Bren McLean


by on Aug.02, 2016, under Worship


Making a church album is a daunting task. Whether it’s a live recording or a studio album, there are so many traps you can fall into. In my 9 year’s at St Paul’s, I have been involved in 4 album projects and when people ask me for advice I usually say “DON’T DO IT!”.

But for the church that is committed to devoting the entire project to prayer, I have 10 questions that need to be asked before you press record:

1. Purpose – What is the purpose/vision of the recording?

Personal v Congregational, Local v Global

2. Songs – Do I have enough songs to choose from?

A typical album of 10 songs should have atleast 30 to choose from. A lot has already been written about songwriting and by sharper minds. My biggest encouragement is to collaborate on the song writing and don’t settle until a ‘good’ song is a ‘great’ song

3. Budget – How much money do I plan to spend and where will it come from?

Funds can come from a number of sources includes savings, donations, loans, crowd funding

4. Location – Where will I record?

Live v Studio v Home. Each has pros and cons that need to be carefully considered

5. Producer – Who will produce?

This is one of the most important questions. Will the album be produced in house, or do we need to engage external producer ? In my experience, the latter is usually better and costs from $1-4k per song

6. Project Management – What program will I use and who will champion it to help manage the overall project plan?

“Fail to plan and you plan to fail”. For the latest CityAlight live recording, we used an online program called Google sheets. This helped us to outline each step and who was doing what and when

7. Team Members – Who will be involved?

Only engage people who have a similar vision to you. You will be spending a lot of time together and there is no room for egos. Another factor is deciding who are volunteers and who need to be hired

8. Copyright – Do I understand copyright and the payment of royalties?

Make sure you have song agreements for each song. Friends can become enemies very quickly when money is involved. Get advice from organisations such as CCLI and APRA/AMCOS

9. Distribution – Where will the album be sold?

Retail (eg. Koorong), Digital (eg. iTunes, Spotify) via distributors such as Tunecore and CD Baby

10. Promotion/Marketing – How will the album be promoted?

Word of mouth, print, online (social media, YouTube)


An album project can unite the team and equip the church. But even well intentioned projects have the potential to divide the team, split the church and leave you in debt with boxes of unusable drink coasters!!!


  • Research – Do as much research as you can. Learn from others by speaking to those you admire and taking advantage of online resources.

EG. Recording Worship – Where do I Start; Hillsong 2011 – Behind the Scenes

  • Prayer – Bathe every aspect of the project in prayer. Everything we do is for His glory and in His strength
  • Have fun – Enjoy the experience of ‘making music to the Lord’
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by on Jun.22, 2016, under Worship

Pic 1Sunday 19 June was a phenomenal night at St Paul’s Castle Hill. Gathering in the name of Jesus, 640 people participated in a live recording for the new CityAlight album. There was a wonderful sense of community and celebration as God’s people sang with such enthusiasm. I got goose bumps hearing the people of all ages cry out “I want to know you, Jesus my Lord”. It was a foretaste of heaven.

The event required an army of volunteers. About 70 men and women working together with a common goal; a genuine desire to see the Name of Jesus glorified. Special mention goes to Rich Thompson, Jonny Robinson and Rich Vassallo. I cannot thank these guys enough for their hard work and commitment. We are also deeply indebted to Michael Farren who traveled all the way from Nashville to partner with us. A long term friendship is being forged with Farren (and friends) who is such a talented producer/songwriter.

The 10 songs have been written and arranged with the small church in mind and I am believing these songs will go farther and wider than ever imagined, equipping people and churches all over the world. These uplifting songs are filled with biblical truths that point to a ‘Good and Gracious King’; the ‘One and Only God’ worthy of our devotion.

Pic 2

When will the album be available?

Good question. The producers are now working on post production and hope to have the album competed by late September 2016.  We plan to release a few singles sooner, so stay tuned!

Where can I purchase the first CityAlight album?

‘Yours Alone’ was released in 2014 and is available on iTunes and from Koorong.

May the words of Psalm 95:1-7 stir your soul:

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lordlet us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.

For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.

Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.

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by on Feb.23, 2016, under Personal

God created the heavens and the earth and everything in it. He said it was “very good”, but God’s masterpiece was mankind. Men and women are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27) and given the responsibility of ruling over all created things and caring for the world.

As a Christian, I therefore have a particular interest in culture and how we can and should interact with it.

But first, what is culture? In terms of social sciences and humanities, the Oxford Dictionary defines culture as:

The ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society

E.B. Tylor says that culture is:

That complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society


Andy Crouch has a lot to say about culture as well. He defines it simply as:

“What people make of the world”

Crouch has written a few books on the topic and I am particularly inspired by Culture Making (2008). It is an insightful view of culture and the various ways that people interact with it:

1. Condemning

2. Criticising

3. Copying

4. Consuming

All of these postures are reactive. None of them add something to culture.

5. Contributing



Crouch insists we should be ‘Contributing’ to culture. To add something that changes it in a positive way. This is our calling as Christians. To cultivate and advance the condition of God’s created world into something that will glorify Him.

Culture Making is a worthwhile read. And below is an interview with Andy Crouch, on the subject:


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by on Dec.14, 2015, under Worship

Worship Matters by Bob Kauflin has been the definitive resource for Christian creative’s since it was released in 2008. Whether you serve in the music, production or creative team, the insights in this book are profound and practical.

“Bob loves God, values theology, and cares about people. This mix is found throughout this wonderful and helpful book. Worship Matters will inspire you as a worshiper and spur you on as a leader of worship.”
Matt Redman

“Bob Kauflin is teaching a new generation to take corporate worship seriously in a fashion that is simultaneously biblically faithful and addressing today’s culture.”
D. A. Carson

The follow up to Worship Matters is titled True Worshipers. This book was released recently and has been 7 year’s in the making.


Who should read True Worshipers?

Kauflin believes it “is for anyone who wants to understand more biblically how the worship of our meetings relates to the worship of our lives. It’s for those who want to be the kind of worshiper God says He’s seeking.”

The chapters are as follows:

  1. True worshipers Matter
  2. True worshipers Receive
  3. True worshipers Exalt
  4. True worshipers Gather
  5. True worshipers Edify
  6. True worshipers Sing
  7. True worshipers Keep Singing
  8. True worshipers Encounter
  9. True worshipers Anticipate

Each chapter builds on the last and helps us to think more theologically about worship. What better gift is there for Pastors looking to invest in their Creative staff/leaders?!

Endorsements include:

“This important book will inform, instruct and inspire. Bob reminds us there’s a reason behind our rejoicing, and there’s substance beneath our singing. Bob patrols the theological borders of this book like a trusty doberman who won’t allow you to trespass into unhealthy attitudes and approaches in worship. But for all the patrolling, there’s even more pastoring. As you read the pages of this book, be open to the whispers of the Holy Spirit. Be ready for him to guide you, remind you, re-align you, or surprise you—for your greater good and his greater glory.”
Matt Redman

“Brilliant. Freeing. Needed. Worship is often limited to the walls of the church. In True Worshipers, Bob Kauflin reminds us that worship isn’t a Sunday morning routine but rather an everyday lifestyle.”
Louie Giglio

For a thorough analysis of True Worshipers, check out Josh Philpot’s (TGC) review. Then get your copy of the book for a thoroughly enriching read.


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by on Oct.28, 2015, under Church Life


I love my job! I have been the Creative Minister at St Paul’s for 8 year’s now, leading an awesome team of volunteers.

Eight year’s doesn’t sound like a long time, but research suggests it is. Over that time I have seen programs and apps come and go. They all promise to save you time and money, but few deliver.

In my opinion, here are my Top 7 apps for ministry:

  1. Bible Study (Olive Tree) – Bible reading/study app
  2. Evernote – Organise notes that sync across all devices
  3. Feedly – Blog reader
  4. Good Reader – View pdf’s
  5. Planning Center (PCO) – Plan services, schedule volunteers and more
  6. ProPresenter – Projection/presentation software
  7. Spotify – Free radio

Why 7? Well, 7 seems like the perfect number. What would you add/replace?

For a more through list, check out the ProPreacher blog, ‘the absolute best iPad apps for pastors‘.

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by on Oct.19, 2015, under Worship

The GMA Dove Awards are an annual event, honoring outstanding achievements and excellence in Gospel music.

The winners for 2015 were announced in Nashville last night and below are some of the winners…


Song of the Year – How Can it Be (Lauren Daigle)

Songwriter of the Year – Matt Maher

Artist of the Year – Lecrae

Worship Album of the Year – No Other Name (Hillsong)


Worship Song of the Year – Because He Lives (Matt Maher)

Rock Song of the Year – Good To Be Alive (Skillet)

It’s encouraging to see a few fresh names in the winners circle. For a complete list of the Dove’s for 2015, go to:

Congratulations to all the winners. Your hard work and God given gifts have been recognised by your peers. May God continue to equip and use you for His glory!

Finally, a shout out to our local brothers and sisters from Hillsong Church! Your music is inspiring a growing number of churches and worshipers. I look forward to seeing the Hillsong movie when it is released later this year.

From the Hills to every corner of the planet, let’s lift up the name of Jesus, for there is ‘no other name’ by which we can be saved.



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by on Aug.19, 2015, under Personal


I have known about the ministry of Compassion for years. I have watched the videos and seen from afar the poverty that exists in many parts of the world. Well, I have now witnessed first hand the abject poverty that affects so many people due to a severe lack of water, food and shelter.

In July, I was part of a mission team from St Paul’s that spent 14 days in Kenya. We were escorted by local representatives of Compassion to a number of child development projects all over the country. These CDP’s partner with a church to provide spiritual as well as physical nourishment to the most needy of kids.

The climate was hot and dry. The land dusty and underdeveloped. We also visited a number of slums, including Kibera (the largest in Kenya) and I was shocked by the living conditions. Slums are heavily populated urban settlements characterised by substandard housing, sanitation, water, electricity and other basic services.


Walking around, I felt a sense of helplessness. I was shell-shocked and confused as to why there is such an imbalance of wealth. Why is the west so much more privileged than here? God was increasing the capacity of my heart to be compassionate, which took me on an emotional roller coaster. It was life changing. I knew poverty was a complex issue so meditated on what the bible says about it. I know there was a time when humanity was in perfect harmony with God and creation, but the Fall changed all that. Sin and death entered the world bringing all sorts of suffering and persecution. It’s just not fair! But one day Jesus will return to liberate those who trust in Him, reconciling us with the Father.

But what can we I in the meantime? God just wants me to love them like Jesus. To care for the least, the last and the lost.

In Deuteronomy 15, Moses tells Israel that they will be blessed with enough resources for everyone (v4). Moses then says that “there will always be poor in the land” (v11). This reality, echoed in Matthew 26:11 is a result of the Fall.

God works through us to help the children (and in turn families and communities), one at a time. Compassion really are releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name. But despite the poverty and the suffering, I met so many beautiful, contented people who dearly love Jesus. Boys and girls, men and women, young and old, who hope for more, and are trusting that Jesus will provide their every need. Children were proudly able to quote memory verses like:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 5:3

I was overwhelmed to tears by their joy and enthusiasm each time we were welcomed. The kids, parents and staff were always so grateful for the ‘visitors’ and were proud to be praying for us. Wow! Their generosity with so little and love for others was inspirational.

The take home message is, like us, they genuinely seek relationship. While a visit from their sponsor was fantastic, letter writing is a powerful communication tool and something that I will be doing more regularly now.

Below are some of my highlights from the trip:

  • Meeting Cindarella (one of our sponsor children) at Life Spring Chapel. We then travelled a short distance to Sinai Slum where she lives with her mum

Kenya - Cindarella

  • Driving through the Great Rift Valley. It was a treacherous road with a breath-taking view

Inline image 1

  • Visiting the Maasai Mara safari park. We were fortunate enough to see ‘the big five’, as well as giraffe, hippo, ostrich, impala, gazelle, warthog, monkey and cheetah. This was a welcome and relaxing break from the mission trip


  • Meeting a Maasai Warrior. It was fascinating talking to Joshua as we hiked around Kilima Camp

  • Sharing the experience with 17 legends, including my wife and 2/4 kids. It was a blessing to spend 14 days travelling with such a warm and friendly team


Finally, I would like to thank God for the ministry of Compassion. I can vouch for the great work they are doing not just in Kenya, but all over the world and pray that more and more people will be blessed by the opportunity to sponsor and be sponsored.

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CCLI – TOP 10 SONGS 2015

by on May.28, 2015, under Worship

Christian Copyright Licencing International (CCLI) was established to provide churches, organisations and individuals with simple, affordable solutions to complex copyright issues.


Licences include Church Copyright, Music Reproduction and Church Video. CCLI also have a great service called SongSelect, where practically any song can be downloaded and transposed into any key!

Another helpful service is lists of the most popular songs being reported by churches. Below is the TOP 10 songs in Australia:

1. 10,000 Reasons – Redman, Myrin

2. This I Believe (The Creed) – Fielding, Crocker

3. Oceans – Houston, Crocker, Ligthelm

4. How Great is Our God – Tomlin, Reeves, Cash

5. Cornerstone – Mote, Liljero, Myrin, Morgan

6. Amazing Grace (My Chains) – Tomlin, Newton, Giglio

7. Broken Vessels – Houston, Myrin

8. Holy Spirit – Torwalt, Torwalt

9. This is Amazing Grace – Riddle, Farro, Wickham

10. Our God  – Redman, Tomlin, Myrin, Reeves

TOP 25 in USA

These songs will be familiar to most churches. As a Creative Minister, I love to see churches writing their own songs and being inspired by the great composing skills of people such as Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Ben Fielding, Stuart Townend and co.

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Colossians 3:16-17

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Ministry: Burned Out Or Burned In

by on May.05, 2015, under Leadership

Burnout“Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans. In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen. Many would change jobs if they could.”

(New York Times August 1 2010)

What a disturbing state of affairs! Men and women who are called by God (more often than not) to care and shepherd others, have been unable to sustain their vocation.

What causes this sort of mental, physical and spiritual deterioration? Here are my top 4 reasons:

  1. Distance from God

Jesus is the vine and He wants us to be connected to Him (John 15:5). How else will we bear fruit, or survive “the slings and arrows” of a broken world.

  1. All work, no play

Some people work more than 10-12 hours, 6-7 days per week, all in the name of ‘ministry’. Friends, this is just not sustainable.

Even God took a rest after six days of creating! The Sabbath (atleast one day per week) has always been reserved as a rest day, a chance to stop, take stock and be revitalised for another busy week

  1. Inability to delegate

Sometimes it’s just easier to do everything yourself. This approach to ministry has limitations and inadvertently leads to burnout.

The Old Testament gives us a great example of someone who learnt this lesson. Moses needed help, so Jethro advised him to identify capable leaders who could handle most of the disputes that Israel had (Exodus 18).

At St. Paul’s, our philosophy on effective leadership is

Discover – Develop – Deploy

Ie. Finding leaders; Training leaders; Empowering leaders

  1. Unrealistic expectations

Years ago I realised that it was impossible to please everybody all of the time. I would run myself ragged trying to. Now, I’m just happy if most of the people are pleased most of the time. Ha

After 7 years in ministry, I can honestly say that I still LOVE my job. Sure, it has its ups and downs, and some functions of the job can be tedious, but overall it is highly stimulating and rewarding. The creative team consists of over 100 gifted creatives, faithfully serving a congregation of over 1400 people. “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded.” (Luke 12:48).


  1. Prayerfully work out what is a sustainable number of hours that you can work each week

  2. Block out times in your diary/calendar for non-work related activities. Eg. rest, reading, family time etc

  3. Find a mentor who will help to keep you accountable and healthy to “finish the race”

The web is full of statistics about the clergy and burnout. Here are some resources that help you not to become another statistic:

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by on Apr.07, 2015, under Church Life

Easter is the most important festival on the Christian calendar. It represents the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and every year we celebrate these significant events that occurred over 2,000 years ago.

Below is an overview of the services at St Paul’s this Easter:

Easter FB


Sermon – It WAS a Good Friday

Bible Reading – John 19:1-37

Songs –

1. Our God (Tomlin)

2. Jesus Paid it All (Stanfill)

3. Man of Sorrows (Hillsong)

4. Jerusalem (CityAlight)

Creative Video:

We also shared in Communion together.



Sermon – Emptiness Never Felt So Full

Bible Reading – John 20:1-18

Songs –

1. Mighty Warrior (Elevation)

2. Once For All (CityAlight)

3. Christ is Enough (Hillsong)

4. Praise the Saviour (CityAlight)

We also shared in Communion together.

Over 2100 people attended our services this year and God was honoured as we gathered together to celebrate the victory we have in Jesus.

“But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

John 20:31

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