Noisy Worship Music

When your church gathers for worship, what are you really doing? If you truly want to worship, then you should be giving ascent to the things God says are important. What, then, are the things God really wants to see from you when you gather for worship? Does he want to see good musicians and a talented vocalists? Does he want to hear skillful arrangements and prayers laced with tender piano music, led by an up and coming worship leader with diving board hair? If you have a kick-butt worship band, and everybody comes and raises their hands and sings out really loud, and the offering plate is overflowing, and everybody is having a great time… if you have all of this but your church does not have any sort of outreach to the poor, needy, broken, psychologically troubled, physically handicapped, or the otherwise down-and-out, and your church favors the…

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Worship Leadership Series (part eleven): Concluding Thoughts

The advice of this series is intended to make leading worship a joy. Once you come to the Sunday morning (or whenever you meet) worship service, you should be confident and well prepared spiritually and musically. A worship leader needs to be able to think of a lot of things all at the same time: playing the right chords and rhythms, singing the right notes and words, upcoming changes and dynamics, transitions, reading the response of the congregation, and giving yourself the freedom and flexibility to make changes on the fly as the situation warrants. Oh yeah, and you need to attuned to the Spirit of God and the meaning of the songs you are leading! This is a lot to keep track of at the same time, but being organized and having a plan can make a big difference. There are a few other random notes I want to…

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Worship Leadership Series (part ten): How to Make Sure Your Band Doesn’t Suck

Let’s face it. The guys in your band are amateurs at best. What are you to do? How do you transform your ragtag group of musician wannabes to something inspiring and worshipful? Hopefully, you’ve picked up some tips along the way to avoid this, but the long term answer is having useful practices. Here’s a process that will help you to put together a band. 1. Establish your direction. For the first several months of my church’s existence, our worship time was little better than a guitar guy playing solo coffeehouse style music, because I was all we had. But I knew from the beginning the direction I wanted to go, so I started recruiting early in the congregation for people who had interest. If you want to lead a contemporary band, start looking for the personnel who can accomplish that. 2. Be Patient. It may take you a long…

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Worship Leadership Series (part nine): Building Your Band

If you want to have a solid, contemporary worship band, you’ll need the right combination of instruments from different categories. 1. Lead Instrument: acoustic guitar or piano. A lead instrument is a stand alone instrument that can be used to lead worship with or without the presence of other instruments. Acoustic guitar is most common and much easier to play and so most bands will be built around it. You can lead contemporary worship songs with just a guitar or a piano; I’ve done it many times. You can lead worship with an electric guitar, but not without other instruments present. 2. Rhythm Section: it is best to have both percussion and bass guitar or none at all. The kick drum and the bass need to synchronize timing for a tight sound. Essentially, the bass guitar and drums are married. The rhythm and cadence of a song is critical because…

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Worship Leadership Series (part eight): How to Butcher a Good Hymn

This series will now take an undoubted turn into the more practical elements of worship leading. Upcoming topics include leading a contemporary band, instrumentation, managing worship practices, developing your musicians, and the art of leading a worship service. One of my favorite things to do is to breathe fresh new life into old hymns. Many have attempted to do this and about half as many butcher the classics. A word of caution: just because it’s old doesn’t make it good. Many old hymns are just as trite as contemporary music; they just used bigger words while doing it. The number one way to butcher an old hymn is this: screwing up the rhythm. It sounds simple enough, but there’s actually a complicated reason for this phenomena. It will require a little history. Music has two basic elements: meter (rhythm) and melody. European classical music heavily emphasized melody. The timing of…

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Worship Leadership Series (part seven): Develop a Set List

Successful radio stations have implemented the set list principle for decades. The basic idea is this: people like to hear songs that they know. Likewise, people have a limited tolerance level for hearing and becoming familiar with music they don’t know. Thus, radio stations have gone to a “top 40” format or even a “top 20” format. These stations do this because if you tune in to their station for 10 or 15 minutes in the car, you’re going to hear a song that you know and will likely continue to listen. New songs are introduced incrementally. This is a great principle for worship music. A classic worship leader mistake is to hear a new song, love it, and lead it that Sunday in church. Good worship leaders have more discipline than this. Here’s my formula: have 2 months worth of music in your set list. If you normally sing…

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Other People That I Agree With

Michael Foster is a church planter in Cincinnati who recently posted this about a worship band he likes. Many of the thoughts that I’ve been expounding upon at length are summarized on his blog.

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Worship Leadership Series (part six): Where to Find Good Songs

In this post, I’m going to make some recommendations for CDs and songwriters that I respect and appreciate. Good worship songs are hard to find. When I was first learning to lead worship with Campus Crusade for Christ, I was given this hint for choosing songs: they had to be (1) singable, (2) playable, meaning that you had to be able to play it on the guitar, and (3) have good content. But worship music is becoming more and more sophisticated and worship leaders are discovering that people have a high threshold for musical complexity in worship music. This is great, because you can only go so far with 3 guitar chords. Let me begin with a disclaimer: the recommendations in this post are not exhaustive, but they are road ready, having been tested on my own congregation. Every worship set is like a meal: you need to have the…

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Worship Leadership Series (part five): The Two Types of Worship Songs

If you’ve been reading this series up to this point, then you can probably anticipate what the primary responsibility of the worship leader is. Since worship music will always be bad theology’s back-door, then unquestionably and confidently the worship leader’s top job is song selection. This is a big job and not quite as easy as it sounds. For this reason, I will outline my method in several forthcoming posts some practical guidelines for song selection. I am assuming, of course, that the 5 criteria of choosing a worship leader are followed and can be assumed. Since worship music is largely considered the fastest growing segment of music sales, there’s a lot of it out there. And there’s a lot of tripe out there. Personal vs. Corporate Worship Songs There are two basic types of contemporary worship music: personal and corporate. The worship songs of the personal variety are the…

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