I hear it all the time…. some worship leaders are concerned that if they stick too closely to a set list, or the arrangement of a song, they aren’t allowing the Holy Spirit to move. I’ve seen the hand wringing, as worship leaders try to deal with a perceived tension between keeping order to prevent chaos and the desire to allow God to move.
I give my musicians chord charts that include a ‘road map’ for the song. I do this by creating my own charts. These charts will show them that the song might have an 8 bar intro, verse 1, chorus 1, extra 2 bar segue into verse 2, chorus 2, bridge1, choruses 3 and 4 and then an outro.
I will deviate from this road map sometimes because of my own incompetence. I will also sometimes deviate when I read the room and see that perhaps the chorus is really resonating with the congregation such that we might need to repeat it a few more times, extending the song to better allow them to enter in. But short of these scenarios, unless my musicians have the less than common ability to improvise and read me, I try to stick to a ‘script’. BTW, I HAVE worked with such musicians but in my experience they are the exception and not the norm.
Does this mean that I’m excluding the work of the Holy Spirit to move? What if I were to tell you that I have found a loud example in Scripture where the Holy Spirit inspired PLANNING, as opposed to a ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ strategy? And what is this example? If you haven’t already guessed it, it is prophecy.
If God could inspire the prophets to predict the captivity and subsequent redemption of Israel, if He could give Jacob a dream that he was going to rule over his brothers, being their salvation in the process, if the spirit could inspire Isaiah in chapter 53 to reveal His plan for the coming Messiah, if He could reveal through Daniel a road map of nations following Babylon, I think He can plan our church’s worship music a week (or more) in advance. I think He is big enough to inspire a song’s road map even to the point that if we do NOT deviate from it, He could inspire such order.
I’m all for improvising even in corporate worship settings. I sometimes give my worship teams only a rough sketch of a song and tell them to watch me, listen to each other and the Spirit as we improvise the rest. When I do this, I still give them order; I just make the ‘boundaries’ of the ‘road map’ wider.
But what if the real reason we sometimes think that planning is contrary to allowing the Spirit to move is because we have reduced the Holy Spirit down to our present experience? What if we have narrowly limited the Spirit, or even mistaken Him for our feelings? How does this set us up to fail as worship leaders and as Christians when we are expected to reproduce such experiences?
What if the Spirit wants to inspire us not just in the extraordinary moments when the music is resonating with the congregation, but also in the ordinary moments when we are at our desks, looking out weeks ahead within the confines of an office space?
Greg Jones is a musician, music teacher, worship leader and independent recording artist. On my site you find me sharing music instruction, with an emphasis on worship music and articles on worship leading.
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Greg Jones is a musician, music teacher, worship leader, and independent recording artist.