Modern-day hymn composers, co-writers of the world-renowned song “In Christ Alone,” and Irish/folk music performers Keith and Kristyn Getty are leading worship at NWLC in San Diego, CA! Register now to join this special event, and much more!
From Pakistan to Kansas
Shehrazer Dawood and Azeem Moon Journey to NWLC
After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.
– Revelation 7:9
The National Worship Leader Conference (NWLC) has actually always been an international conference, with worship leaders coming from around the globe, making the enormous effort to come and trusting God for all of the details. Sometimes that takes a lot of faith, especially if you’re from a country where the US is in a current diplomatic stalemate, such as Pakistan. But, in spite of all the potential roadblocks, this year we had our first visitors from Pakistan, brothersShehrazer Dawood and Azeem Moon. These gracious and amazing brothers even brought those of us on the conference team a personally designed NWLC T-shirt. [THANKS!]
Their journey toward NWLC actually began in 1994 when an uncle from Sweden came for a visit to his family in Pakistan. He was a Christian and wanted to attend “a fiery church, not a dead one” So Shehrazer who was only 15 at the time accompanied his uncle to church. “I enjoyed it. I saw worship and fire.” Shehrazer promptly joined the choir and as he saw God at work in the congregation, he decided to be baptized. He still remembers the day, May 24, 1994. His older brother Azeem, initially wanted nothing to do with church, but after his wife began going and asking him each Sunday to accompany her, he finally relented and reluctantly went along. He continued to come back and after six Sundays he said “I felt the presence of God.” He continues, “My wife was converted before me. I said ‘I’ll wait and see.’ It took two years. And after those two years I was not myself. Before that, I did every bad thing: drank smoked, fought, hit [those in] my family. I have four sisters and two brothers. The whole family was saved…father, mother—everyone. A fire came into our house and went through our house.”
The two brothers are actively involved in ministry, Shehrazer as a worship leader and Azeem as an evangelist. They are also a worship songwriting team with Azeem writing words and Shehrazer writing music. In addition to their church community responsibilities, they are principals of a girls’ school and a boys’ school respectively.
Just before Palm Sunday of 2012, Texas-based Sherman Aten who with his family are fulltime artists/musicians that minister in the US and abroad, traveled to Phool Negar and a conference/crusade where he met both Azeem and Shehrazer [the brothers often organize crusades, which draw 8000-16,000 people]. Aten recounts the circumstances.
In March of 2012, I along with 4 other Texans traveled to Lahore, Pakistan to lead an evangelistic mission event that was organized by the two brothers, Azeem Moon & Shehrazer Dawood of Lahore. Our experience with the Christians in Pakistan was overwhelming. And what we saw God do in the outdoor meetings nightly was indescribable. Only God knows the hearts that were changed, because in a crowd of 16,000 people, who can really count the decisions for Christ!
After Sherman left, the brothers, Shehrazer and Azeem followed him on his website/blog and noticed that he was going to be attending the NWLC in Kansas and they knew immediately they wanted to go. They were supposed to go.
This presented a few challenges:
- They needed a Visa to travel to the US and that could often take up to a year. The conference was in mid July and it was already well into April.
- 40% of Visas are denied
- They would have to come up with a significant amount of money for flights and expenses.
The brothers found that to even be considered for a visa, they would need an invitation. So they contacted Sherman and asked him if he would invite them to go to the National Worship Leader Conference, He not only did that but offered to host them and take care of the conference and hotel expenses, while they had to furnish the money for travel and other expenses. Aten is an NWLC Alumni and comes back from year to year. Of course Sherman is an important part of the story of bringing Shehrazer and Azeem to Kansas.
My relationship with NWLC started 3 years ago as our family attended the KC conference for the first time. We have an itinerant worship music ministry based in Texas that has been operating for 21 years, known simply as the Aten Family. The NWLC has always been an inspiration through practical teaching & spiritual growth for us. We are on the road about 35 weeks a year in different churches & arenas as well as working in foreign fields as Pakistan and getting fed from those who do what we do is a crucial part of keeping us useful. God used the NWLC to get Azeem and Shehrazer here even though they really had no clue what they were about to experience
Sherman comments, “for a Pakistani to get a US Visa, is like the sky, it usually takes one year to investigate,” Azeem chimes in, “After we applied, we had a Visa in one week” They all agree, “It was a miracle.” They used their vacation time and pay from school and then ask friends and family to help. Which goes to show you if God wants you someplace and you’re willing, he’ll move heaven and earth to get you there.
Shehrazer was amazed by the array of instruments at NWLC. He says, “I lead playing harmonium, a pump organ, and singing. We only have a harmonium and tabla (two drum set).” The congregation sings Pakistani songs in Urdu, but they do have a few classic imports from the US: “Hallelujah” and “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord,” both from the ‘70s Jesus Movement.
While at the NWLC, The brothers split their classes between practical and theological Vonda Dyer taught Shehrazer vocal techniques, Ray Jones gave them the roadmap for starting a worship choir and they learned from Scotty Smith about pastoral leadership and “Leading with a Limp.” They accessed Lance Winkler’s wisdom on songwriting and contemporizing hymns, among many other workshops.
Both were impressed by the conference and the conference volunteers and attendees. Azeem observed, “I liked the discipline. 1700 people—they asked you to go first. They waited for others. I loved the volunteers. They come to help. In Pakistan older people don’t want to do something and younger people don’t want to volunteer unless they are paid.” (And we agree the Church of the Resurrection volunteers are an 11 on a scale of one to 10.) Shehrazer smiled adding, “The worship touched my heart, all the styles and instruments, I feel the Holy Spirit is working here, changing you.”
In a country that is 97% Muslim and only 3% Christian, there can be some serious and challenges from the inside as well as the outside. “God is moving…Some churches are on fire. Some are sleeping,” says Shehrazer. The brothers concur: “We are trying to wake them, but we cannot wake the leaders, only the congregational people.” They do this through crusades that draw as many as 16,000 people. “Our priority is to give the glory to the Lord, involve the people in worship—to give a place of honor to the Holy Spirit. We want to encourage and teach people how they can live in Pakistan, be good citizens and live as Christians.”
In their school, they educate Muslims as well as Christians, so how they live their lives in Christ is daily on display to their community. They hope to open a Christian college, with discipleship and ministry training in two or three years. Both brothers have extended a welcome to NWLC to come and do a conference in Pakistan… Whether that will happen is yet to be seen, but we hope when your church plans a mission trip, they’ll think about going and encouraging our dear brothers in Pakistan Azeem and Shehrazer. And if you have any extra musical instruments, bring them when you come so more of their congregation can join in the musical part of singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to our mighty God.
Sherman Aten’s relationship with Shehrazer and Azeem has born fruit in so many ways. We at NWLC have been blessed by meeting part of our family who live half way around the world and in Pakistan, and Sherman attests to the results from the crusade earlier this year. “This experience has birthed three new church starts in Phool Neghar & Patoki, Pakistan.” He adds, “We are planning on returning to Pakistan in 2013.”
We at NWLC are hoping our brothers in Pakistan will return to NWLC and bring the pastors, worship leaders and teams from all three of these new churches to celebrate together with us in 2013.
Azeem and Shehrazer can be reached on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/azeem.moon.9; http://www.facebook.com/shehrazer
Read more about Pakistan and Sherman Aten’s ministry by visiting their website at www.a10s.org
There is still time to attend NWLC California, Find out more here.
5 Tips to Perfect Planning
By Aaron Stewart
There I was, hanging from a cable hundreds of feet over the rocky ravine. Though zipping through the jungles of Mexico harnessed to a steel cable was an exhilarating experience, as subsequent lines got higher and longer, I did occasionally wonder if the ragtag group of tour guides I had entrusted my life to had been adequately thorough in their planning and preparation. When the stakes (and the altitude) are that high, you want to know the cables are strong and that you won’t smash into any trees.
When people come to church, they are trusting that you as the worship leader know where you are going, have been there before, and are ready to help them experience God. That responsibility requires us to give our best not only while leading worship, but in planning it as well. If we are trying to continually improve our skills as part of the “performance” of worship leading, we can use the following 5 guidelines to help us in that pursuit.
The best-laid plans often involve collaboration. You can spend a lot of time coming up with great plans on your own, but they have the opportunity to be much more powerful when they coincide with other elements in your service. The first step is to try to find out what the message will be about and see what kind of other elements you can add that will support that message. The second less obvious step is to let your team help you. Even if you are the only person on staff, you can email key volunteers and ask them to contribute ideas. Not only will you come up with ideas that are much more diverse, your team will feel more connected and valued.
2. Plan Early
The farther ahead you plan, the more time you have not only for you and your team to come up with great options and ideas, but also to let those ideas sink in. When I learn a new song, I like to have it weeks ahead of time so I can play it repeatedly until it becomes second nature. If I have just learned a song, I am more concerned with remembering the song than focusing on the message. When you and your team are fully prepared, you are much less likely to make mistakes that redirect the focus from God back to you. The main reason “performance” has negative connotations for worship is that it implies the desired result is to focus on the worship leader. When done right, however, music that is rehearsed and performed well can provide an unobstructed pathway to give glory to God.
3. Worship While Planning
There is a common misconception that too much planning hinders the movement of the Holy Spirit. On the contrary, sufficient planning can give you the freedom to follow the Holy Spirit and know that your team is ready to follow. We teach the members of our churches that they should not relegate worship to an activity on Sundays, but rather live a life of worship. Correspondingly, as worship leaders, we should lead by example and not miss an opportunity to worship God through our planning. Worship planning does not have to be purely logical and systematic. We can invite the Holy Spirit to move even in our preparation.
4. It’s More than Music
The title “Worship Leader” can be synonymous with music leader, but there are many more worship pathways than just music. Not all are meant for corporate worship, but finding opportunities to appropriately use video, drama, visual art, and dance can allow other members of your church to worship in a way they connect with as much as you connect through music. Remember that whatever you add, whether it be a motion background video behind lyrics, or someone painting during a featured song, it should not be separated from the rest of the service elements, but be integrated into the overall plan of directing focus to God.
5. Use Tools of the Trade
One of my friends who went to Mexico with me enjoys planning trips almost as much as going on them. Most of us don’t have that problem. Fortunately, there are an abundance of tools, many of them available online, solely created to help you plan and organize your worship services and communicate with your teams. Take advantage of those resources and let them do the heavy lifting for you.
The stakes don’t get much higher than leading people to worship the God of the Universe. By honing all aspects of our skills, including the ones that are implemented before anyone steps foot in the sanctuary, we prepare ourselves and our congregations to experience a focused and direct line to God, no harness necessary.
Aaron Stewart will be a workshop teacher at NWLC CA, to hear from him and many other top-notch speakers and workshop leaders, register today!
Aaron Stewart is the Co-Founder & Product Manager of PlanningCenterOnline.com, the premiere web-based application that helps thousands of churches plan and schedule their worship services. He was previously the Pastor of Music at Central Christian Church in Las Vegas for 6 years.