If you've been around church any length of time, you've probably been part of a Bible study. That usually involves either reading straight through the Word and talking about it, or having something like a book, guide or video to help spur things along.
But... what about music?
In some Bible studies, music is included as an opening or closing activity. Husband and wife ministers Scott and Ginger Tabot wondered what it would be like if music didn't punctuate the study time, but were an integral part of the learning and conversation.
The result is Live SoulFULL, a groundbreaking, music-driven, gospel-centered, interactive Bible study that uses 13 songs and 11 corresponding chapters to walk participants through the Word's answers to some of life's biggest questions. Fueled by Scott's theological writings and Ginger's musical talent, Live SoulFULL is the result of the Tabots' lifelong teamwork and specific giftings.
I had to ask the Tabots about their unique idea: how they arrived at it, what it seeks to accomplish, and what people are already saying about it. (Learn more at www.livesoulfull.com.)
Where did the idea for this collaborative project come from? Take us through this process of discovery!
Scott: Ginger and I have been leading chapel services at a women's center for about six years. We discovered that the more we worked together to create original songs to complement and reinforce the message from God's Word, the more the Holy Spirit made a powerful and lasting impact on the women. We began to pray and toss around ideas for how we could harness the God-given power of music to take His Word deeper into the soul for all believers.
We did some research and found that though are lots of great Bible studies and lots of Christian music, there isn't much, if anything, that seamlessly joins music and teaching to lead people on a journey. From our ministry experience, we've learned that believers at all stages of faith stay in tune and on track with God by owning and meditating on the core truths of our faith. It is these truths that reveal how only God can satisfy our deepest needs.
We created Live SoulFULLto give believers a fun and engaging way to walk through His soul-filling truth, one song and chapter at a time.
You both express your strengths and giftings with Live SoulFULL. Besides being married, what are some other ways you two have partnered together?
Ginger: Really since year one of being married, we've served together in ministry, leading college groups, adult discipleship groups, Bible studies and worship services, so working on this project together was a natural extension of our shared passion for doing ministry together. But even outside of ministry, we try to approach everything as a team. Scott is the methodical, wise analyst, and I'm the dreamer, creative, nurturer. We realize that we make better decisions together, so we talk through pretty much everything from parenting to finances to dreaming up our next adventure.
What does it mean to you, personally, to do this project together?
Scott: Working on Live SoulFULL has been one of the biggest blessings of our lives. Our own faith has grown by leaps and bounds as we have seen God's faithfulness in so many ways. There were dozens of times when I got stuck writing part of a chapter or Ginger got stuck writing a song, so we would pray, and every time God met us right where we were and answered those prayers.
Working so closely together has also strengthened our marriage and given us a great way to include our three kids in ministry. We would run some of the music or content by them and they would share their ideas. One of the coolest things was when our 16-year old son, Ben, pointed out that we didn't have a song that was a true title track. He was right and "SoulFULL" became the first song on the album!
What are some of the things that a music-based bible study achieves that is beyond a standard text-based study?
Ginger: This is what gets us so excited! God has given music the ability to cut straight to our hearts and seal a lyric deep down in our souls. We all know what it's like to read a great book or hear a great sermon and within a few days, we're struggling to remember the big ideas, let alone the details. Repetition is essential for learning, but it's hard to get excited about going through the same Bible study multiple times.
When it comes to music though, we naturally want to listen over and over again, and pretty soon that song is stuck in our heads and hearts. We've worked really hard to create lyrics that aren't just academic truth, but authentic prayers and declarations of faith coupled with music that's fun and empowering.
Talk about the process you had for creating this. Did Scott write the portions first, and then Ginger came up with the songs? Were they all created at the same time?
Scott: We started with the idea of a music-driven journey and spent some time going over what the study should be about. We had lots of ideas, but realized quickly that the first study needed to start with the key building blocks of a thriving relationship with Jesus. We outlined the topics and Ginger started working on songs. We dug into the scriptures and prayed like crazy.
Originally, I wrote a short devotional to go with each song, but then we got the chance to take a group of about 40 women through the music and content, so I expanded the messages. This first live delivery of Live SoulFULL was incredible as six women came to Christ for the first time and many others were greatly impacted in their faith. The experience confirmed to us that a music-driven study works well, so we prayed about what God would have us do going forward.
I had just finished up my master's degree in Christian Education, and was excited to develop those first devotionals and messages into a full-blown Bible study where each chapter had a corresponding song. We spent several months just living with the songs and chapters, to make sure everything was true to the Scriptures. Finally, we had some family and friends go through each chapter and song to give us feedback and make a few more adjustments. The process was full of challenges, but was an incredible faith-building experience.
Musically speaking, what did you try to go for stylistically?
Ginger: We wanted the music to resonate with people who listen to Christian radio, but also pull in quite a bit of variety to keep things interesting. Some songs lean a little towards funk, country, or gospel, and some are straight up pop/rock. During pre-production, we were more concerned that the music enhances the experience of the lyrics rather than try to force it to fit into a certain style or genre. Of course, we wanted the music to be excellent, creative, and passionate, but without overshadowing the lyrics.
A good example is the song "Masterpiece" about the grandness of God's creation and evidence of design in the world where the music sounds a bit like a movie score, giving the listener the feeling of really soaring over the mountaintops and towards the end of the song hearing all of creation crying out Hallelujah!
You recorded the music in Nashville. Whom did you get to be a part of this project?
Ginger: We prayed all along that God would help us find a producer that shared our passion for ministry and had the connections to get us the best musicians possible. Before we even started the actual search, I received an email from the Arizona Songwriters Association that a producer named Brad Nowell--who works with Grammy-winning producer, Michael O'Martian--was coming to Phoenix looking for CCM songs. So, I asked if we could get a personal meeting with Brad and from the very first meeting, we knew Brad was God's answer to our prayers for a producer, and he has become a dear friend to us. Brad works with the top session players in Nashville, and we are so thankful that we were able to get to know and work with these guys on this project.
It's impossible to fully experience the lyrics to these songs without getting out your best headphones and really soaking in the musical touches that these legendary musicians have brought to Live SoulFULL. We also had the privilege of having two guest artists, Jason Fowler and Monte Hunt, sing a couple of songs on the project, and they did a phenomenal job!
What's some feedback you've already heard from people who've gone through the material?
Scott: We've gotten great feedback from people all across the country. One busy mom loved that she could take the music with her all day long, which helped her stay focused on Jesus. A songwriter told us he enjoyed the engagement of reading, listening, and answering questions, which made the experience "fun and richly rewarding." We've also had a small group leader tell us the study has led to some deep discussions in her group, and that everyone loves listening to the music.
Ginger: There are a couple of really pivotal songs in the journey that we frequently hear have touched people deeply. "Let Me Love You" is a personal love letter from God to us that often fills the room with tears. And "When We Pray" is an anthem depicting God's response when we're lifting our voices to heaven that people often comment inspires them to pray with greater faith.
What's next for you two? More resources to come?
Scott: We're continuing to develop resources to enhance the Live SoulFULL study. We just finished music videos for the first three songs and have also developed a leader's guide for small groups, along with chord charts and instrumental tracks for church use. We are also beginning to lay the groundwork for the next study on marriage and relationships and hope that this is just the beginning of many more music-driven studies.
How can people be praying?
Ginger: From the very beginning, our theme prayer has echoed Paul's prayer in Ephesians 3:19 that God would use this study to help people know and experience the boundless love of Jesus and "be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." We would ask everyone to pray this with us. Also, because this is a Gospel-centered project, we know the enemy does not want it getting out and have already experienced some resistance, so please pray with us that God would pave the way for this study to get into the hands of those that need it most. Thank you so much for praying with us!
Marcus Hathcock is the Executive Editor of NewReleaseToday.com, a husband to Savannah, father of three and a worship leader living in Boise. He has released an EP, Songs For Tomorrow, and occasionally blogs at mheternal.com.
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