Teach Your Congregation to Sing

There are times when sitting in a sanctuary or community center or reissued movie theater on a Sunday morning is nothing less than an affront to the ears. All around us our brothers and sisters mumble and slur their way through the songs, while everyone tries to keep from being distracted. There is a lack of quality singing in churches each week. So do we need to give our congregations singing lessons? That would be hilarious! By quality singing, I don’t mean vocal excellence. What they need is not singing lessons but rather the permission to sing. Just like in “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” “Happy Birthday,” and “The Star Spangled Banner.” If your church doesn’t sing it’s probably because of one of two things: either they haven’t been invited to sing or the obstacles to their singing have not been removed. I have identified four things that hinder congregational participation.

4 Dysfunctions of Congregational Singing:


1. Not realizing the congregation is present

Great communicators, actors, comedians, professional singers and yes, great pastors are aware that there are actually people in the room. As in any gathering the crowd must feel welcomed and comfortable. So is the case with congregational worship. An intentional, warm welcome is important. I am not saying that a “greeting” has to be the opening of the worship experience but a nice smile goes a long way, then clear direction as to who is singing and who isn’t. Though the trend is not to over direct people, clear direction as to sitting and standing is surprisingly important. Corporate reading of Scripture is also an important activity toward congregational participation.

Note: It’s my opinion that in an intergenerational congregational context, that 12 minutes is a good amount of time for people to stand. Standing longer than that will affect the concentration level for many people. In a crowd filled with younger age demographic this really doesn’t matter.

2. Vanilla song choices
The process of finding great songs is extremely important. Oh it’s easy to follow the normal path to find songs, but to find great songs that are congregational in their appeal is an entirely different story. I have a friend who is a photographer with National Geographic and he told me that to get 30 pictures for a National Geographic article, he took 14,000 pictures. Finding great songs requires a lot of time. The lesson here is, don’t settle on the easiest way to find good songs. Recruit people to help you and take the time to find great songs. As well, do not just depend on your own personal tastes in choosing songs. You will be fooled.

3. Bad key choices
Really? Why does this matter? Well it doesn’t matter at a rock concert or in an auditorium filled with 18 to 35 year olds, but church has wider age span. So the rule of thumb is that men sing higher than women and women sing lower than men. Crazy? Oh but it’s true. Just take note the next time a female is leading worship. The songs will, for the most part be in keys that are more singable for the intergenerational congregation. Most male worship leaders, in order to sing more comfortably put songs a higher range. When this happens, the congregation often is left behind. This rule does not apply for well-known worship artist concerts. In this case everybody in the room knows all the songs and can sing them in any key. Be intentional about key choices for your congregation.

4. Music that is too “busy”
In a contemporary worship band there is a tendency for everyone in the band to play too many notes at the same time. This can be helped by “thinning out” the arrangement. Change the parts that band member plays from verse to verse, chorus to chorus. Add things, take things out. Be creative with this. But most of all avoid the “sameness.” This takes a lot of thought and experimentation, so most of these ideas need to come prior to the rehearsal. But the congregation needs to hear themselves sing. And the congregation needs to be inspired by the music. Just like in the movies, music embellishes the moment. But playing “too busy” causes numbness, and boredom sets in. As the jazz legend said, “It’s not the notes you play; it’s the notes you don’t play.”

Theologian, John Calvin says, “singing subdues the fallen heart and retrains wayward affections. St. Augustine says, “Singing is praying. When one sings one prays twice. While singing in the front of the Lord, we are in touch with the deepest center of our heart.”

Col: 3:16
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

CULTIVATING A CULTURE OF WORSHIP FOR EVERY GENERATION

By Yancy

I believe an active mission of every church should be to help believers become who God created them to be. One of the things that God created all of us to be is a worshipper.

Worshipping God is one of our greatest purposes. Although a lot of churches check the box of worship off the list each week, I feel there is still a lot left to be desired in how we are leading others to encounter the presence of Jesus during our times of worship when they gather. I have a burden to help teach this generation so they can understand why we worship God and what that looks like in their life.

I know that many of you who are reading this are involved in adult worship. I want to invite you to think about how your church is raising Christ followers up to be the worshippers that God intends for them to be. As a young child, preteen or student, how are they experiencing God’s presence and growing in their expression of worship?

One thing I’ve noticed when ministries work as silos, as opposed to with a strategy and mission, is that worship happens all over the map. You could have one age group that has great worship where people are engaged and then another age group that has weak leadership and let’s be honest, a major disconnect. Worship is happening at various speeds and levels of intentionality because there’s no overall vision of the house for worship.

Because of your role and position in your church I want to invite you as Worship Leader/Pastor/Director to start a conversation with your children’s and student ministry leaders. Go to lunch or grab a coffee and start dreaming about what worship can look like for your church. This could be the beginning of an ongoing relationship and solution in which you can all dream and work together to raise up worshippers within your church.

Have you ever stopped to think about what kind of worshipper you want adults in your congregation to be? One of the ways you can accomplish seeing that vision come to pass is by starting the process in the preschool ministry of your church, and then building upon that foundation in the elementary ministry. It doesn’t end there, the roots can grow deeper as a preteen and middle schooler and the impact spans even greater as a high school student. A wise friend of mine once shared with me: “Teaching kids to worship is not the issue. They know how to worship. Directing their worship to Jesus is the issue. Help them put God first.”

I believe over the span of one generation you can completely change the way that worship is cultivated within the life of your congregation.  The possibility of results of this effort is to have men and women that understand that worship is a communication tool in responding to God.

What a win! I want to cultivate in the hearts of God’s people that there is safety in His presence. Imagine what this world could be like if we learned to run TO God with whatever we face as opposed to running FROM Him while we try to handle things alone. I believe the Word is true if you will give people an opportunity to experience God’s presence it will be something that they taste and want more of. Psalm 34:8 says: “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” (NIV)

So, you might wonder where to begin. Start with the end in mind. What kind of adult worshippers do you want to have? And then begin to work backward to define and develop what the goal needs to be for each age group and classroom within your church. You have 936 Sundays in the life of a young person. That’s over 900 opportunities, as you gather, to help kids fall in love with Jesus through worship.

Help toddlers and preschoolers gather to WORSHIP.
Help elementary kids gather to WORSHIP.
Help preteens gather to WORSHIP.
Help middle school gather to WORSHIP.
Help high schoolers gather to WORSHIP.
Help Adults gather to WORSHIP.

As you define your vision and determine what you want kids to learn about worship when you gather, be sure to communicate that to the leaders and teachers working in those classes. This helps set the bar of what they are aiming to do with the songs that they lead and the words they share. It gives them a container of sorts within which they should work. It determines the purpose of the kind of songs they should be doing and the type of engagement they should be observing. Help those leaders understand the importance of teaching kids what worship looks like in their life. How do they do it? Why is it important? These are all things that they can point to and underline as they plan the words that are shared each and every week as they lead.

This process could also lead to building a team that can serve in multiple settings. There could be positions and rooms where you develop musicians and worship leaders to serve your church for years to come. (Think “farm club” system.)

Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise! No one can measure his greatness. Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts; let them proclaim your power. Psalm 145:3&4 (NLT)

Worship happening in another room isn’t a competition to what you do in adult worship. For every age, worshipping God is a key part of why we gather as well as our personal walk with Christ. As you begin this conversation and develop a relationship with these other leaders in your church I believe what you can accomplish together will be far greater than what you can each do on your own. Developing a vision for worship at every age level is a worthy and important task. I can’t wait to see the harvest that comes from the seeds you plant.

OUR ONE TRUE SONG

By Sarah Hart

A Cacophony of Praise

I am a crazy bird lady. In fact, even as I write, I am sitting on my screened in porch, decaf in hand, listening to the vast and diverse species of songbirds, jays, woodpeckers, hummers and even waterfowl that daily come to partake in the feast that is suet feeders, sugar water, and many, many pounds of black oil sunflower seed in my backyard. A thousand different voices, all raised, singing their own songs, communicating who knows what to one another. It is a beautiful, ridiculous, hopeful, audacious, music-box-store-like symphony; one which makes me laugh and wonder. And – always – listen.

I imagine so often that this is akin to what God hears of us in our worship; our voices, the gathering of the saints in our collective beautiful, ridiculous, hopeful, audacious, music-box-store-like symphony; which, I suppose, makes him laugh and wonder. And listen.

Consider it. On any given Sunday, we gather. And one of the main components of our gathering is that we lift our voices in song, accompanied or not, to sing praise to God. While we stand in our own singular communities, we seldom are thinking about the thousands upon thousands of other singular communities doing the same. At the moment one is lifting the newest worship song, with voices crying out and hands raised, another is lifting a setting of a psalm, as a cantor sings in solo voice, then lovingly invites a congregation to join in. As an organist somewhere pipes the call to worship, another congregation is entering in with African drums and sweeping movement in the aisles. A tiny congregation with no accompanist struggles over a hymn in the out-of-date books that have seen better days but have been held by generations of seekers, while a congregation bursting to capacity is applauding, dancing hypnotically, singing the song of their Savior God. We, in the singularity of our congregations, are not singular at all; rather, in our worship, we join in praise with the countless saints, both of earth and heaven. A cacophony of praise.

The Holy Together 

I grew up among the lush, green hills and farmland of Southeastern Ohio, in a small parish community, St. Bernadette’s, where I also attended school. We went to mass every Saturday or Sunday, once a week during school, and prayed the rosary every morning. Ours was a tight-knit community, the kind in which every family was involved, and knew each other, and everyone was always ready and willing to reach out to assist anyone in need. Church was something we did, and something I loved; but had you asked me then to explain why I went, I likely would have said: “because my grandma says I have to”.

My sister was in second grade and I was in first grade when we were in the children’s choir together. That was the year that our choir director decided it would be a great idea to keep a bunch of elementary aged kids awake on Christmas Eve so that they could sing at midnight mass (side note: this was the first and last year of that occurrence). My memory is a bit foggy about most of the evening (lack of sleep and too much Santa-induced excitement at fault), but I will always, always remember the beginning of that midnight service. I and my sister beside me, in our little white choir robes with purple bows (the color of Advent); a completely darkened church save for one candle, held by our priest, who called out through the midnight silence: “a people in darkness have seen a great light!”. He then lit the candle of a few people around him, and then those people lit a few held by others, and then they passed it on; on and on it went until every soul in that blessed space was holding a lit candle (even the sleepy, Santa-crazed choir kids). We began to sing “Oh Come, All Ye Faithful”, and my little heart was full to bursting as (I believe for the first time in my life) I felt part of something so very much greater than just me. Gathering was suddenly more than showing up Sunday to say “hi” to everyone, hear the Word, and sing a bunch of songs we liked (or didn’t). Gathering was, suddenly, something more: the holy together.

Something that I carry with me to this day from that night so long ago is the realization that I am not just myself. If the church is a place where “I” come, it is a place where many others come as well; it is a collective “I”. So then, there can never be only my need, my hope, my prayer, my song. It must be always our need, our hope, our prayer, our song. This is the holiness of the gathering: that we truly are the body of Christ, many parts, languages, cultures, ages and countless diversities, broken and mending and celebrating together. Us.

The Worshipping Us

 So we gather for the word, for the Eucharist, for the sacrament, for healing, for belonging; and music is a huge part of any gathering experience. However, in our desire to worship as a body, there’s a very slight problem: we are all as different as night and day.

Humanity generally ponders only that which it is experiencing at the present moment. Yet for thousands of years, truly as long as man has had melody, there has been diversity in both the approach to music and the ways in which we worship. Indeed, it was the Psalmist himself who wrote:

“Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe, praise him with the clash of cymbals…” Psalm 150:3-5 NIV

I’m guessing that, in David’s day, the words “lyre” and “clashing cymbals” didn’t go terribly well together. It might be akin to saying today, “praise him with piccolo and keytar”. I surmise that David recognized that styles and use of instrumentation were many and varied; yet all of them were permissible in worship (i.e., “praise Him with anything that moves you!”). Musical taste should not be a hindrance to our collective praise, David points out; rather, all worship is beautiful to the ears of God, when offered sincerely.

If David were here, I believe he would say that it boils down to this: the heart of praise does not adhere to only one musical formula. No one way of worship is better than another. By the heart of God, our worship is, simply, received.

Ancient and New

 I recently received an email from a young worship leader in another country. That email boiled down to this: “the liturgical church is old and outdated. I don’t like that old music. I want new music and new life breathed into our congregation. My worship band only plays modern praise and worship music. I play electric guitar and write songs too, and my songs are the kind of songs that the church needs.”

I hardly knew where to begin. In one fell swoop, this person decided that any songs written in the last 2000 years of Christian church history stunk (which would include the psalms, all of Bach’s religious works, and pretty much anything by Charles Wesley), and weren’t worthy of being sung, and only that which was new and involved electric guitars was worth hearing, and that surely his music was the music that pleased God the most. And it’s not the first time I have heard this brand of talk from worship leaders. My dear friends, we must be careful, guarding our hearts; for Christ said “it can not be that way with you”…thinking that one of us is better than another, that a song or musician or musical style is better than another. This kind of thinking is poison. It is not a “holy together” mentality.

What is happening in any one geographic or cultural place in terms of worship is an evolution of what has happened for thousands of years prior. Our worship is an echo of what was, being brought into what is, breathed and interpreted and rediscovered as a community. So then, we can never simply address just the needs of a few. We bring the ages into our worship. Ancient and new, entwined as we remember, and give thanks, and continue to create. As the community has always done.

Gathering

The truth is that the demographics of the worldwide church is MUCH different than the demographics of our own congregation on any given Sunday.  So then, I believe that if we are to discuss community, and why we truly gather, then we must search within our hearts, among our companions, and with our own church. Do we gather to make just that one particular demographic of believers happy? Do we gather to showcase our new tunes, our voices, our chops? Do we gather because we want to be entertained? Do we gather to be seen? Do “I”, alone, gather?

OR….

Do we gather to welcome the stranger? Do we gather to serve the poor and one another? Do we gather to reach a demographic or culture that has been pushed aside? Do we gather to lift our praise as best we can, singing our 2000 plus years of beautiful history – both spiritual and musical – as we marry ancient and new into the worship experience? Do we gather to offer the lyre as well as the crashing cymbal?

Do we gather because the One our souls love calls us to do so?

There is Room for All 

To be fully truthful, there are some birds whose songs are more beautiful to me than others. When the Carolina Wren comes, it is a lilted, happy trilling call. The Mourning Dove sends a soft, apologetic but lovely “whoo-whoo-whoo” through the early air. Woodpeckers offer a sturdy, staccato sort of call sounding do-re-mi-fa-mi-re-do. And then, there’s that Blue Jay. He is so loud, so obnoxious. He shrieks, coarsely, the bully-voice of the bird world. But the landscape of song would be lacking if any of these voices were missing, even the obnoxious jay. It is never one voice. It is many voices, one song.

In our worship – not just our “in the building” worship but our “in the worldwide church” worship – there are many different voices. We may gravitate toward some, and not toward others. This is natural, human. But we cannot dismiss any of our brothers and sisters for the ways in which they worship; in Christ, there is no them and us, no nation or denomination. For, like the birds, we gather together, to offer our praise to the God who loves us.

And how lovely that gathering, that beautiful cacophony, our millions of varying voices, our one true song must be to the heart of our God.

Why Gather Weekly? Because I Told You To!

By Sam Hamstra, Jr.

For one reason or another, we get out of bed on a Sunday morning and head off to a place called church, where we gather with some people to worship the Lord. From our perspective, it seems like we decide to worship the Lord, but the longer we are at it, the more we begin to understand that God calls us to worship Him. So, while it initially appears otherwise, we conclude that our worship begins, not with us, but with God. We reach that conclusion because the Scriptures teach that God calls us to worship, more specifically, the Father who created us, in cooperation with God the Son who has redeemed us and God the Spirit who sustains, this God initiates our worship. He does so in three ways.

First, God the Father initiates our worship by creating us to worship him. In his Worship Reformed, Hughes Oliphant Old succinctly summarizes that truth with these words: “We worship because God created us to worship him. Worship is at the center of our existence, at the heart of our reason for being” (1). The Westminster Short Catechism echoes Olds’ sentiment pronouncing that our purpose as humans, our “chief end,” is “to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” The apostle Paul argues this point in his letter to the Romans. Romans 1:18-23, he teaches us that every human being witnesses the invisible qualities of God in creation and should, therefore, worship Him instead of idols. In other words, when we live as God designed us to live, we witness how God’s glory shines over all the earth, discover that his love is higher than the heavens, affirm that his faithfulness reaches to the skies, and, for those reasons and more, glorify the Lord. As the Psalmist once sang:

When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon, and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
…O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:3-4,9)

There is another layer to the truth that God the Father initiates our worship. God the Father, who has created us to worship him, has created us in his image or likeness so that we can worship him (Gen 1:26). Animals, in contradistinction to human beings, cannot worship God. However, because we have been created in the image of God, we may communicate with God, pray to God, and worship God. As Geoffrey Wainright observed, “humankind is seen through Scripture as made by God sufficiently like himself for communication to take place between the Creator and the human creature, a personal exchange in which each partner is meant to find satisfaction” (Christian Worship, 9). This means we don’t have to make worship relevant. For human beings created in the image of God, worship is as relevant as bread and water. We have been designed to worship. We want to worship. We need to worship. It is necessary for being human. To this point, Thomas Long writes,

“When all the clutter is cleared away from our lives, we human beings do not merely need to engage in corporate worship; we truly want to worship in communion with others. All of us know somewhere in our hearts that we are not whole without such worship, and we hunger to engage in that practice. Thus, planners of worship do not make worship meaningful; worship is already meaningful” (Beyond the Worship Wars, 17).

Unfortunately, the image of God within us has been distorted and disturbed by sin. So, left to ourselves, we fail to fulfill our purpose of worshiping the Lord in spirit and in truth. In response to our condition, God the Father, in a manner of speaking, recreates us for worship. He does so through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. A.W. Tozer asks,

Why did Christ come? Why was he conceived? Why was he born? Why was he crucified? Why did he rise again? Why is he now at the right hand of the Father? The answer to all these questions is, “in order that he might make worshipers out of rebels; in order that he might restore us again to the place of worship we knew when we were first created” (Worship the Missing Jewel, 217).

Tozer’s words affirm those of the apostle Paul who teaches us that the Lord saved us from our sins, adopted us as his children and indwelt us with the Holy Spirit “to the praise of his glorious grace” (Eph 1:6). Lest we doubt Paul, the apostle Peter echoed his teaching: “You are a people who belong to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Pet 2:9).

God the Father, then, initiates our worship, not only by creating us in his image for that purpose but by saving us for worship. God invites us to respond to his saving grace in Christ with gratitude. His salvific grace, then, prompts our praise. We witness the dynamic relationship between salvation and worship throughout the Scriptures, but particularly in the narratives surrounding Christ’s birth. Each person or angel who heard the message of salvation praised the Lord! Mary sang, “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46-47). An angel of the Lord joined a great company of the heavenly host and praised the Lord (Luke 2:9-12). Astrologers from the East found Jesus and worshiped Him (Matt 2:11). Seems safe to conclude that those whom God saves worship Him! Walt Wangerin captures that conviction with this prayer:
“O Lord, you are the musician, and we are all your instruments. You breathe, and we come to life. You breathe, and we are horns for your glory. You blow through the winds of the spirit, and we like chimes cannot keep silent. You pluck the strings of our hearts, and we become a psalm. You come, and we must sing” (Preparing for Jesus, 82).

Even now, we, who have been saved by grace, delight in the presence of our Savior and glory in the beauty of His holiness. Those impulses will remain with us through eternity for in heaven, we, with all the angels and all the saints, will worship the Lord singing, “Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever” (Rev 7:12). Until Christ comes again, sin continues to derail God’s plan for us. Paraphrasing James K.A. Smith, our love becomes disordered; it gets aimed at the wrong ends and enjoys the wrong things (Desiring the Kingdom, 52). Consequently, instead of worshiping the Lord, we worship ourselves. Influenced by the ever-present power of sin, we enjoy the blessings of the created world and the comforts of our redemption while failing to worship God, the giver of every good and perfect gift. For that reason the Lord has not only created and saved us for worship, he also commands us to worship Him.

Scripture includes numerous commandments regarding worship, many of which may be found in the Psalms. In Psalm 113, for example, we read: “Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord all you peoples! From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised!” God’s mandate corrects any and all self-centered approaches to worship. It reminds us that we don’t worship the Lord to have our needs met or to feel better about ourselves or to get something out of it, though each of those objectives may be reached during times of praise. Instead, we worship in obedience to God’s Word, regardless of how we feel. We worship the Lord even when it seems like an irrelevant waste of time. Why? Because God the Father calls us to do so. Our response to His grace and mercy is a loving act of obedience to the Father who has loved us in Christ and who lives with us through the Spirit. Consequently, we ought to worship the Lord even if we don’t get a thing out of it.

We need to worship the Lord and, consequently, find satisfaction and joy through worship. When we worship with God’s people we get something out of it. Our needs are met. We feel complete, even happy. When we worship we know a little bit about the Psalmist’s claim that a day with the Lord in worship is better than a thousand doing something else. When circumstances hinder us from gathering with God’s people for worship, we long for our return. And when we contemplate the future, we freely borrow the words of the Psalmist who said, “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple” (27:4).

Bio
Sam Hamstra, Jr. author of What’s Love Got to Do with It?: How the Heart of God Shapes Worship (Wipf & Stock, 2016), is the Director of the Master of Arts in Worship degree program at Northern Seminary (Lisle, IL), as well as the founder and president of ChapterNext, a pastor-search and church staffing firm. To find out more about Sam, visit www.chapter-next.com.

The Beauty of a Moment

Worship band

by Mary Sirois

Something is happening in worship right now. Maybe it’s always been happening. But over the last few years, I’ve sensed something is changing. I have noticed an increased appreciation for the real and raw. This authentic worship experience is being expressed as believers gather in churches, arenas, bars, and living rooms to worship. It’s the sound of eternity experienced in a moment. New songs are being birthed from connection with each other and with our King.

Now, I am not new to worship. I’ve had a front-row seat as worship has evolved through the ages. That might be a little overstated. But growing up in a mom-for-a-pastor home, I grew up with worship music (and some oldies). I can look back and recall singing “He is Exalted” alongside a cassette tape of Twila Paris in my acid-washed jeans at youth group. I remember belting out “Awesome God” from my college sorority room. And then crying out, “Did You Feel The Mountains Tremble?” as l listened on my walkman during the ‘90s. As I step back and take notice, I see the shifts that the worship movement was experiencing in each of those seasons.

I started to observe another shift over the last few years. During our worship times at church, in the midst of a polished setlist, spontaneous moments were beginning to occur between songs or choruses, drifting away from structure and script. Sometimes in worship, we would play notes and rhythms that were unplanned, but in sync; singing new words and songs that were raw and fresh. These songs were authentic and real, unrehearsed, simple and pure. They carried a fragrance of heaven. God was active and alive, revealing Himself in these moments as only He can. I found during these times of worship that my heart was open and vulnerable for an encounter. I was listening to the sound of eternity. The Creator of the universe, the One holding the stars, speaking words of life directly to me. There was so much beauty in these moments.

As my awareness of them developed, I was hungry for more. Inside our times of worship at church, we began to make space for these moments and allow eternity to speak. Our community and worship team was experiencing this every Sunday, but I found a void in the marketplace as I set out to discover more of them.

I began recording these fresh songs and live moments on voice memos as they happened, trying to share them through Dropbox. I texted YouTube moments and songs to friends who I thought would appreciate or even need to hear them. Each morning as I worked from my office, I searched for more, streaming live and recorded worship services with my ears attuned for the new. And just like the desire to share an amazing picture of a breathtaking sunset on Instagram, I wanted to capture and share what I found with others. I was so taken by the beauty of these moments.

While this was unfolding inside my personal worship experience and the expression of worship through my church, I met Tony Brown, the co-writer of the song “Good, Good Father” and a part of the band Housefires. Through his travels, Tony was joining communities all over the world, from college campuses to churches to living rooms, leading people into worship through unscripted, live songs. As Tony heard different tribes and communities singing songs in unison as evidence of their encounter with God, he knew the world needed to hear those songs too.

Preparing for worshipMy path intersected with Tony’s at a worship gathering, and as we connected, our visions aligned. God was orchestrating the beginnings of something new. As an entrepreneur, I love the new. New ideas. New opportunities. New risk. As a worshipper, I also find value in the new. New revelation. New songs. New encounters. When you experience something new or define something unseen, you are awakened to a broader reality. As these two parts of me, the entrepreneur and the worshipper, converged, I found myself wanting to champion the newness of these worship moments and build infrastructure that furthered their reach.

As Tony and I continued to talk, we found ourselves at a crossroads. It was time to either lay down the idea, staying safely on the sidelines or move forward and create an entity and a plan. We saw the value of connection and the beauty of these moments. With that in focus, the moment for this new business had arrived. TRIBL was born.

The TRIBL journey began by asking questions… What if there was a place where these spontaneous, life-changing moments could be discovered and shared with the world? Could our hearts catch fire together as we found others capturing their authentic, worship-filled moments? Like gathering wood for a bonfire by the seaside, could we collect these scattered pieces? Could they provide fuel for the fire that burns within our human frames to worship in the fullest sense? Could we put a megaphone to other tribes’ lips and create a space for their voices to be heard? What if we not only united our voices in live worship but carried those moments with us into our digital future?

We knew there were other streaming music apps and sites out there that offer worship, but none of the alternatives focused on these questions. No one was aggregating or highlighting live, moment-driven content. So with a God-stirred passion in our heart for these moments, we began exploring a new option. Through TRIBL, we set out to unite the tribes in encounter with God and championing moment-driven, live worship. We will use technology to highlight and share worship experiences… “moments.”

What is a Moment

Moments are real and raw, authentic and beautiful. They are full of potential for fresh revelation. They are new songs. Moments don’t fit the criteria we sometimes need to define a complete song. A moment happens when something spontaneous and Spirit-led is sung out during worship. Hearts are awakened in a real connection to God, and we get to behold Him.

These spontaneous, God-led moments and songs are full of His beauty. They are different than produced and planned songs, as they tend to fill the space in and around scripted lines. They sometimes springboard off known and familiar songs. These moments carry a specific word and melody from heaven, facilitating encounter in that instant. Throughout Scripture, we are exhorted to sing a new song. God loves it when we step out in a moment and sing back to Him what He is singing over us. Moments are birthed from this place of revelation, and they change us.
Moments happen on arena stages, in living rooms, churches, and even prayer closets. They originate from hearing His heart and being willing to wrap melodies and words around a glimpse of Him, drawing others to this place of encounter. Unless you are in the room, though, access to these moments and songs can be limited. A moment happens live only once. We all have experienced moments where we are aware the Holy Spirit is moving and can’t help but break out our phone to capture it. What if there was a way to harness technology and provide access to that moment again and again? What if we could hold on to these moments with God and share them with others who are hungry for a fresh encounter with the King?

Worship leadersWith this understanding, our first step at TRIBL was to build a streaming music app as the home for these “live” moments of revelation and encounter. Stepping out in this venture, we must do something new. Not copy a model that exists, but create something different. A new marketplace or exchange so the world can hear these songs.
Instead of copying a streaming, on-demand music model, we desire to focus on connection and revelation through spontaneous songs and the live, moment-driven worship niche. As such, we emphasize moments, songs and curated playlists that lay the groundwork for meaningful interactions with God. We share stories and videos, building personal connections, which open our minds to what is possible and remind us of the truth. We open the door for encounters with God.

Every story and tribe is unique. As an artist steps out and joins with heaven, singing out fresh revelation, a story is unfolding. These stories and songs need to be heard. Encounter happens when we worship and connect personally with the lines of a song, but knowing the story and backdrop of the song deepens our connection to the words. Sometimes these songs are birthed in a moment over one unique individual but become an anthem for the Church at large. Understanding and knowing the context can only draw us further into seeing His heart and the beauty of worship.

We are in a new connection economy. We long to connect. And isn’t this the opportunity that technology has provided? We swipe right to meet our next date; we Yelp to discover our new favorite place to eat; and we Zappo to buy the “much needed” pair of shoes. We share our news on Twitter, our lives on Facebook, and our stories on Instagram. We long to connect and be known. And we are making that connection online. Our hope at TRIBL is to provide a curated place to find a new song and revelation. Worship is connection. At TRIBL, we long to share the beauty of a moment.

Moment-driven worship draws us into an intimacy and connection with our King and one another. These moments are real, raw, authentic and beautiful. They overflow with revelation and meaning. It is in these moments that we walk away changed–and as we share these moments with others, they, too, are changed. As we behold Him, even in just a moment, we become like Him. That is the beauty of a moment.

I’ve caught just glimpses of the depths in which these moments have shaped and changed my life. These moment-driven songs and melodies stay burned into my heart, convincing me of truth. As we leave a digital footprint for the next generation, we can leave something that impacts and lasts. We are all on our own miraculous journey, each unique heart responsive to the calling of the King. Won’t you join us on our journey and encounter God with us?

Leading Children into the Presence of a Living God

Yancy

By Yancy

I have never heard a sweeter sound than a group of kids singing with all their heart to our amazing God. Have you ever experienced it? When they sing the words “I love You” to Jesus they are soft, pure, sweet and I believe the perfect example to all us adults of what it means to have childlike faith. Experiencing their sweet sound of praise will surely give you some chill bumps and make your eyes water.
I’ll never forget the day that I came across this verse in my office. Psalm 8:1&2 “God, brilliant Lord, yours is a household name. Nursing infants gurgle choruses about you; toddlers shout the songs that drown out enemy talk, and silence atheist babble.” It was eye-opening. I remember stopping and reading it again and again and understanding more and more the power that can be at work in our children’s ministries every single week.

I’m sure you’re like me in the fact that there are people I know that don’t know Christ. There are friends of mine that grew up in the church just like me, yet have made very different life choices on the journey. Realizing that the power of a snotty-nosed toddler singing “How Great Is Our God” or a cool attitude preteen singing passionately “Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders” can make the atheist I know stop in their tracks and reconsider what they believe. Observing this transformation was a game changer for me. I said to myself, “Sign me up!”

We all want to see God move and be at work in our church family. Every week engage kids and give them the opportunity to find their hiding place in God’s presence. Even the youngest age class in your church can have a worship time. There are no rules to how many songs you do or how many minutes you should spend but every week give children a chance to sing praises to Jesus. Train leaders to teach the “what, why, when, where and how” of worship. Don’t just push play on a song or video and expect it to lead the kids for you. Just like you have a worship leader to lead worship for your adults or even student ministry, train leaders to lead kids in worship.

Students and young adults can make for great kids worship leaders. Have you ever considered that growing and developing worship leaders for children’s ministry could create long-term growth and develop worship leaders for your adult congregation? I’ve led worship for every age and I can confidently tell you kids are the easiest group to lead. You can use high-energy and active fun songs to engage, connect and get the wiggles out. However, don’t underestimate the capacity kids have for profound worship. Strategically place slower worship songs in your set after something real high-energy or after a teaching time to allow kids to respond to the Lord in worship. I’ve had way too many conversations with leaders over the years that said: “We don’t do slow worship songs because our kids don’t know how to respond.” I always want to rewind and playback their statement for them to hear. I often ask these same leaders, “how will the children ever learn how to worship if you never give them the opportunity?”

My travels allow me to encounter so many powerful testimonies from leaders and parents. Recently a precious mom shared a conversation with her daughter Ava. Ava said, “Mom, tonight I closed my eyes and raised my hand up to God. I felt Him in a way I never had before.” At home, they had a sweet conversation about the Holy Spirit working in her life. Needless to say, she thanked me for allowing their family to have this moment at our church’s family worship time. She also said, “If you didn’t sense God’s Spirit working last night, it’s because you didn’t want to!” – Dawn Farris of New Testament Christian Church Keokuk, IA

As a worship leader, I’ve always looked to David’s example. He is known as a man after God’s own heart. He’s one of the greatest examples we have of worship, surrender and praising God with all your life. David didn’t wait until He was having the “best day ever” to praise God. Even in the moments where he needed a shelter and help, he called out to God and declared what he believed. Worship was the form of communication he used to pray and seek the Lord. Pastor John Gray said, “The password to your miracle is the sound of your praise.” I want to model that to children. Think of how different the world could be if more people learned to run TO God rather than FROM God when life gets hard. David learned that his hiding place, shelter, and refuge from the storms of life was found in the presence of the Lord. I believe we can help kids learn the same thing from a young age, preparing them even for adulthood. I want to help kids understand their purpose in this world is to bring glory and praise to God. Through their life each day, in their choices, words, actions, etc. they choose whether to shine their light bright or dim.

Our hearts beat to testify of the good news of Jesus Christ. As we sing songs and direct our attention to the One who made us and rescued us through salvation we are aligning our heart with His. Every child was made in the image of God. May the generation we minister to be known as a generation after God’s own heart. I believe the doorway is found in the obedience of our heart to worship in every season.Josh Blount pastor of New Song Church in Oklahoma City, OK said: “Teaching kids to worship is not the issue. They know how to, directing their worship to Jesus is the issue. Help them put God first.”

WHERE TO START…

I’ve found that defining for each age group or class what you want them to learn and experience pertaining to worship gives everyone a great goal. Once you define this for your ministry you can pass the vision along to the leaders, volunteers, and teachers so they can make sure every week they are doing something to help make that goal come to pass. I defined what I wanted to teach preschoolers about worship as “we sing to Jesus because we love Him.” Young children understand the word love. They hear it from mom and dad, grandma and grandpa. They even use the word to say “I love you” back to those special people in their life. Singing to Jesus is a way we show Him we love Him. Preschoolers can understand that. It’s the right size piece of worship for that age group. Every age group/class/ministry in your church should be building upon that vision and strategically working together to help grow worshippers within your congregation.
Many of our churches may have great kids’ worship but student ministry is lacking. Or maybe your student ministry worship is awesome but your adult congregation sounds more like crickets rather than a choir of the redeemed. Taking a step back as an organization and defining the stages of worship in the life of a child turned student turned adult only helps grow a culture of men and women of God who have tasted and seen the refreshing that comes from the presence of the Lord. I spent time on a church staff that connected those dots and saw how refreshing it was to be working together in our efforts of worship rather than a bunch of departments working alone. Church wide alignment and planning are essential.

Do you need to catch a vision for children’s worship? Find a Hillsong Kids DVD and see kids participating. Those close-ups of kids singing, eyes closed, focused on the Lord will melt your heart. Maybe the kids in your ministry need a picture of worship. Play the Bethel Kids DVD before and after your children’s services to show kids other kids engaged in praising the Lord.

As a worship leader, it’s always important to define the win. Know where you want to go and lead them. What’s your goal for the music time? Hopefully, this is a moving target in your ministries. As you grow and your kids develop the win can grow and develop too. What is something you’d like to see happen in your kid’s worship? Define the win. What is a step you could take and work to accomplish with your kids in the area of worship? As you accomplish your goals keep raising and moving the bar of what your “win” will be. 1 Corinthians 9:24 “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” (NIV) Even in the beginning stages of teaching kids about worship, I encourage them to take a step today. For some, that step is to just sing along. For others, the step may be to clap their hands or lift a hand in surrender. The steps may be different for each of us but we can all start moving forward.
Another thing we see in David’s example is the instruction that he gave when he commanded in Psalm 47:1 “Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.” (NIV). Children are used to instructions, being told what to do from Mom, Dad, teachers, etc. Great kids worship leaders model and coach kids the way that David instructed us how to praise God.

You have an amazing opportunity to create fun, relevant atmospheres where kids can experience who God is, how much He loves them, and respond to that. Worship is one of the ways we get to respond to God’s amazing love to us is with our gift of worship. Invite children to join you in the party that is bringing praise to God. I’m cheering you on!

Why We Sing

We enjoy singing. It’s fun. Music plays a big part in our lives and we take satisfaction in using it to express our hearts and as a tool to explore our relationships with God. It’s good for us. But that’s not why we sing.

Singing connects us to one another. It’s an activity we do together that is an important part of the glue of what we do when we gather. It’s an expression of our identity and our relationship with one another. But that’s not why we sing.

Singing is a way of serving the Lord. We honor Him by doing our part in providing the congregation with an environment, an opportunity, and an invitation to worship our King. We honor Him by setting aside our pride and trying to model worship and to be willing to make ourselves vulnerable by showing others our hearts as we interact with Him publicly. But that’s not why we sing.

Singing impacts my mind. The lyrics of songs teach profound truths about God. Songs reinforce biblical values and are part of transforming our minds by moving our thoughts beyond ourselves to focus upon Jesus. But that’s not why we sing.

Singing is a way of our giving back to God. It’s part of our sacrifice of praise that we prepare and offer to the Lord. Through it we express recognition and thanksgiving to our Creator and Redeemer. Preparing an offering of music is like raising the sacrificial lamb to present at the altar as a special gift that each of us give personally to the Lord. But that’s not why we sing.

Singing is a form of prayer. The songs provide us with a vocabulary to express and explore who God is and to declare what He is doing in our lives. Moments during a song when we are not singing provide little pauses to pray our own thoughts to the Lord and to listen to what He has to say. But that’s not why we sing.

Singing is tied to the promises of God. God promises to show up in a special way when we gather in His name according to His purposes. He literally “indwells” the praises of His people. He promises to draw near to us as we draw near to Him. Scripture ties music to spiritual and physical freedom from bondage, to healing, miracles, repentance, and other holy actions by the Lord. But that’s not why we sing.

Singing impacts my body. It forces us to become physically involved when we express worship. This reminder of our own weakness and flesh is another part of giving ourselves as living sacrifices to the Lord. But that’s not why we sing.

Singing is something the Bible commands us to do. We are far more often commanded to sing that almost anything else in the Bible. God built us to sing; we are designed for it. He invented music before He even created us, and we are specially crafted so that it powerfully impacts us as well as the spiritual realm. When we sing, we obey God’s command. But that’s not why we sing.

Singing affects our emotions. Music bypasses our mental filters and stirs our passion. It challenges us to arise from the depths of our emotional slumber and coldness, fanning the flames of our hearts to burn brightly for the Lord. But that’s not why we sing.

Worship is one of the few things that we know goes on in Heaven. It’s powerful enough to shake Heaven’s very gates. Music accompanied many major events in the Bible. It led God’s people forward in battle. Even Jesus’ birth was announced through song, as will be His triumphant return. But that’s not why we sing.

Why do we sing? One simple reason. God deserves our praise. This is good and right and true. But worshiping the Lord is something that we each must decide to do for ourselves. We choose to sing. How dare we arrogantly decide that He should not receive something that He declares He wants? Do we know better than He does whether the noise we make is good enough when He says it is? Who are we to judge our worship – when that right belongs only to Him.

We must not withhold from the Lord the glory that is due to Him from ourselves.

That’s why we sing.

About the author: TJ Miller serves as the Pastor of Worship Arts at Walloon Lake Community Church, a multi-campus church in northern Michigan. He loves to see people become equipped to be successful in ministry. For a glimpse into his ministry approach, check out “WLCC Worship Arts Team Manual” available from www.thebookpatch.com.

The Beauty of Fandom

The Church, just like society, has its eras. New communication devices often are the root of ushering us out of one era and into the next. The cassette tape was pivotal in moving us out of the era of the pipe organ and into the era of the guitar. Likewise, the computer and more recently its mobility and Web 2.0 has moved us out of the era of the guitar and into the era of multimedia worship. Services of worship are now filled with words, music, and visuals in order to communicate the gospel story.

Along with that, the idea of fandom in the era of Web 2.0 has lost its stigma. The principle reason for this is that fans are no longer passive viewers or distant admirers of people or organizations. Today’s fan is an active participator in and with the object of their affection/appreciation. New media companies that understand this reality actually design their business models around the participation factor. Fans of megasites such as YouTube, Instagram, and Wikipedia are not just observers; they are the content creators. The fans are not just admirers, they are active contributors and absolutely necessary for any type of success of the business.

Those who are most passionately engaged in a community define its values. This is relevant to understand because worship is also a participatory “enterprise.” The social media model is one that can inform what it means to engage our communities on a level that makes their participation, not simply something we encourage, but the actual essence of what it means to worship.

God-given Influence
Worship leaders are the gatekeepers. Worship leaders are the artistic curators, local theologians, and historians of a worshiping community via the songs that they write, sing, and lead. You tell your congregation (both actively and passively through the songs you choose and write for your setlist) not only which albums to purchase for personal listening, but who God is and who they are. Additionally, worship leaders advocate support—or not—for the poets, composers, visual artists, and liturgists in our midst.

So what do we do when a movie like Hillsong: Let Hope Rise comes into view? Like you, Worship Leader magazine is all about prayer. Primarily sung prayer, but not limited to that. So when we got word that the filmmakers and the guys in Hillsong United wanted to encourage active prayer (active worship) in movie theaters around the world, we perked our ears. This is our business. Helping people pray when they are gathered together.

Up and Away
And yes, we are advocates for grassroots art. At one point Hillsong was a startup operation, yet no one would consider the megachurch in Sydney, Australia, a mom-and-pop organization now. However, their mission remains the same: tell the world about Jesus. The question is, how will local communities and churches, large and small, respond to the missional invitation that Hillsong is broadcasting via movie theaters, home entertainment, and mobile media to both the Church and those who have yet to believe.

It’s one thing for the gatekeepers (you) to rally around the mission, put together a movie night and hit the theater for a time of worship at a multiplex. But why stop there? We are in a new era of media production and distribution. How can you apply what you see? What is appropriate for you to access and incorporate of the technology, creativity, and worship theology represented on the screen? You most certainly have the means to jump in the game, to create your own film as a means of worship and also to take ownership of anything and everything that you view in Let Hope Arise or any other media that can inspire authentic worship in your church and community.

Your business is …?
The key for churches and worship leaders to ingest and understand going forward is the classic Peter Drucker quote: “What is the purpose of your business?” If you are in the business of communal sung prayer, then really there is no limit to what you can do in order to engage those in your community that are passionate to participate in that mission. There is nothing wrong with fandom in the era of Web 2.0, but we have the opportunity to help people become fans of the one who truly deserves it: God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Chuck Fromm is the founder of Worship Leader Media which includes Worship Leader magazine, Song Discovery, and the National Worship Leader Conference. 

Using Space in Worship

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he space in which we offer our worship is critically important and can shape the ways in which we are spiritually formed. Worshiping in a large cathedral has the potential of enhancing the idea that God is Sovereign. Worshiping under the covering of trees in a mountain setting may enhance the idea that God is Creator. Worshiping in a small traditional chapel may enhance the idea that we have an opportunity to have an intimate relationship with God. Our setting, or space, can definitely shape the way we view God, thereby shaping the way in which we worship. The architecture of our churches as well as the way in which we set up our worship space says a lot about what we consider to be the most important element of worship. For instance, the church that has the baptistery front and center highly values baptism.

The church that has the communion table front and center highly values the Eucharist. The church that places the pulpit front and center highly values the sermon. And the church that places the musical instruments at the center highly values musical worship. This is not to say that the church that places the baptistery in the center does not highly value the sermon or musical worship. The placement of elements in the worship space does however express what is considered the most valued element of worship.

There are also places in which God seems more present than others. These places have recently been termed “thin places.” These are places where God’s presence seems stronger than any other place. Since the beginning of recorded history, people have been fascinated and drawn to places where the veil between this world and the eternal world is thin – a meeting of heaven and earth. The dividing line between the holy and the ordinary are thin in these places. For some it may be the beach. Others may find God’s presence strongest in the mountains. For others, it may be in a backyard garden.

Now the Bible makes it clear that God is everywhere: Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there. If I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. Psalm 139:7-10 Theologians call this omnipresence, being everywhere at once. And though God is omnipresent, the Bible also teaches that God is present in a special way in certain locations.

We see this to be true throughout Scripture as followers of God built altars in special places of worship. Later, the tabernacle replaced the altar as the primary location where God revealed His presence to His people. Sacred space is critical in worship but it is not mandatory. We remember that Jesus shattered the preconceived what, where, when and how of worship as he talked with the woman at the well. It is not the place that makes worship it is He whom we worship.

Yet God understands that as human beings, our surroundings shape us and within our worship experience, can either enhance or detract. Thus, God shows that sacred space is valuable as He gives detailed directions for the building of the worship space known as the tabernacle. When reading the book of Exodus, one cannot help but see the importance of sacred space. Of the three important topics of the entire book – the other two being the Exodus and the law – the vast majority of the book deals with the tabernacle. Thus, we see that sacred space is an important aspect in our spiritual formation as we worship God.

Consider this… Have you ever considered the importance of sacred space to your worship? Does the church you regularly attend consider sacred space important? Based on the design of the worship space, which element of worship would you say is most valued at your church? Is there a “thin place” where God seems most present to you? The beach…the mountains…a backyard garden? How can you make that place special in your worship?

Steven is a Worship Pastor and Professor of Worship at Azusa Pacific University. He holds a Doctor of Worship Studies from The Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies and lives in Southern California with his wife and two sons.

Teaching With Our Songs

“Let me write the hymns of a church and I care not who writes the theology.” R. W. Dale

[dropcap]R[/dropcap].W. Dale, a nineteenth century English pastor, understood the vital importance of our congregational song lyrics. When music is used to accompany text, the text is heightened to a new level of remembrance. That is why people leaving a worship service are more likely to be singing the words of a worship song than recounting the points of a sermon. Congregational songs are not “filler” that leads to the sermon time. Through our worship songs we praise, pray, encourage and teach.  One way worship leaders can disciple their congregations is through thoughtful song selection with great attention to lyrics.

Here are a few biblical principles to consider when choosing songs for congregational worship.

  1. Our songs should be scripturally sound. The Apostle Paul tells Timothy to “rightly handle the word of truth” in 2 Timothy 2:15. Later in chapter 3 Paul reminds Timothy that ‘all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” As ministers we must give priority to the Word in worship and ensure it is rightly handled. When people are gathered in worship, we want everything spoken and sung to be rooted in Scripture. Is the song we are choosing scriptural truth? Not all worship songs are created equal in this way. Some popular worship songs can actually not be scripturally sound.   As worship leaders we must have a theological foundation so we can wisely choose scripturally sound songs.
  2. Our songs should be expressed in clear, intelligible language. In his discussion on Christian gatherings Paul reminds us in I Corinthians 14:17 about speaking words that are clearly understood. Old hymns and new worship songs can have issues with clear, intelligible language. Some of the old hymns are written in a poetic style that today’s worshiper may not understand. How many times have we sung “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” and not understood the meaning of “here I raise my Ebenezer”? Many newer versions of the hymn have changed this phrase. Hymns are not like Scripture. We would not want to change the text of a Scripture passage but we can update a word or phrase of an old hymn to make the language more intelligible to our people.   Another solution when using “Come Thou Fount” is to simply explain the Old Testament concept of “Ebenezer.” Wise worship leaders seek to select songs that are expressed in clear, intelligible language.
  3. We should use a variety of songs. In Colossians 3 and Ephesians 5 Paul describes songs in worship as “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” There has been a lot of discussion concerning the meaning of this phrase. One simple explanation is that we as worship leaders should use a variety of worship songs. We should use Scripture songs like those we see in the book of Psalms. We should use songs that are deep in biblical truth (like our hymns) along with simple songs of praise (spiritual songs). I often think about walking through a cafeteria line and comparing this to song selection. When we eat we want to select foods from the line that will give us a balanced diet. Although we love desserts or breads or meats, all of one of these is not healthy. When we choose songs we should look for balance between strong doctrinal songs and songs of praise that are often simple in truth but an important part of our expression in worship. A variety of songs in worship is desired.
  4. Our songs should teach and admonish. Colossians 3:16 reminds us of the teaching function of our worship songs. An important part of our worship ministry is discipleship. In order to faithfully instruct our people through worship songs we must be careful to choose songs that express clear biblical truths. Have you ever sung a worship song and wondered the meaning of a particular sentence or phrase (or the whole song)? The songs we choose should not be vague in their meaning but express biblical truth in such a way that it is edifying to the Body of Christ. We have no time in our worship services for the expression of vague principles. It is helpful once or twice a year to look at a list of worship songs the church has sung to see exactly what we are teaching. It could be that we are missing important truths about the Christian life.

When choosing songs for worship, let your first consideration be the lyrics. We can use a variety of song styles, but if the lyrics are unintelligible or vague, find another worship song. As worship leaders when we choose a song to use in corporate worship, we are actually putting words into people’s mouths.   We must be good stewards of this responsibility and give them biblical truth expressed in such a way that our people can understand and be encouraged.

Greg Brewton is an associate professor and chair of the Department of Biblical Worship at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

Look out! Amazing things are on the way!