June 3, 2009
One of the things that people appreciate about our worship leadership at Trinity is that it doesn’t feel like a show, like a performance. I hear comments like this often and I praise God and ask people to pray for us that we would continue in like manner. I passed this on in appreciation to my 1st Sunday worship team at rehearsal on Monday night. Eldon, recommended I blog on the topic and so here it is. I’m going to mention a few things and would invite your input as well. I’m thinking specifically of our worship music here, although the principles apply to everything and everyone who contributes to the worship services.
First and foremost, is to keep in mind our ultimate goal: to spotlight our Triune God, as revealed through his Word, and to lead people in experiencing him and bringing corporate praise to him. We strive to accomplish this goal with excellence. We want our music to sound as modern and wonderful as possible. How can we do this and not feel like a performance to those we are leading? Here are some things that make it work.
1. Humility is before all else! Part of our Worship Team Member Covenant that all team members sign states, “[I agree to] pursue humility and modesty in order to put the spotlight on God and not myself.” We’ve been recently reminded of the importance of humility multiple times through the book of James. “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” (James 3:13 NIV) Humility helps us reach our ultimate goal (spotlight on God), while also facilitating smooth operations on the team. There are no superstars on our team. The Lord is the Famous One! The better we are at our talent, the greater humility that must accompany it, lest we forget and think and act like it’s about us. I seek to extinguish pride the first time signs arise, and carefully and prayerfully bring new people into the team because I realize how precious the reigning attitude of humility is. Many of our team members serve in TLC, Light & Power and with our youth ministry. Some of our folks are preparing to do musical prison ministry. Most of team members serve our church family in other ways as well. Whether we’re leading a group of ten 2-year-olds, a roomful of prison inmates, or a worship center full of 700 adults, all have the same value before God. Our goal is the same; the spotlight is on him! Humility is number one to making us not seem like performers performing. It makes excellence a beautiful thing – a sacred offering to the Lord for his glory and the building up of his church.
2. The corporate nature of worship is the second thing that must always be considered, especially by those who are crafting the worship service. The current style of music is very driven by the solo artist – David Crowder, Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Brenton Brown, Tim Hughes, etc. These are some of my favorite worship artists, but I am very careful to pick their songs that provide an “ease of worship,” as one of my team members aptly phrased it last night. I often lower the keys to make the melody accessible by the majority. While one vocalist leads the song, I am quick to have the others join so that the message from stage is, “Y’all sing!” Even when we have solos, we project the lyrics so that our congregation is trained to know that anyone is welcome to sing at anytime. Our music is for God and it is for them to join in. It is not our personal time of worship on stage! In addition, I tend to pick a majority of songs that were written specifically for corporate worship and have proven to resonate with the Church. Hymns are wonderful for this purpose and proven songs that have resonated with the Church for centuries. I’m always searching for new songs that are coming out of the church too – Hillsongs, Lincoln Brewster, Paul Baloche, Desperation Band, Gateway Church (Revelation Song), Jeremy Riddle and Brian Doerksen are some great worship leaders writing for their churches. So are most of the artists I listed above for that matter. Here’s the key: when we add multiple voices, we try to do so in a manner that keeps the integrity of the modern sound, but realize that we must sacrifice some of the “coolness” of the original recording to make it work for multiple voices.
3. The content of our songs is also very important. There is a delicate balance between interacting around the rich theology of our faith and the emotional response to it. I realize that people are seeking a transcendent experience meeting with the Almighty God, and I seek to facilitate that. But I also realize that this experience needs to be routed in the truth as revealed in the Scriptures. I call this Biblical Worship, that is worship that is grounded in the Word of God and resounds from the whole of our being as our lives are transformed by the revelation of God’s character and the wonderful gospel of Jesus Christ that saves us. I blogged about that in my previous entry (very lengthy – sorry about that!)
This is a start to noting the important components to worshiping in a way that builds up the body and avoids the feel of performance. I am highly concerned with getting it right at Trinity. We owe it to our God and to the people he has given us to lead. I praise God for you who make up the worship teams at Trinity – both the visible stage people and our wonderful behind-the-scenes folks that really make it happen each week.
I’d like to hear your additional insights.