In my last post, I detailed some apparent problems in church worship services today, seemingly contributing to many feeling they have no say in the type of music played and sung by worship teams and congregations. I received so many great comments on this topic by people of all ages, including worship leaders, who let me know they have grappled with these same issues, sometimes in utter frustration.
I think we can all agree that the whole purpose of worship is twofold: First of all, it is not about “me” but about “Him”, or His ” Worth-ship” if you will. The term worship was derived from these two words originally, as a form of adoration to the King of Kings. Let us not forget this important point! The second reason for worship is that it allows us to enter into God’s presence in a special way as we “unclutter” our minds from the mundane and secular aspects of our lives, if even for a few minutes, directing our love, praise and thanksgiving to the One who redeemed us and gives us the blessings we enjoy each day! It is also something we do voluntarily, which is why our Father derives such pleasure from it.
So let me list a few points on the positive side to take us from “monotony, form and ritual” in music to entering into a new dimension of true meaning and appreciation for this important time! If you missed Part I of this post, please read it before continuing. These concepts and ideas are the result of much prayer in this area, as a worship leader myself. With that in mind, I want to address the worship leaders first:
1. Take time to pray and seek the mind of God through His Holy Spirit about the songs you are choosing for each service. Remember, no two services are alike, and many times God wants to move in different ways if we’ll allow the Holy Spirit to do so. In other words, don’t let any service get into a “rut” of, “Well, it worked fine last time; we’ll do it the same way today and every day!” Perhaps some services will have more lively songs; some more worshipful and slower in tempo, coinciding with the message the pastor feels led to bring (it is good to find out what God is saying to him about the service, as well) and who is in attendance. The Holy Spirit knows this ahead of time and as you pray, He will reveal to you which songs are right and which are not! I have seen this happen many times and know it is vital; lots of prayer is so important!
2. Be open to trying different styles of music, as long as the words are full of praise and adoration to the Lord. Testimonial songs, primarily about us and our experiences, are good in limited number, but let the majority be full of praise and worship, including scripture and perhaps words from the Psalms. If you think all the songs sound similar, perhaps they do! Try bringing in some “older” worship choruses and songs, even from the ’80’s and ’90’s, such as “As the Deer”, “Shout to the Lord”, “He Is Lord”, “We Exalt Thee”, and “Breathe“. Remember some of those songs? They are very anointed and seem to always bring the presence of the Lord into a service! It wouldn’t surprise me at all if you see some people with tears in their eyes and hands lifted in worship when you begin to sing some of these older songs. Don’t forget to incorporate a hymn or two every once in awhile, too! Many of these were written centuries ago by men and women of God who experienced deep feelings of gratitude to their Lord and it shows in the anointed praise and worship which ensues when they are sung properly. Remember “Amazing Grace”? Wow, how can a person improve on that? Try modulating up a half step on the last verse, “When we’ve been there 10,000 years….” and watch your congregational singing soar and “raise the roof!” I’ve seen it happen countless times! Remember to teach unfamiliar songs by using them a few times until everyone has a chance to learn them; it is easier to worship when a song is familiar!
3. Try utilizing some of your talented singers and musicians in the congregation (who may not be participating on the worship team) for special music! I was in one church that had an opera singer and a first chair violinist in the congregation, who rarely performed! I thought this was very sad. Remember, Paul tells the Church in I Corinthians 14:26…”when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine…” (KJV) and so on. It appears that it is scriptural to let the various members of the Body of Christ contribute according to the talents and gifting God has given them. It’s not wrong to use gifted musicians in special music; it is actually quite scriptural and brings blessing to everyone!
4. Why not include a brief questionnaire in the bulletin asking your congregation to give feedback on what types of music they would like to see employed in the worship services, what some of their favorite hymns or songs are, and how they feel about various styles of worship? Let them give feedback (they don’t even need to sign them) and you can prayerfully read their responses to give you a much better idea of what your people want. You don’t necessarily have to change everything to please each person, but the ideas given may be beneficial in planning future worship services!
Now, to the rest of you who are worshipping from the pew! Pray for your worship leaders and music directors; pray for the instrumentalists and vocalists. When you come to church, prepare your heart ahead of time for worship and ask God to give you an understanding heart and right spirit directed towards Him. Think about the words of the songs as you sing; turn your eyes heavenward and choose to enter into God’s presence in worship, shutting out distractions about you. (One of my biggest gripes about some worship services is the amount of people coming and going, talking, even texting, in short not caring one bit about the worship. It is so distracting to me!) So, just shut your eyes and begin to worship in “spirit and in truth” and trust God to take care of the things that annoy you about certain songs. You may even find you begin to like some of those you thought were awful at first! Remember, even the old hymns were once new; many of them were simply words set to well-known “bar tunes” of the day! I wonder if they got flack for this at the time, too? In short, Satan will always try to bring division among those who choose to worship, including the musicians leading the worship, so let’s not give him any territory! We know God inhabits our praises and receives glory from our worship, so let’s make a choice to continue worshipping and entering into His presence. He loves to hear our praises!