In spiritual circles, few people are seen as intimidating as often as theologians. Theologians are scholars. Studied. Educated. Cultured. And they wear old-school glasses, vests and wool sweaters as they sit in an aged leather wingback chair in front of a stately, oversized bookcase in a home library with loaded oak bookshelves lining all of the walls, all the way up to the ceiling. (Whew . . . that was a mouthful!) Okay, maybe not all of them, but we like to think they do. The point is, when we hear the word “theologian” often we get an image in our minds that, at least in some way, represents the description above.
So what if I told you that YOU are a theologian?
Well, if you’re a worship leader and/or worship songwriter, you are! Sure, perhaps you aren’t necessarily discovering any brand-spankin’ new theology. But, you are writing and/or choosing worship songs that speak a theological truth. You are communicating theology to your local church. This is why one of the most important things you do as a worship leader is pick out the songs for the weekend setlist.
Sure, key changes, arrangements, transitions, dynamics and flow are all important parts of what we do as worship leaders, but none of those things matter if we aren’t singing truths in our churches. It is widely known that ideas and messages are retained better in our brains when presented in song than by spoken word (a sermon). This is because our brains interact with music differently, thereby establishing a stronger retention of what we heard/sang. Why is this important?
It’s sad to say this, but most people don’t remember the sermon they heard last week or this morning, in some cases. Now sure, these days we have recorded sermons, sermon notes, etc. All of these allow us to go back and go through the messages again. However, overall there is a limited shelf life on the specific messages that are preached every week (hopefully the themes and lessons are learned and continue on!).
With music, however, things stick around a bit longer, including the lyrics of the songs themselves. These lyrics are a biblical message, just like your pastor’s sermon. The only difference is that yours is set to a music, may have some repetition, and may be more like 4 to 5 mini-sermons during a typical worship set. This is a big deal!
Why? Because what you sing in your worship times is going to stick in people’s hearts and minds longer than the sermon does. Therefore, it’s imperative that we sing songs that contain solid theology.
We basically have three options with the songs we sing at church:
1. Lyrics that present false, inaccurate theology.
2. Lyrics that aren’t false, but are theologically weak and don’t really say anything.
3. Lyrics that present a solid biblical truth with rich theology.
PLEASE stay away from songs in category one. As for category two, there is nothing wrong with this category necessarily, but there are too many songs that fit this mold.
I challenge you to shoot for the third category of songs. Pick songs that are not only correct, but really drive home messages that your congregation needs to hear. One helpful way that I’ve found to pick more songs in category three is not just listening to the song on the CD (with the fancy production), but taking the time to sit down and read the lyrics without the music.
This is no easy task, but it’s vital! You are a theologian. A musical theologian. Don’t take that responsibility lightly. Invest the time into being intentional about the words that your congregation sings each week.
“Generation after generation stands in awe of Your work;
each one tells stories of Your mighty acts.” Psalm 145:4 (The Message)
Worship leaders generally struggle with the style of worship. Choice of music. Expectations of the congregation. There is, however, an unhealthy reliance on these ideas. I recently heard a woman say that we focus too much on whether or not the church fits our needs. But the true question is: are we for the church?
As a worship leader, it is often difficult to find songs that fit the style of worship, or the congregation sitting in the pews. There are cases in which a dying or struggling church needs a change, but if that is not the case, here are some questions you should ask yourself:
What generation(s) participate(s) in your congregation?
What song choice would fit all of these generations?
It is difficult to handle the multi-generational aspect of church. While it is biblical, there is such a thing as casting too wide of a net, which risks the quality of the music.
Use one band/ leader; two at the most. There could also be a choir and an ensemble, but it could be a good idea to present these every now and then. This way, the multi-generation aspect is still revered, but doesn’t seem forced.
Hymns: hymns are respected by all generations (even college students).
The book of Revelation tells us that we will use old and new songs (Rev.15:2-3; 5:9). You should use songs that are fast-paced, but easy to sing along with. You can introduce the fast songs during special music or over the speakers as people are entering/leaving the sanctuary. Also, use songs that are reflective and high quality (Hillsong, Bethel, Jesus Culture, etc).
Slowly introduce new songs, so the congregation (especially older generations) can grow comfortable with the song choice.
Read the congregation. Look into their eyes! – We shouldn’t rely on the music aspect of worship too heavily, but the ability to read the congregation makes for a worship leader who is doing their job.
Model authentic, transparent worship. I have found that this can knock down barriers that may come with a difficulty to connect with the music. It brings everyone together, fixing their eyes on Jesus rather than each other (or even the worship leader).
A worship leader’s job is to direct the congregation to the Almighty Savior. They are our flock, too. The question is not how can the congregation fit my needs. The question is: am I serving the congregation, or serving myself?
Scripture taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.
These days, if you pay attention to forums or blogs, or anything similar, having to do with modern worship tech, you’ve heard a lot about advancements in lighting tech. This stuff is cool. Very cool, actually, when done correctly. Can lights. Spotlights. Laser lights. All kinds of lights. We, as the modern church, are quite lucky to have such cool rigging and lighting available to us, as well as awesome technology with which to control all these wonderful lights. It’d be a shame to not utilize this for our worship services. BUT . . . we have to be careful.
Many point out the trend in many churches that appear to indicate a movement towards “rock concert” more than “church service.” Now, this is NOT meant to turn into a debate or opinion piece on styles of worship, denominational practices, or even “seeker-friendly” churches. What I am more specifically looking at here is this: Where is the attention drawn? Are there distractions?
You see, we can overdo anything. We can overdo singing. We can overdo pushing for the offering. We can overdo being “dramatic” in our preaching. We can overdo instrumentation (seriously, who needs 7 different guitars on stage during a worship set?). And yes, we can overdo lighting.
At a rock concert, the lighting is meant to be part of the show. It’s meant to make you think the band is even more cool than you already think they are. And THAT is the distinction. In a worship service, what is your lighting scheme doing? Is it drawing attention to the band? Is it simply adding a “cool factor?” Or is it intentional, with the purpose of bringing these worship songs and lyrics even more to life? Do the lights help to draw people’s attention to Christ even more? Using our sense of sight is a powerful thing, and can absolutely impact the atmosphere of worship.
As an example, let’s look at “Nothing But the Blood.” This song is timeless, and powerful, and true. It stands perfectly well on its own. I can remember two specific times when we sang this hymn at conferences with very sophisticated lighting schemes.
One place had rapidly moving laser lights, big washes, and bright spots in random locations. It was very, very cool. And it was very, very distracting. Even with my eyes closed, I could see the lights darting to and fro through my eyelids. At a different conference, there were no dancing laser lights (at least not during this song). All there was, primarily, was a massive wash of red lights all over the stage. A sea of red. And during this song about the blood of Jesus shed for our sins, seeing this wash of red visually enhanced this time of worship. Not only was I singing about the blood, but I was visualizing the blood of Christ washing over everything. It was very simple, but it was extremely impactful.
This is what I am talking about. Laser lights are not a bad thing. And they can be used very effectively in worship. The key is this – what is your light “show” accomplishing? Is it just something cool to add into your church’s “What to Expect” section of your website? Or are you intentionally utilizing (and not utilizing, when appropriate) this technology to enhance the atmosphere of worship in your church? Are you using it to make the messages of our praise even more real to your congregation? In the end, are you using lights to point to The Light?
A powerful Holy Week and Easter song, from the perspective of Apostle John.
Written by Sean Carter and Tyler Ellison, performed by Sean Carter.
A dynamic drumbeat. Fat, full bass. Screaming electric guitars. Soaring vocals. Expansive effects boards. MIDI players. Three or more part harmonies. Synthesizers. Keytars (if you’re super cool). Tambourines. Trash cans. All of these are typical must-haves for all churches today (right???).
Ok, maybe not all of these things, and of course, not all churches . . . . But, for the most part, depending on the specific church tradition and setup, we (worship leaders) work hard with their teams to have what we perceive as “high quality” and “dynamic” times of musical worship. We look for full arrangements and a lot of dynamics. We want there to be a consistent movement and build from intro, to first verse, to first chorus, to second verse, to second chorus, to bridge, and so on. And, none of that is wrong.
In fact, I think it’s great. Music is proven to have an impact on human beings. It stirs. It moves. It draws us in. And, hopefully, when it comes to worship, it helps us amplify the praise we are lifting. “Dynamic worship” is definitely a buzzword, and is often both scoffed at and criticized in many circles. But, regardless of personal taste, it makes perfect sense to do our best to have creative arrangements and utilize this tool of music to the best of our ability when leading God’s people in praise. You know what else makes perfect sense? Throwing it all out the window.
Say what? Didn’t see that coming, did you? Now, this post is not necessarily about full a capella worship services, although those certainly are valid and are wonderful. I wanted to take this time to merely point out where some a capella moments could be useful in a worship service. Primarily, I’ll look at two good uses/reasons to incorporate some a capella into your worship services.
First, have you ever struggled with a transition between two songs in different keys? Sometimes you can work out a nice walk or transitional chord sequence. Sometimes you may just force a hard ending on the first song because you’re not quite sure what to do. Other times, you may have actually thrown a song out because the transition wasn’t working right (even though you may have been led by the Spirit to do that song?).
Transitions can be difficult and sometimes even more so for others. I propose that a great solution is to incorporate some a capella singing as your transition. At the end of the first song, bring it down (or keep it up, whatever works) and let the voices ring out – alone. Drop all the instrumentation and take the congregation through the chorus again (or whatever part is fitting). Dropping the instrumentation, followed by perhaps a nice open moment or two at the very end, allows you to go into the next song pretty easily, even if it is in a different key. It also provides another cool benefit . . .
Have you ever really heard a group of voices singing praise to God? I mean really heard it? Not just a crowd singing with a band. Not even a congregation singing along with your band. But I mean, really, really heard a group of people, with no instrumentation, lifting up worship to the Lord? It’s amazing! It’s pure. It’s passionate. There is just something about hearing that sound that is so fulfilling and wonderful.
As a worship leader, there is absolutely nothing better than hearing the people of God worshipping their Creator. And, it’s cool for those in the congregation too! There is something to be said of the benefit of corporate edification. It’s uplifting to know you are in the midst of a group of people, joining in with them in singing praise to the Lord. It’s a powerful, wonderful thing.
Now, I am not suggesting that we give up working on transitions. A great transition is super cool and can certainly add some great energy to a song change. It’s very easy to overuse the a capella approach. But, it’s also possible to underuse it.
It’s a great tool that provides both a practical function and a great opportunity for the people to lift up their voices in unison, unhindered by rhythms, guitar solos, or high Dbs. In a world of big time arrangements (which are super cool), it’s good to strip it down every now and then and let the people worship loudly and clearly. After all, our voices are the instruments that God built into us – let’s let them shine through every now and then! (Yeah, I know that’s a bit cheesy, but you get the idea.)
We wanted to share with you the details of a few updates we just applied to WorshipPlanning.com. Enjoy!
Email Response Options
Recipients of assignment notifications and reminders will now have the option to respond right in the email. If the email contains multiple assignments, there will be just a single “respond to assignments” button. And if the assignment has already been accepted or declined, assignment response buttons do not show.
We think this feature will really help with getting responses from Helpers, as it reduces the number of steps they need to follow to keep you informed!
Although Facebook still has this functionality in Beta, we’ve hooked into their native notification system for 3rd party apps. Once your team members have the Facebook App Installed, they’ll start receiving notifications in Facebook of when they are scheduled to serve.
We really love Spotify, but we are not very big fans of their choice in advertisements. To help shield you and your team from less-than-desirable ads, we added a pop-up message that offers a few tips that might help. They include options from disabling Spotify integration with your WP account to upgrading to the paid version of Spotify to remove all ads.
We all know how important vision is. Without a clear vision your church will lose focus and keep from growing. Without a clear vision in your personal life, you won’t know what direction you’re headed and you will lack focus.
However, there is one factor that most of us may not consider when it comes to vision.
I heard about a recent research that showed that many of us actually get the same psychological satisfaction from just telling a bunch of people about our vision as when we actually accomplish the vision. Sometimes people end up not accomplishing their vision or goal because they already got that psychological satisfaction just from telling a lot of people about it.
A great example is when we tell the whole world on Facebook that we’re on a new diet that we read about in the new bestseller book. We get excited and at the same time, by telling all our Facebook friends about it, we get the same psychological satisfaction of losing weight on the diet, without actually losing the weight. This can be counterproductive in accomplishing goals and visions in our life.
In a world where people share anything and everything on social media, my challenge to you is this: be careful how much you share. When it comes to your vision, be wise about whom you share it with.
It’s great to get excited about your vision or goals, whether it’s losing 20 pounds, reading 100 books this year, or whatever it may be. But, in your enthusiasm, know who you should share it with. Have a few trusted people in your life that you share your dreams with.
I’ve had times in my life where I was really excited about my vision…BIG, God-sized dreams and goals! I shared it with EVERYBODY without much thought about whom I should share it with, and quickly faced opposition, negativity, and animosity from some individuals.
Share your vision! But, know who you should share with. Have people around you that know you well, that will come alongside you and help you accomplish your vision.
For more insights on this topic, check out Michael Hyatt’s Podcast episode: The Relationship Between Vision and Productivity.
I’d love to hear from you! Do you agree or disagree? Leave your thoughts in the comment section.