Worship http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-life/worship Wed, 30 Jul 2014 21:24:20 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb 3 Dangerous Assumptions for Worship Leaders http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-life/worship/21099-3-dangerous-assumptions-for-worship-leaders http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-life/worship/21099-3-dangerous-assumptions-for-worship-leaders

Worship leaders, in general, are artists. Artists, in general, tend to be emotionally invested in their own situation. Emotional investment, in general, results in assumptions, which have varying degrees of truthfulness.

And we all know what happens when we assume.

I've been leading worship for almost 20 years, and I certainly fall into the category of emotionally invested artist. Time and time again I'm reminded that there are assumptions I make, there are assumptions I used to make, and there will be assumptions I will make in the future that are wrong, unhealthy and potentially dangerous.

Not dangerous in the sense of "look both ways before you cross the street" or "don't stick that fork in the electrical outlet," but dangerous in the sense that our hearts can become callous, our passion can fade, and our sense of entitlement can grow over time. Dangerous, especially for those of us called to lead God's people in worship.

So let me outline three of these dangerous assumptions that I have seen worship leaders (including myself) make and give some solutions that will be helpful for you.

Assuming the Crowd is Ready to Worship

This, for me, is the easiest trap to fall into. I've led worship with this assumption far too many times than I'm willing to admit, but I've also been on the other side where I'm part of the congregation where the worship leader simply assumed from the very beginning of the service that I and the rest of the crowd were ready to worship.

Sure, I've shown up to church. I'm in my seat. I saw the countdown video. I heard your opening line.

That doesn't mean I'm ready to worship.

My mind is running. My day has been rushed. My wife and I had an airing of grievances last night. My boss is a jerk. My kids have three birthday parties this afternoon. My doctor called on Friday.

Don't assume I'm ready to worship.

We sing songs of sacrifice and surrender, songs that celebrate God's work throughout history, songs that tell the sweet story of the life of Jesus. But they're just words, just songs, just sounds filling the room if they're not being poured out as a response to the greatest sacrifice, the greatest surrender, the greatest work, the greatest life.

Point me to that story, just as you did last Sunday. Just as you've done every Sunday for the last year after year. Keep inviting me back in and calling me to worship.

Worship leaders, we need to invite people, remind them, call them to worship. Tell me again how great God is. Open the Bible and read some of the majestic, beautiful, powerful poetry that speaks of the majesty, beauty and power of my God. Take me away from my distractions and point me to Jesus. Call me to worship.

How? As a default, Psalm 121 is my go-to call to worship.

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
 nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
 your going out and your coming in
 from this time forth and forevermore.

Worship leader, you read that for me at the beginning of our service, and (if I choose) I'm ready. You've acknowledged my distractions in the hills around me, you've reminded me that my God is bigger than the altars and idols in my life.

I'm brought back to the help of the Lord, and we've acknowledged together that my time on this Earth is fading, and there is a greater "going out and coming in" yet to come.

Don't assume I'm ready to worship.

Assuming the Crowd Hates Me

Not that artists would ever get their identity wrapped up in their artistry--ahem--but another assumption I have had and continue to deal with is this idea that if people aren't singing, if people aren't engaged, if people aren't reveling in the sweet presence of Jesus during their time of worship it means they must hate me and are angry with me for trying to force them to be a part of this.

I have said it myself, and I've heard others say after a worship service that people just seemed to be angry. It seems like people are staring you down, challenging you to work your worship magic and to just try to get me to sing. Kind of like this game of worship chicken, who will blink first?

Worship leaders, remember that even though I've just told you to invite me in to worship and to not assume that I'm ready, it's still up to me whether or not I'm willing to participate. I get to choose if I'm going to unfold my arms, allow a smile to creep across my face and be aware of the incredible presence of our God who promises to inhabit the praises of His people.

Choosing to worship is my choice, not yours, worship leader.

So if I choose to not sing, to not engage, to not worship, then the consequence of that decision rests with me. I choose to miss the blessing and work of God in that moment. I choose to disengage from the community of worshipers that surrounds me. I choose to let go of the opportunity of again retelling the love, grace and mercy of Jesus through songs.

So I don't hate you, but I might not love Jesus as much as I used to. Or at least maybe not as much as I try to convince myself and others that I do.

Worship leader, keep inviting me in to worship. Keep singing songs that take me away from the hardness of my own heart. Keep the joy of the Lord present on your face and maybe, if I choose, I'll see that and recognize it and allow the Spirit to soften my heart to see how good and merciful and tender He is.

Assuming the Worship Depends on Me

Oh man. This one is a doozy on so many levels. Again I'm pointing the finger at myself here and saying there are times when worship leaders will begin to think that a powerful, blow-the-roof-off-the-place, Spirit of God encounter is not only possible but is somehow related to my performance and my ability.

If I choose the right songs, if I don't break a string, if I give the right encouragement at the right moment, if I hit that key change at just the right spot, then look out. Jesus is very lucky to have me leading His people in worship today. You're welcome, Jesus.

We can fall in to this trap of thinking that somehow the caliber of our church's worship potential rests on the shoulders of our worship team and whether or not we get all the pieces to fit in just the right place.

This isn't to say that worship leaders don't have a responsibility to lead and to encourage. We certainly do. There is an opportunity and a call to leadership, which involves standing in front of our congregation, pointing them to Jesus, using songs and scriptures to stir their hearts and emotions and then encourage them to sing as worship to the Lord.

But that responsibility and call to leadership is about Jesus, not about me. The reason the church has done just fine without me for the last 2,000 years, thank you very much, and will continue to thrive and grow and multiply long after you are dead and buried is this core reality that it's not about me or any other worship leader.

So where's the danger? Worship leading being about you begins to grow this sick sense of entitlement, the idea that we deserve the stage we have, that we are somehow worthy of the opportunity of leading God's people in worship.

We don't start there, naturally, but it's the same with all heart issues that begin with small thoughts and nudges of "I wish it were this way" and "Isn't this church lucky to have me" and grows over time to an attitude of selfishness and idolatry of our own role and position.

How to deal with this one? Let me say this to you as a friend and a fellow follower of Jesus. I have seen too many passionate, dedicated, talented worship leaders fall by the wayside, losing their own opportunity to lead God's people in worship because this sense of entitlement grew far too large and they began to believe the lie that their church's worship was, in some way, because of them.

The only answer? Kill it. Put it to death. Deal harshly and swiftly with your own pride and arrogance in this area. Fall on your face before Jesus and someone you trust and ask for forgiveness. Take time away from the proverbial spotlight if you need to. If the spotlight is not proverbial but a reality, increase the seriousness of this request 10 times.

Go back to photocopying music for someone else's worship team. Go back to filling cups of juice for communion. Go back to washing toilets after a junior high retreat. Do anything that grows your humility and your love for Jesus and His church. Don't let this kill you.

In All Things, Grace

This is the beauty of the story we have entered. To be caught in the assumption trap with ourselves or with others can be quickly undone thanks to the grace of Jesus and the grace we have toward one another.

Don't let the assumptions kill you. Don't be a donkey.

Chris Vacher is the worship pastor at C4 Church in Ajax, Ontario, Canada. For the original article, visit chrisfromcanada.com.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Chris Vacher) Worship Wed, 30 Jul 2014 19:00:00 -0400
4 Ways to Kill Church Worship Fast http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-life/worship/21066-4-ways-to-kill-church-worship-fast-kills http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-life/worship/21066-4-ways-to-kill-church-worship-fast-kills

Looking around the church last Sunday I noticed that the majority weren't singing. And most of those who were singing barely moved their lips. The only voices I actually heard were those on stage with microphones.

That's been the case for years now–in churches large and small. What used to be congregational singing has become congregational staring.

Even when the chipper "worship leader" in contemporary churches bounds on stage and predictably beckons everyone to "stand and worship," the people compliantly obey the stand command, but then they turn into mute mannequins.

What's behind this phenomenon? What happened to the bygone sounds of sanctuaries overflowing with fervent, harmonizing voices from the pews, singing out with a passion that could be heard down the street? I suspect it's a number of unfortunate factors.

Spectator set-up. Increasingly, the church has constructed the worship service as a spectator event. Everyone expects the people on stage to perform while the pew-sitters fulfill the expectation of any good audience–file in, be still, be quiet, don't question, don't contribute (except to the offering plate) and watch the spotlighted musicians deliver their well-rehearsed concerts.

Professionalism. It seems it's paramount for church music to be more professional than participatory. The people in the pews know they pale in comparison to the loud voices at the microphones. Quality is worshipped. So the worshipers balk at defiling the quality with their crude crooning. It's better to just fake it with a little lip syncing.

Blare. The musicians' volume is cranked up so high that congregants can't hear their own voices, or the voices of those around them, even if they would sing. So they don't sing. What would it add? The overwhelming, amplified sound blares from big speakers, obliterating any chance for the sound of robust congregational singing.

Music choice. Sometimes people refrain from singing because the songs are unfamiliar, hard to sing or just cheesy. Sometimes worship leaders choose a song that may thematically tie into the day's sermon topic, but it's unsingable. Sometimes worship leaders choose lame songs written by their favorite songwriters–themselves.

I admit. I've joined the majority. I've stopped singing. I'm not happy about it. I know I should overcome these barriers and just praise the Lord with my very unprofessional vocalizations. But I long for an environment that evokes my real heartfelt vocal participation.

Thom Schultz is an eclectic author and the founder of Group Publishing and Lifetree Café. Holy Soup offers innovative approaches to ministry, and challenges the status quo of today's church.

For the original article, visit worshipideas.com.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Thom Schultz) Worship Wed, 16 Jul 2014 13:00:00 -0400
Does Your Church Have an OPH Problem? http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-life/worship/21040-does-your-church-have-an-oph-problem http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-life/worship/21040-does-your-church-have-an-oph-problem

It's a common problem that plagues all worship leaders, from suit-wearing song leaders to skinny-jeaned hipsters: off-pitch housewives (henceforth referred to as OPHs) who demand to sing on your praise team. (By "demand" I mean they march up to you after church and announce they'll be singing next week. Oh, really?)

An Ongoing Problem

I've encountered OPHs in every church I've ever been in—traditional, blended, contemporary and the most cutting-edge. Maybe that's one reason why even praise teams (preceded by choirs) are going by the wayside these days—too much drama! It's so much simpler for a male worship leader to have just one trusted and talented female worship leader by his side. This worship paradigm is becoming more and more common.

I was happily working as a music director in one church until a rich lawyer became an elder, and of course, his OPH expected to be singing on the praise team. I did all I could to help her fit into the group but it didn't work—she simply couldn't sing on pitch or blend with others. And what's worse, when I'd schedule other people for the praise team, they'd ask "is [insert name of OPH] singing? Oh, she is? Darn, I just remembered I'll be out of town that weekend!" Here's a great rule of thumb for worship leaders: volunteers who can sing don't want to sing with volunteers who can't.

Naturally this all came to a head and I was dragged before the [non-musical, businessmen] elders, who were baffled as to why I wasn't allowing people to "use their gifts." I describe the outcome in this article—basically, American Idol saved my job.

To Sing or Not to Sing

It's a struggle, isn't it? As a worship leader you want to be nice and affirming to everyone. But some people who really want to sing with your praise team just sound so ... awful!

A soundman once suggested we let our OPHs sing, and he would simply turn off their microphones in the house. No, this just didn't seem honest. Let's not play games and demoralize our team in the process.

My philosophy is one of common sense. If you can sing, you can sing on the praise team (assuming the person walks with the Lord.) If you can't, find another place of service. One of our worship leader responsibilities is to connect the right person to the right ministry—and this might mean a ministry outside of music. You do this with much prayer and consideration.

Unfortunately, in our celebrity-crazed culture, if someone has made up their mind they're the next famous pop singer and you discover they can't carry a tune in a bucket, you can be in for some major trouble (one OPH tried to get me fired.)

Actually, it's all about pitch. I don't really care how "good" of a voice you have—what I care about is if you can sing on pitch and blend with others. I once knew a top-tier Nashville session singer who sang on all the big records. You'd never want to hear this guy make his own solo recording, but he had a unique voice that could blend in harmony with anyone, and he knew how to use it.

Two Types of Singers

Some people are soloists; some are choir/praise team singers. Your job, in auditions, is to figure out who's who. Some people can be both, and some choir singers can grow into soloists.

I'm not a vocal soloist. To my amazement I always found my way into the elite choirs in college because, in auditions, I'd sight-read music like a maniac and sing the correct notes. I can blend and am your dream choir singer.

Then I ended up leading worship in a church. At that time there was a really famous worship leader who had a thin, nasally voice. As you'd listen to his music you'd think, "how on earth did this guy get a record contract?" I figured if he could lead worship, I could, too. The more I sang, the stronger my voice became. However, I'd never sing a solo and always had a good praise team singing behind me as I led to mask my vocal deficiencies.

Not Simply a Small-Church Problem

I know of a 10,000+ member megachurch that has only one good male vocalist (the main worship leader) and one good female. That's literally it. If, in my little church, I had at any given time two or three OPHs demanding to be on the praise team, he must have 200-300.

He candidly told me they started having auditions to help relieve the OPH problem. Evidently the OPHs were nearly going to riot and the pastor actually had to preach a sermon about the situation to calm them down. Oh, how they hoped they'd find someone, anyone with talent. They had over 100 people come to auditions, and not a single person had enough ability to even sing halfway decently on their praise team.

The sad reality is very few people these days have contemporary vocal abilities. Maybe it's because high schools don't have the music programs they did years ago. Maybe it's because churches don't have choirs like they did years ago. Some people are over-trained. I've known talented music majors who just couldn't cut the praise team because they were classically trained and couldn't handle the simplest contemporary syncopations.

A Simple Solution

One megachurch music director once gave me a wonderful piece of advice that helped his OPH problem. Before auditions, he stated that to be on the praise team one MUST be able to sing parts. This makes sense: as most worship leaders are male tenors who sing too high, a soprano can't merely sing the melody an octave higher without sounding like an opera singer and must sing a lower harmony part.

He told me this eliminated 90 percent of the OPHs during auditions with no drama. They knew the requirements going in, and they quickly discovered they couldn't sing a harmony part by ear.

Bottom Line: One of our worship jobs is to help people find their proper place in ministry.

Composer/arranger Don Chapman is the editor of the weekly WorshipIdeas.com newsletter that goes out to more than 50,000 worship leaders every week.

For the original article, visit worshipideas.com.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Don Chapman) Worship Wed, 02 Jul 2014 13:00:00 -0400
8 Steps to Transform Your Worship Team http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-life/worship/20976-8-steps-to-transform-your-worship-team http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-life/worship/20976-8-steps-to-transform-your-worship-team

Below is a step-by-step plan to help your worship team members flourish in three fundamental areas—as worshipers, musicians and mentors. This approach can change the culture of your worship ministry and help your team grow spiritually and numerically—no matter the size of your church.

I've seen firsthand the impact it has made in smaller congregations I've served in the past, and this same intentional process is making an impact in the megachurch where I'm worship pastor now.

Please note that these methodical steps may take you months to complete. Be patient, and don't rush through them—and be sure not to skip any as you move along. Each step is crucial to your success in training your team to be ministers through music.

Step 1: Confirm your vision, values and philosophyThrough prayer and Scripture. Your first and most important task should be to nail down what you value and what your specific convictions are for the ministry God entrusted to you. No vision, no values and no approach to ministry should be formed outside of clear scriptural confirmation and God-given direction.

  1. Through careful research. Talk with other worship leaders and pastors in your area to learn what they do. Also, take a look at quality worship ministries you know are committed to discipling and training their teams.
  2. Through godly counsel. Proverbs 11:14 reads, "Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety" (ESV). Before you go public with your ideas, explain your vision and plans to people you trust to give you sound feedback and advice.

Step 2: Consult with key influencers within your church

  1. Educate them. The philosophy and systems you introduce may be a major shift from what your church has had in the past. You are hoping to change the culture of your worship ministry—and that change must begin with your key influencers.
  2. Inspire them. Your dedication to work through these eight steps and your enthusiasm will be very important as you talk with key leaders. Know what you need to present to each influencer. Trust God to use your words to help inspire them to want to be on board with your ideas and dreams for the worship ministry.
  3. Trust them. Ultimately, you need to remember that God has placed your key leaders in their places of influence for a reason. Listen to your pastor and elders and to the suggestions they give you. Pray for them that God will illumine their hearts and minds to see what you're trying to do. Then trust and submit to them—even when they don't fully agree with you.

Step 3: Commit to your development process

  1. Budget for it. David said, "I will not...offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing" (1 Chronicles 21:24, ESV). Offering God our best costs something. It's all just a big pie-in-the-sky idea until we have to pay for it. Then it becomes reality. Plan ahead for the materials your team will need and for training events they need to attend. If possible, place line items into your church budget like "leadership development" and "mentoring."
  2. Broadcast it. Habakkuk 2:2 says, "...Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it" (ESV). There comes a point when you have to make plain to your entire team what you are doing, why you're doing it, and how you plan to do it. Share it over and over in various and creative ways. It's also helpful to have a graphic image which illustrates what your vision and plans are. My worship staff and I developed a carefully crafted process that's simple to explain and follow.
  3. Belabor it. Anything worth doing can be difficult. Go ahead and plan now for obstacles and challenges from people who don't get what you're doing and don't like it. As you begin to make adjustments to weekly schedules and long-standing traditions, you will get some push back. Handle it prayerfully and carefully. Don't take it personally. Keep reminding your team of what you're trying to do and why.

Step 4: Lead your team to grow as worshipers and musicians

  1. Lead them in Bible and book studies. This is where the "water meets the wheel." Everything you've said and done thus far has basically been rhetoric. Talk is cheap. Now it's time to actually dig in and start growing. The best place to start is with heart-training. After all, worship starts in the heart. Worship leaders should learn to worship God themselves before they lead others in worship. To help accomplish this, we require our leaders to complete Pure Praise: A Heart-focused Bible Study on Worship.
  2. Provide opportunities for music training. The best worship leader development involves not only character training (for the heart), but also competency training (for skills). Psalm 33:3 exhorts us to "play skillfully." Look for ways to coach up your vocalists to be better singers. Challenge your musicians to set goals for themselves to improve their playing. Partner with a local college music department or music store to provide discounted lessons for some of your singers and band members. Line up technical training for your sound and production folks.
  3. Model personal growth.  No matter your age or educational background there's always room to sharpen your musical skills and leadership ability. If you settle for stagnation and mediocrity, those on your team may also.

Step 5: Mentor individual members in character and competencies

  1. Identify them. Not everyone is ready and willing to be mentored. Mentoring requires face-to-face interaction and an invasion of some personal space. Much prayer and discernment is needed to know who should be mentored and by whom.
  2. Challenge and teach them. Mentoring is a step above classroom-style teaching or discussion groups. Mentoring someone means investing your life into that person for a period of time and intentionally helping him or her to grow.
  3. Hold them accountable. In Proverbs 27:17, Solomon wrote, "As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend" (NLT). Help those you mentor to set goals to grow spiritually, in leadership, and in their skills development.

Step 6: Empower and expect your overseers to mentor others

  1. Give them guidelines and parameters.  Mentoring is the most important part of this entire process. It will be your key to years of continued growth and ministry success. To be most effective and enthusiastic, your overseers need to know your expectations and where their boundaries are regarding mentoring. Carefully explain what you need them to do and not do.
  2. Encourage them. Most likely, many of the overseers in your ministry have full-time jobs, families and tons of other responsibilities. Be patient with them and empathetic to their full schedules and life-pressures as they carve out time to pour into others.
  3. Continue to coach them. Many churches tend to place someone in a position of leadership, and then leave them to their own devices. It's like we barely teach them to swim before we throw them into the middle of the lake to survive alone! Check in with your leaders occasionally, and keep an open door of communication in case they need your help or advice.

Step 7: Evaluate your team's progress and adjust as needed

  1. Compare your ministry's values to your activities. To keep yourself and your ministry on course, it's imperative to take time to step back and see where you are. Have you made any real progress? What have you done up to this point that directly supports your stated values?
  2. Assess individual skills and accomplishments. After months into this growth process, you now need to assess the skills of your band members, singers and tech team members. What has each one learned? How have they improved? Are they still enthusiastic about growing and about serving the Lord in the worship ministry? One way to know is to schedule time to sit and talk with them.
  3. Innovate for more change. Think creatively about ways to improve your process and better serve your team and church. No matter how much you may have honed your plans, be willing to change them. If some part of the plan isn't working well, then do something different. Constantly ask yourself, what can we do to better to reach our goal of growing our team?

Step 8: Repeat these steps again and again

  1. Recognize that real change takes time and patience. There is no cookie-cutter approach to discipleship. And there are no instant, out-of-the-box solutions for helping people grow as worshipers, musicians and mentors. It will take time–lots of time.
  2. Refine your vision and never lose sight of your calling. It's not ultimately your job to help someone mature. That's God's role as the Author and Finisher of our faith. Just keep faithfully repeating these important steps. He'll do the rest.
  3. Realize people need constant reminding and reshaping. Paul said in Philippians 1:6, "And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns" (NLT). Learn to look beyond the warts, issues and imperfections of your team and know that God is making them–and you–into His perfect image. Never give up on them. Pray for them and show to them the same graciousness they show to you.

My team and I would love to connect with you. Please reach out to us here!

About This Column:

Building Strong Worshipers is a regular column presented by Pastors.com, in partnership with Next Level Worship, a ministry providing quality-training resources for churches and church leaders. Go to NextLevelWorship.com for free materials and coaching for the Pastors.com community.

Dwayne Moore is founder of Next Level Worship. He is also Pastor of Worship and Creative Arts at Valley View Church in Louisville, KY. Dwayne has authored multiple books, including the award-winning Pure Praise: A Heart-focused Bible Study on Worship and Heaven's Praise: Hearing God Say "Well Done." Dwayne has taught and led worship for more than 35 years in over 1000 churches and conferences. He has contributed numerous articles to Rick Warren's Ministry Toolbox.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Dwayne Moore) Worship Wed, 11 Jun 2014 13:00:00 -0400
5 Keys to Making a Worship Song Singable http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-life/worship/20966-5-keys-to-making-a-worship-song-singable http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-life/worship/20966-5-keys-to-making-a-worship-song-singable

Most worship leaders agree that songs for congregational worship should be "singable," a made-up word that means "easy for a congregation to sing together." But it is tempting for many of us to subtly change that definition to "songs I want to sing." And so worship leaders who dislike hymns—whatever the reason—say that hymns are not singable. They're too wordy, and the tunes are too difficult.

And worship leaders who dislike the style (or lyrics) of the top contemporary worship songs may say those songs are not singable. They are performance-oriented. They have too many different melodic movements instead of just being verse-verse-verse.

Of course enough classic hymn tunes are unsingable, and enough contemporary songs are unsingable, that any of us can cite examples to reinforce our argument. But if hymns in general are unsingable, how have countless Christians across several centuries been able to sing them? And if contemporary songs in general are unsingable, why can I go to YouTube and view stadiums full of people singing along with every word of the songs led at Passion conferences?

Musical style does have something to do with whether or not a song is unsingable in any particular church. I've witnessed megachurches with contemporary praise bands trying to lead up-tempo soulful gospel songs, while the congregation couldn't figure out how to clap to the beat, let alone sing. And "traditional worship" churches that hired a new pastor who suddenly made the switch to "contemporary," to disastrous effect within the worship team and congregation.

So what are the fundamentals of singability? What makes a song more likely to be singable? Here are five things to consider:

1. Melodic Range. This is simple, so we won't belabor this point. Most people in your congregation have a vocal range somewhere between one octave to one-and-a-third. If you're choosing or writing songs that routinely go beyond this, you're going to leave your congregation behind. It doesn't matter if you or someone on your vocal team can hit the big notes—this isn't a talent show or concert.

2. Intervals. Also pay attention to the intervals in a song's melody (the number of scale steps from one note to the next). If the intervals leap all over the place, your song will have a roller-coaster feel that is difficult or unpleasant to sing, even if the melody is confined to one octave or less. Most of your intervals should be step intervals (up or down one scale step). Good songwriters usually reserve the leap intervals for spare moments when they need the music to swell.

3. Space And Symmetry. The most lasting hymns and praise songs tend to contain concise, symmetrical phrases. In classic hymnody, writers like Watts and Newton wrote their lyrics in tight "metrical" patterns—it's why every line in "When I Survey The Wondrous Cross" is eight syllables long, and why the lines of "Amazing Grace" alternate between eight syllables on the odd numbered lines and six syllables on the even lines.

Few contemporary worship writers count syllables, but the better ones are great at keeping their lines symmetrical, and their phrases short. They also do a good job of matching the lyrics to the music, so the congregation doesn't have to cram too many words into a tight musical phrase.

Many less-experienced worship writers do a bad job of this, however. They draw their examples either from coffee house singer-songwriters or from professional pop, country and R&B artists, many of whom pack their lyrical lines with too many words for the average person to follow. It's like they're saying, "Listen to what I can do." The delight is in hearing how deftly the singer can bend words around notes, without getting tongue-tied. Whatever the appeal might be in performance music, it doesn't work in congregational song.

4. The Right Key. Find the right key for yourself and any other singers on your team, and think about the right key for your congregation. Let's consider your team first, because if they can't lead the song well, the congregation will have trouble learning it.

We all know that Chris Tomlin has a higher voice than most males. If you can't comfortably hit Tomlin's notes, change the key! Don't try to be someone you're not. In fact, even if you can hit the notes, consider whether many people in your congregation can (but we'll get to them in a minute).

This is where it helps to play by ear rather than by sheet music. At Sojourn, we're blessed with many vocalists from both genders on our team, so we change keys all the time. If one of them leads "Rock Of Ages" one week, there's a strong chance that another vocalist will lead it the next time, who may need to change the key.

For your congregation, remember that men and women have different ranges and pitches. And of course even within a single gender, some voices are relatively high and some low. Gather a group of men and women (ideally with a mix of baritones, tenors, altos and sopranos) and have them sing together. If everyone is able to sing along, you've probably found a song with a good melody and the right key for the larger congregation.

My wife, Kristen, recently sang at a conference that was mostly attended by men. She and the band spent a lot of time working out keys for the songs that worked for her, but that would also work for the predominantly male audience. You have to think about things like this.

5. Style/Genre Considerations. Consider the demographics of your worship team and your congregation. What do they listen to? What do they like? What is their musical background?

Location has a lot to do with it, but don't overplay this. In our modern age of TV and Internet, genres are cross-pollinating and regional influences are loosening their grip. For instance here in Louisville, even though we're in the "bluegrass state," shows like American Idol and The Voice draw many more viewers than do airings of bluegrass performances on the local PBS station. And yet many pop music fans are exposed (and open) to bluegrass music as its own style, as well as bluegrass instruments invading "their" style.

Location still matters, of course, even within genres. Chicago blues doesn't sound exactly like Memphis blues. The rock music of Seattle differs from rock in Atlanta. The country music of the Carolinas differs from Texas country. And the New York folk scene isn't exactly like the California folk scene. So be aware of the subtleties of your local music culture. Just don't rely too much on your conclusions of what people in your town (or church) are supposed to like and dislike.

And don't be the pastor who assumes you won't draw young people by singing hymns, or that no one over 50 ever wants to hear anything new. Trends, demographics and common assumptions can work against you. There's no substitute for knowing your people, and more importantly, there's no substitute for the biblical picture of people from every tribe and tongue, praising God in song together.

To sum up, the first four points are always crucial, if you want your songs to be singable:

  • Melodic range
  • Intervals
  • Space and symmetry
  • The right key

The final point, style/genre, is variable depending on your local context. It deserves your consideration, but should neither trump the first four points nor become an idol in the midst of your team or your congregation.

Bobby Gilles has written several of Sojourn Music's popular worship songs for albums like The Water and the Blood and Before the Throne. He serves as director of communications for Sojourn Church in Louisville, Kentucky.

For the original article, visit worshipideas.com.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Bobby Gilles) Worship Thu, 05 Jun 2014 19:00:00 -0400
9 Ways Worship Has Changed in 10 Years http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-life/worship/20921-9-rapid-changes-in-church-worship-services http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-life/worship/20921-9-rapid-changes-in-church-worship-services

If you were attending a church worship service in 1955 and then returned to the same church in 1975, the changes would be noticeable but not dramatic. Churches were slow to change over that 20-year period.

If you, however, attended a church worship service in 2000 and then returned to that same church in 2010, there is a high likelihood you would see dramatic changes had taken place in only 10 years.

What, then, are some of the most significant changes? Please allow me to offer some trends from anecdotal information, church consultations and objective research.

As a caveat, some of the data-based research comes from an excellent study, "The National Congregations Study" by Duke University. This study, fortunately, is longitudinal, so it is able to look at changes over many years. But the study is also dated, with the latest data reported in 2007.

From these multiple sources, I have assembled nine changes that have come at a rapid pace in many churches. Please note my perspective. I am offering these from the perspective of a researcher; I am not making qualitative assessments. Also, with every trend there will be thousands of churches that are exceptions to the norm. But these are the changes in the majority of churches in North America:

1. Choirs are disappearing. From 1998 to 2007, the percentage of churches with choirs decreased from 54 percent to 44 percent. If that pace holds to this year, the percentage of churches with choirs is only 37 percent.

2. Dress is more casual. In many churches, a man wearing a tie in a worship service is now among the few rather than the majority. While the degree of casual dress is contextual, the trend is crossing all geographic and demographic lines.

3. Screens are pervasive. Some of you remember the days when putting a projection screen in a worship center was considered a sacrilege. Now most churches have screens. And if they have hymnals, the hymnals are largely ignored and the congregants follow along on the screens.

4. Preaching is longer. I will soon be in the process of gathering this data to make certain the objective research confirms the anecdotal information.

5. “Multi” is normative. Most congregants 20 years ago attended a Sunday morning worship service where no other Sunday morning alternatives were available. Today, most congregants attend a service that is part of numerous alternatives: multiservices, multicampuses, multisites and multivenues.

6. Attendees are more diverse. The Duke study noted the trend of the decrease in the number of all-white congregations.

7. Conflict is not increasing. In a recent post, I noted the decreasing frequency of worship wars. The Duke study noted that overall church conflict has not increased over a 20-year period.

8. More worship attendees are attending larger churches. Churches with an attendance of 400 and up now account for 90 percent of all worship attendees. Inversely, those churches with an attendance of under 400 only account for 10 percent of worship attendees.

9. Sunday evening services are disappearing. This issue has stirred quite a bit of discussion the past few years. I plan to expand upon it in one of my next posts on my blog. Stay tuned.

I have tried to present these changes from a research perspective instead of injecting my opinions or preferences. Obviously, I have my own, but I would rather hear from you. 

Do you see these trends in your local congregation? What would you add?

Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Previously, he served the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for 12 years, where he was a founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism.

For the original article, visit thomrainer.com.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Thom S. Rainer) Worship Thu, 08 May 2014 13:00:00 -0400
3 Common Contemporary Worship Problems http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-life/worship/20844-3-common-contemporary-worship-problems http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-life/worship/20844-3-common-contemporary-worship-problems

As I’ve been visiting and playing in several churches over the past few months, I’ve noticed a few recurring problems that can easily be fixed to help the quality of your contemporary worship:

1. A stale sameness. We all have our favorite worship leaders, but if you’re a Joel Houston fan, does every song in your set have to be written by Joel Houston or one of his clones? It seems like everything these days is either Hillsong United or trying to sound like Hillsong United.

If you do five songs in your set, do two or three of your favorites, then throw in something different—a piano ballad, a hymn, a "golden oldie" praise song, a ukulele. Anything to add variety.

The best praise set I’ve heard in a long time was created by 28-year-old worship leader Jared Barber here in Greenville—it had a little bit of everything, reached a wide audience and kept you engaged.

2. Service order. Do you ever wonder why your guitarist/drummer/keyboardist draws a blank during your set when it’s time for them to start the intro to the next song? Many worship leaders don’t provide a service order for the band at rehearsal. Instead, the band is given a stack of jumbled charts for the upcoming Sunday.

I want to know the order and have it in front of me (seeing it on a worship planning website isn’t enough) so I can start getting it ingrained into my head.

Print out a one-page service order with announcements, sermon, song order (with the key for each song) and anything else happening. Band members can keep it to the side of their music stand. If my music is memorized and I don’t have a stand, I fold the service order up and keep it on my keyboard or on the floor.

When I inevitably draw a blank and can’t remember the next song, a train wreck is avoided. Or I might step off the stage during announcements when, oops, there’s still another song coming up for the offering.

3. Song keys. In one church, we played a song in B, and the song that immediately followed was in C. It would have been a much easier, effortless and smoother transition to play both songs in B or C.

After you create your praise set this week, look it over and even sit down and play it through on your guitar or piano. Can the worship flow be improved by nudging keys slightly? Related keys are your friend—going from D major to G major works much better than going from D major to F# major. A half-step makes all the difference!

With the weekly Sunday worship grind, we can sometimes go on autopilot and let quality slip. Resist the inertia and recharge for this week’s worship!

Composer/arranger Don Chapman is the editor of the weekly WorshipIdeas.com newsletter that goes out to more than 50,000 worship leaders every week.

For the original article, visit worshipideas.com.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Don Chapman) Worship Tue, 15 Apr 2014 13:00:00 -0400
What Worship Style Attracts the Millennials? http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-life/worship/20824-what-worship-style-attracts-the-millennials http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-life/worship/20824-what-worship-style-attracts-the-millennials

My son, Jess Rainer, and I recently spoke in Texas on the topic of the millennials, America’s largest generation of nearly 79 million persons. Because we coauthored a book titled The Millennials, we have had the opportunity to speak on the subject on many occasions.

We reminded this audience in Dallas of the birthdates of this generation, 1980 to 2000, and then proceeded to share our research. We had commissioned LifeWay Research to survey 1,200 of the older millennials; the researchers did an outstanding job. We have thus been able to share incredible amounts of data and insights from these young adults.

The Question About Worship Style

As in most of our speaking settings, we allow a portion of our presentation to be a time of questions and answers. And inevitably someone will ask us about the worship style preferences of the millennials.

Typically the context of the question emanates from a background of nearly three decades of “worship wars.” In other words, on what “side” are the millennials? Traditional? Contemporary? Or somewhere on the nebulous spectrum of blended styles?

And though Jess and I did not originally ask those questions in our research, we have sufficient anecdotal evidence to respond. And our response is usually received with some surprise. The direct answer is “none of the above.”

The 3 Things That Matter Most

You see, most millennials don’t think in the old "worship war" paradigm. In that regard, style of worship is not their primary focus. Instead, they seek worship services and music that have three major elements:

1. They desire the music to have rich content. They desire to sing those songs that reflect deep biblical and theological truths. It is no accident that the hymnody of Keith and Kristyn Getty has taken the millennials by storm. Their music reflects those deep and rich theological truths.

2. They desire authenticity in a worship service. They can sense when congregants and worship leaders are going through the motions. And they will reject such perfunctory attitudes altogether.

3. They want a quality worship service. But that quality is a reflection of the authenticity noted above and adequate preparation of the worship leaders both spiritually and in time of preparation. In that sense, quality worship services are possible for churches of all sizes.

The Churches They Are Attending

Millennial Christians, and a good number of seekers among their generation, are gravitating toward churches where the teaching and preaching is given a high priority. They are attracted to churches whose focus is not only on the members, but also on the community and the world. Inwardly focused congregations will not see many millennials in their churches.

And you will hear millennials speak less and less about worship style. Their focus is on theologically rich music, authenticity and quality that reflects adequate preparation in time and prayer.

But they will walk away from congregations that are still fighting about style of music, hymnals or screen projections, or choirs or praise teams. Those are not essential issues to millennials, and they don’t desire to waste their time hearing Christians fight about such matters.

Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Previously, he served the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for 12 years, where he was a founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism. He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

For the original article, visit thomrainer.com.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Thom S. Rainer) Worship Tue, 08 Apr 2014 13:00:00 -0400
Worshipping in the Powerful Presence of God http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-life/worship/20805-worshipping-in-the-powerful-presence-of-god http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-life/worship/20805-worshipping-in-the-powerful-presence-of-god

What does it mean to worship “in the presence of God”? Sometimes we take our terminology for granted. After all, isn’t God always present everywhere?

And in reaction to our feel-good, experience-driven culture, many church leaders conclude that we overrate the importance of the weekend experience. Perhaps, but I err on the side of thinking most people still haven’t experienced the fullness of God’s presence in a corporate worship experience.

Perhaps we’re afraid of what God will do if we yield ourselves fully to Him. Or perhaps we’re afraid of what other people will think of us when they see us getting swept up in the moment. Will they accuse us, at least secretly, of showing off? Of being too emotional? Funny how we don’t ask these kinds of questions from the stands while screaming for our football team while waving a giant foam finger.

So what, then, does it mean to experience God’s presence in a time of worship? I think one of the best explanations I’ve heard recently comes from Jeff Kennedy’s book, The Father, the Son and the Other One:

“We’re OK with the Spirit so long as we can keep Him occupied with the discreet work of inner transformation. You know, the invisible stuff. Yet we struggle with the notion that He wants to baptize and submerge us in new life—a joyous life. A life that makes us dance and laugh and splash around with hope. A life that transforms our status from 'exiles and foreigners' to 'sons of the Most High God.' It is also a life that can inspire stunned silence as we sit in fear and wonder of an awesome heavenly Father.”

God’s Spirit is sovereign. He moves in ways of His own choosing, but He delights to meet us in the place of prayer and praise and intimate fellowship with Himself. Results may vary. Sometimes we will act outwardly in ways uncharacteristic of our personalities. Melinda, a young lady who is part of my church, wrote about her experience on a Sunday:

“I just cried in church. Not like a few soft tears. Straight up UGLY cried.”

That’s when you know it’s good.

At other times, we will be stunned into silence and struck with the absolute holiness of God's character. We will be left without words, unsure of what to do next. That’s OK. It’s always OK, in fact, when God’s children praise Him through tears, with joy, in fear, under humility and with great anticipation about what He can do.

While unbelievers may not get what it means to worship a God they don’t yet know personally, I think we make a serious mistake when we conclude that public worship is for the church. The fact is, when God’s people worship in spirit and in truth, their unified dependence on His power and their corporate thirst for His glory are a powerful witness to what God does in the heart.

This is the kind of worship I long for, and it's the kind God longs for as well. I can’t wait to meet Him with God’s people again next weekend. I hunger for His powerful presence. I crave that experience in my soul. And I’m thankful for a church that doesn’t hold back but lavishes praise on a God so worthy!

I don’t know what you typically hunger and thirst for, but once you get a genuine taste of the powerful presence of God, much of what our flesh usually reaches for suddenly becomes fleeting. I want more of God. And He certainly wants more of me, and of you, and of all of His people as we gather together to worship and to witness.

Brandon Cox has been a pastor for 15 years and is currently planting a church in northwest Arkansas, a Saddleback-sponsored church. He also serves as editor of Pastors.com and Rick Warren's Pastors' Toolbox and authors a top 100 blog for church leaders. He’s the author of Rewired: Using Technology to Share God's Love.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Brandon Cox) Worship Thu, 27 Mar 2014 13:00:00 -0400
Why Isn’t Your Congregation Singing? http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-life/worship/20794-why-isn-t-your-congregation-singing http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-life/worship/20794-why-isn-t-your-congregation-singing

Do you ever wonder why your congregation isn’t singing louder, or singing at all? Your songs may be the culprit.

Find a congregational praise song with a great melody and lyrics, and you’re set, right? Not quite. Many new worship songs only sound good when sung by professional singers, not average congregations. I believe this is one of the biggest problems with today’s music—and why your congregation might not be singing like you think they should.

Right now, pick up a songbook with the latest cutting-edge worship songs. Just look at the typical melody—it’s a syncopated frenzy and probably way out of your congregation’s vocal range. How can the average person sing that? They can’t, at least not with any confidence. And isn’t one of our goals as worship leaders to encourage our congregations to sing, and to sing with all they’ve got?

The next time you sing one of these hot songs in your church, listen closely to the congregation (or record the service). You’ll probably be shocked to hear your congregation struggling to keep up.

One time at my previous church, I led worship from the keyboard for a small prayer meeting of about 20 people, and my eyes and ears were opened. One chorus in particular was a complete train wreck—no one could follow the melody because almost every note was on the off beat. I hadn’t noticed during church with the band blaring, but the problem was quite obvious in this casual setting. The song had great words and a nice melody, but the extreme syncopation was nearly impossible for the average person to sing. From then on, I tried to select songs that were reasonably simple to sing and within a normal vocal range. Maybe that’s why hymns are making such a comeback—they’re full of quarter notes!

Size up your congregation, too. A church body filled with 20- and 30-year-olds can handle much more adventurous songs than an older congregation. If your congregation is rhythmically challenged, find songs that, while still contemporary, can bridge the gap. “Our God” and “Here I Am to Worship” are so popular because they come from the more contemporary world yet can cross over to more traditional settings—they’re simply singable.

Bottom line: Choosing worship songs that are singable by normal mortals will create a more unified, participatory worship experience for your church.

Composer/arranger Don Chapman is the editor of the weekly WorshipIdeas.com newsletter that goes out to more than 50,000 worship leaders every week.

For the original article, visit worshipideas.com.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Don Chapman) Worship Mon, 24 Mar 2014 16:00:00 -0400
Why You Shouldn’t Use Secular Songs in Worship http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-life/worship/20783-why-you-shouldn-t-use-secular-songs-in-worship http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-life/worship/20783-why-you-shouldn-t-use-secular-songs-in-worship

I’ve always been on the fence about doing secular songs in worship. I personally don’t care for it but have played them when a pastor has asked. However, a recent trip to Elevation Church has caused me to make up my mind.

Twenty-five years ago, it would be unthinkable to sing a secular rock song in church (you couldn’t even get away with an Amy Grant tune!). When did this all start? I’m guessing Willow Creek, the original seeker church, was the culprit. (And we all know how their seeker methodology panned out. Read "Willow Creek Repents?")

The seeker crowd will argue that unsaved people love hearing secular songs in church. When they hear a pop song they know, they’ll think, Wow, church isn’t boring after all. I think I’ll come back! For these Christians, getting the unsaved into church trumps everything. I appreciate and applaud their dedication to reaching the lost. However, using the same do-whatever-it-takes-to-get-them-in-the-door logic, why not install stripper poles next to our drum sets—wouldn’t that attract a crowd?

The harsh truth is the gospel can be a tough pill for an unsaved person to swallow. So Paul talks about the concept of making the Good News as attractive as possible in Titus 2:9-10. And really, that’s the whole point of the weekly newsletter WorshipIdeas.com—to encourage churches to be as attractive as possible with their music.

But how attractive should we get? That answer can only be found with prayer and careful consideration of your own ministry. Here’s my thinking.

Can’t We Just Focus on God?

My main argument up until now has been that we can listen to secular music anytime we want. We have roughly 84 waking hours a week—can’t we spend just one of them focusing on God during the Sunday morning praise set? I’ve heard statistics that few Christians ever darken the door of a Christian bookstore or listen to Christian radio. That hour may be the only time of the week most people ever even hear Christian music.

By definition, a seeker is seeking God, so why not present the gospel to them in every way, shape and form?

Do You Want Christian Karaoke?

Rarely can church talent even come close to decently reproducing a secular song—it takes the top guns of a megachurch to pull that off with their paid musicians, tracks and great vocalists. Otherwise churches end up sounding cheesy—and people will probably be so occupied comparing your lousy version with the original, they won’t even get the message you’re trying to convey.

A friend of mine recently laughed about his worship leader’s weak performance of U2’s "Where the Streets Have No Name." Do you really want people in your congregation snickering at your hubris? Some worship leaders are failed/frustrated rock stars, and secular songs give them a chance to scratch that itch. How about scratching it in a karoke bar instead?

My Big Epiphany

And here’s what I experienced at Elevation that helped me make up my mind against doing secular songs in church. Their worship team opened the service with the current secular hit "Can’t Hold Us" by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis—a super-catchy, four-on-the-floor dance song (and they pulled it off spectacularly, I might add). After the service, I had lunch with a friend and spent the rest of the day in Charlotte, N.C. All afternoon, I couldn’t get the song out of my head:

Can we go back, this is the moment
Tonight is the night, we’ll fight till it’s over
So we put our hands up like the ceiling can’t hold us
Like the ceiling can’t hold us

I mean, I had a serious earworm for hours. Then it hit me: “I can’t believe I’ve just gone to church and the only thing I’m taking away from the service is this stupid pop song!”

Later that evening, I shared my new anti-secular-music-in-church epiphany with a friend. He and his wife attend Andy Stanley’s North Point Church in Atlanta, and he told me how the worship team has been performing secular songs right before the service all summer.

Problem is, they leave church with pop songs running through their minds. His wife told me North Point’s rendition of Styx’s "Come Sail Away" stuck with her all Sunday afternoon. She asked, “Shouldn’t songs about Jesus be running through my head after church?”

Yep, they sure should.

Composer/arranger Don Chapman is the editor of the weekly WorshipIdeas.com newsletter that goes out to more than 50,000 worship leaders every week.

For the original article, visit worshipideas.com.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Don Chapman ) Worship Mon, 17 Mar 2014 19:00:00 -0400
3 Questions to Ask When Planning a Worship Service http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-life/worship/20689-3-questions-to-ask-when-planning-a-worship-service http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-life/worship/20689-3-questions-to-ask-when-planning-a-worship-service

I’ve always loved worship.

As a failed worship leader (every church planter has to play guitar, right?), I found worship both meaningful and powerful. Some of those times are when I am by myself—worship dominates my personal prayer time. Then there is corporate worship, which can be a great opportunity but also a great challenge at times.

For many of us, few things are as meaningful and formative as moments spent in corporate worship. Churches spend countless hours and dollars to create environments where voices can be raised in song and hearts lifted in prayer. My church does, and probably so does yours.

The prominence of worship in our churches is no accident. We serve a God who is worthy of worship and praise. In the Old Testament, they prepared and planned for worship, and we should do no less. Often, though, these times of praise and worship become forums driven by consumerism rather than gratitude and opinion rather than orthodoxy.

Churches that embrace God-centered worship are doing three things: They are keeping the focus on the Creator rather than the creatures, they are giving multiple generations present an opportunity to worship God, and they are pointing people to Jesus (lost and believers) as they equip the hearts as well as the minds of the saints.

To do that, I encourage you to consider three questions:

1. What does the Bible say to include in your worship? Instead of asking, “What could we include?” start with what must be a part of corporate worship according to the Scriptures (singing, teaching, reading of scripture, etc.) and go from there.

In seeking to determine what is the right music for a church, it is important that we apply biblical principles to evaluate our music. That is not always easy, as the Bible contains no music notes and God indicates no musical preferences. Music has always been a struggle within the church.

It seems odd to hear Christians today insist that a certain style of music is best or act as if the recent “worship wars” were an anomaly in church history. Any Christian who knows our past would know that neither of those is the case.

One way we can avoid some of these conflicts is to educate our churches on exactly what the Bible says about worship and move from that shared foundation.

2. How can I do biblically commanded worship in culturally appropriate ways? Rather than asking, “What would be trendy?” consider what would be appropriate for the culture in which God has placed you. Don’t do a thing just because you can or because you always have, but do what you do in culturally relevant ways—musical style, timing, format, etc.

As one who enjoys worship in its many forms, I appreciate pastors and worship leaders who find ways to incorporate creative elements into a worship service. I appreciate efforts that hold history in one hand and current culture in the other, lifting both hands up to the One who was and is and is to come.

When you or your church are crafting worship and music, it is important that you think through the issues or contextualization and theology. There must be a balance in your music and your methodology. You may have the freedom to choose, but use discernment to choose wisely.

3. What will help people in this culture and time worship in spirit and truth? Don’t ask, “What do I like?” because it is impossible to please everyone. Ultimately, someone in your church is going to sacrifice their preferences, so ask what fits best in your community and (after answering questions 1 and 2) go with that.

Music can be one of the most controversial issues in the body of Christ. Each person has his or her own unique taste. Christians listen to, enjoy and are edified by all types of music. Yet when they demand their preferences over the preference of others, worship becomes about me rather than He.

In addition, many 21st-century churches are torn between the generations present in their congregation and the culture outside of their walls. They strive to appeal to both, and often in their zeal to be relevant, they lose sight of the object of their worship. Others choose comfort over culture and are content to turn a blind eye to the call to contextualize. It’s a tricky balance but one worth finding.

Our Purpose for Worship

Any musical style or worship model must take into account that the audience of Christian worship and the object of Christian worship should be the same. If we craft our worship for a human audience rather than a divine audience, we often fall into worshipping the human rather than the divine.

To avoid the pitfalls, connect with culture, remain biblical and point to Christ, it takes work. It’s worth the time and planning, however, to do worship right. With a humble spirit focused on others and a worshipful spirit desiring to honor God, worship can (and will) be biblical, meaningful and powerful.

Ed Stetzer is the president of LifeWay Research. For the original article, visit edstetzer.com.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Ed Stetzer) Worship Wed, 05 Feb 2014 20:00:00 -0500