Hill Music’s first venture into the world of full-length projects with their self-titled debut, and it’s outside of the box from moment one.

Led by Zach Bolen, Citizens aims to build bridges with a developing culture looking to fully engage worship, not passively observe it. Shades of modern rock sounds resembling acts as diverse as The Killers, Kings of Leon, and Snow Patrol pop up, but this certainly isn’t derivative stuff. Especially engaging is the take on classic hymns that repeatedly draws the worshipers into action—there’s a raw energy and clear passion that doesn’t offer the option of sitting on the sidelines.

More: Citizens really do break the mold, bringing a West Coast indie feel to a debut that keeps the focus solidly on God without sacrificing artistic integrity. A strong debut that holds a lot of promise for days to come.

Less: Citizens’ very uniqueness make them hard to nail down. Are they a worship band? Are they an indie band? Are they a modern pop band? With the answer being “all of the above,” it may be time for some new definitions in the Christian music world.

Greg Wallace

Psalm 8: “Oh Lord Our Lord” by Calvin Nowell and Phil Sillas

Psalm 8

For the director of music. According to gittith.A psalm of David.

Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory
    in the heavens.
Through the praise of children and infants
    you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
    to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,
    the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
    which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them?

You have made them a little lower than the angels
    and crowned themwith glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
    you put everything under theirfeet:
all flocks and herds,
    and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky,
    and the fish in the sea,
    all that swim the paths of the seas.

Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Good Vibrations: Building Healthy Parternships between Lead Pastors and Worship Leaders

kelly Phipps1

By Billy Phipps (Lead Pastor) and Stefanie Kelly (Worship Leader)
RCA Church (Ridgecrest Calvary Assembly of God)
Ridgecrest, California

To the Pastors from Billy:
One of the most important components to a pastor’s ministry is usually the one that is most ignored. There is no substitute. There is no avoiding it.  And there is no faking it. You either have it or you don’t. What is the one thing? Health.

Patrick Lencioni, in his book The Advantage says, “The single greatest advantage any company can achieve is organizational health. Yet it is ignored by most leaders even though it is simple, free, and available to anyone who wants it.” In large churches with large staffs, oftentimes the lead pastor tries to delegate organizational health to someone else. In smaller churches with smaller staffs, the lead pastor is likely too busy to be healthy. Health is something that can’t be delegated—or achieved too quickly. Regardless of the size, style, or mission of the church, without health, the church is volatile, unstable.

Recently, my wife Annie and I have stepped into a new role as lead pastors at RCA Church in Ridgecrest California. It was at the same time that Stefanie Kelly moved to the same city. We crossed paths, exchanged stories, and found that God has placed us together to renew our health and passion for God and his Church. It is beautiful the way God has ordained our collective footsteps.

Stefanie, Annie, and I work hard to create and maintain health. Whether we are working on the Sunday Service, our marriages, or personal growth, we strive to be healthy. Here are a few things we do with consistency that may also help to bring health to your church and your relationships between your worship leader(s) and lead pastor(s).

1. Be Prepared
I think that the Holy Spirit gets most of the blame when it comes to a lead pastor being unprepared. We tend to “Wait on the Spirit,” when we should be calling on him: weeks, even months in advance. God knows the end from the beginning (Isa 46:10). Many of the frustrations directed from worship leaders toward their pastors are due to a lack of pastoral preparation, which leaves the worship leader unprepared and not knowing what to expect. We have found that the more prepared Annie and I are, the more prepared Stefanie is. Further, the more prepared we all are, the more time and room we have for collaboration, creativity, and consistency.

2. Communicate Clearly
When communicating with your worship leader, clarity is key. Try setting up specific meetings to discuss important topics. Have programming meetings or service meetings to discuss clearly what is planned for the weeks ahead. Talk about previous weeks, what was good, what needs to change? Have one-on-one meetings with your worship leader. Use the “Start, Stop, Continue” method. What do you feel the worship leader needs to start, what do they need to stop, and what do they need to continue? Be open, honest and ask for feedback. When we communicate clearly, it removes insecurities and second-guessing.

3. Build the Relationship
Make your relationship a priority and get to know each other outside of meetings and services (If you are a male and your co-worker a female, be sure and do this in the company of their spouse or other team members). Find ways to make the relationship important. Annie and I have made it a priority to get together with Stefanie and her husband Dave for dinner just as friends. We all appreciate getting to know each other in a different context.

4. Reward those you lead and lead with
John Maxwell says, “What gets rewarded, gets repeated.” Find ways to appreciate those you work with. Don’t just throw them any old gift card (although those work); find out where they like to eat, where they like to go. If you are unsure how they like to be appreciated, ask them, “What would make you feel appreciated?” You may be surprised just how underappreciated your worship leader feels.

If you’re a lead pastor, I know you’ll agree, there is very little time to spend on things that don’t work. Listen, health works. As a matter of fact, nothing beats it. Take the time to do the one thing that will make the largest impact. Get healthy, stay healthy.

Billy Phipps, RCA Church, Lead Pastor

To the Worship Leaders, from Stefanie:
I am thankful that God is a Master Planner. How else could this city girl be content in a small military town, with only one Starbucks, closer to Death Valley than a shopping mall? How was it that just a day after my husband received orders, our lead pastors, Billy and Annie Phipps (whom we had never met, also “city folk”), would be called here too? A year later, this feisty-for-the-kingdom, fiery little church called RCA in the middle of nowhere has enriched our lives more than we could imagine, and the friendship we enjoy makes the Phipps feel like spiritual soul mates we’ve known for years.

It is by faith that any of us can bloom wherever God plants us. And it is through faith that our ministry relationships thrive despite problems any church filled with imperfect humans is bound to experience. As our faith is renewed, we have seen mountains move. (And by the way, an enormous mountain range surrounds Ridgecrest—both literally and figuratively.) As a result, three faith statements encourage me to become a worship pastor that shares the burden with my Lead Pastors.

1. I am called and equipped to do what God requires.
2. I must know my lead pastors well enough to support their vision.
3. I serve God now and for eternity.

I am called and equipped to do what God requires.

No man takes this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God.
– Hebrews 5:4

We’ve all heard the song, “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands.” The key words are “and you know it.” If we are genuinely called into ministry we know it.

The first time my husband drove me to Ridgecrest was in the daytime and I cried…tears of sorrow! (The joke is that one must see the town at night first to keep hope alive.) Still I trusted God had a place for me because I knew my calling well. Worship leaders must be assured of our calling to God’s people, our communities, and our lead pastors. This assurance creates the confidence to lead from strength rather than insecurity (which, in our ever-changing culture, is often the case). With this call, we are guaranteed Christ’s power that has already provided the necessary history, skills, and experiences to multiply our resources and abilities supernaturally.

I must know my lead pastors well enough to support their vision.

Obey your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you, as one who must give an account…
Hebrews 13:17

Since both the lead pastor and worship leader publish the Good news (Isa 52:7), we must know each other well enough to be sincerely supportive through this joint mission. Because of much time invested together, I am convinced that Billy and Annie are committed to the Stefanie “away from the microphone” so minor challenges don’t become deal-breakers. I have seen firsthand that Annie cares about my marriage enough to give me good recipes so my husband doesn’t starve. I have surfaced out of my “cave” long enough to see that Billy is prepared, communicates with God intimately, and doesn’t make my work stressful due to lack of direction. Big sigh of relief—and big win for Christ’s team.

At RCA Church, the vision for our worship services is unification of every age and stage. To aim for such a variety of worshipers is considerably more work, yet far more rewarding. Because we have made it a priority to know each other and be known, I feel respected and trusted by the Phipps so that I can wholeheartedly submit to their vision.

By faith, I serve God now and for eternity.

…producing an eternal stockpile of glory for us that is beyond all comparison.
– 2 Corinthians 4:17

Newsflash: sometimes my lead pastor and I disagree! And though healthy tension, like in music, makes the harmony sweet, still I must remember my eternal value and the timeless purposes of my Creator. Sometimes I remind our musicians that no matter the breadth of our earthly influence, our gifts will one day be magnified in heaven. Perhaps an original song that was dismissed by your lead pastor (gasp) is already being sung by the angelic choir. Maybe the young violinist who is slightly sharp now is already perfectly tuned in the eternal orchestra. Dwelling on these thoughts create hope, and since our God will be worshiped forever, why not hope for the now and the not yet? The fruit of this hope is a ministry with longevity that is alive by faith not only in things that are seen.

In closing, I want to leave us with this thought: Someday the worldwide body of Christ will serve together in eternity. We will be “known as we are known” (1 Cor 13:12). My desire to finish this life well—for God’s glory—stirs in me a hunger for reconciliation in the meantime. Let us be in right standing with the people that we will spend eternity with, and as a result, we will all be encouraged and our communities blessed.

-Stefanie Kelly, RCA Worship Pastor




Psalm 91 with “Not Afraid” by CBC Live feat. Josh Lopez


Psalm 91

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
    and see the punishment of the wicked.

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
    and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
    no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

14“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
    I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.”