Thinking Out Loud

August 25, 2018

Music Ministry: Methodology

Yesterday we looked at some very superficial reasons which draw people into the larger music business with a hope that church musicians can understand their own music-personality type. Today we want to be more specific in looking at the raw, on-the-surface practicalities of drafting the music for Sunday morning.

treble clefFinding the recipe

If you look at a recipe, it’s always divided into two sections. First you have a list of ingredients, and then you have the instructions as to how you wish to use them. Worship planning is very similar. There’s a list of songs you want to use, but how do you blend and mix them? Perhaps there’s a song that is going to occur at the beginning and the end of the service. Possibly two songs might play off each other (i.e. How Great Thou Art and How Great is Our God). Some might stand alone, while others might combine into medleys.

Ingredients are key

You want to choose your ingredients carefully. Just as in baking, some elements might conflict. Some choices might be too spicy. Others might be too bland. In a salad, you go for color and music is no different. A seasoned worship leader will have about 5,000 songs in their head at any one time. Unless you get to plan a worship night, you’re probably only going to do about five songs. You have 4,995 songs to leave out.

What people are hungry for

Your job is to give people the means by which they can respond to God for his greatness and goodness, his holiness and majesty, his love and compassion; just to name a few. The songs should resonate with young and old, and therein lies a challenge. With different strains of ingredients (classic hymns, 20th century gospel hymns, Maranatha! Music, Vineyard, modern worship leaders, modern hymns, soaking music, Hillsong, UK-based songs, etc.) you can appeal to different demographics, or you can choose to present a more musically-unified selection. If you want to see a younger demographic, you also have to skew your choices to people who perhaps aren’t there yet. That’s risky, but some churches do this.

Appetizer or main course?

Some Evangelicals see the worship time as preparing the hearts of people for the teaching of the word. Some Evangelicals see the praise time more liturgically as valid on its own. I personally lean more to the second position. Still you want to know what the sermon topic is so your two selections don’t conflict.

Toppings

A worship time will be rather uneventful if it is just straight singing. You want to intersperse related quotations, read one of the verses before or after singing it, include quotations, or even do a “story behind the song” type of introduction. Many leaders default to Psalms, but some congregants tune them out. But there are exceptions; last week in our church the readings were all from the same Psalm and the songs chosen around that.

A shared meal

One of the values of corporate worship is that there are things we can do together that we can’t do alone (i.e. just listening or singing along with an album or Christian radio station at home.) The music should somewhat exploit the congregational dynamics. There should be some lively songs (by whatever parameter you measure that in your style of church) and there should be some songs where the beauty of blended voices can be both heard and felt.

When people like the recipe, don’t take credit

It’s very humble to say, “God gave me these songs this week;” but better to deflect the credit to the creators of the songs, or best, God Himself. “This is a new song, written by a musician who God is really using to stir us to deeper worship.” Or, “This song really focuses on God’s knowledge and wisdom and helps us consider how the ways of the Lord are so much beyond anything we could understand.” With opening statements like that it takes the focus away from you; you’re seen rather as a hunter and gatherer of worship that’s already out there.

We’re part of a much larger banquet

Occasionally, I would remind our congregation of the vast number of churches that were joining us in worship across our city, across our denomination, and in our nation; and then I would remind them that in North America, we occupy a place at the end of the timezones, joining a worship service that has been taking place around the world that weekend. Just thinking about that now, I am reminded of its potential to reshape how we approach worship.

So those are the superficial factors. But there are also some very spiritual considerations. That would make a great third part to this weekend series, but Laura covered that for us so well a few years ago, I’m going to invite you to simply click here.

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August 24, 2018

Music Ministry: Motivation

So you want to be a rock ‘n roll star? You can do that in many ways in many places, including your local church.

What attracts people to work in the music industry in general? I’ve listed a few things below that I think apply both within and outside the church context, and one, at the end of the list, that I believe is more common only within Christian experience. Worship leaders: Perhaps finding what attracts you to music in the first place will help you understand your personality type as a musician.

treble clefPerformance

Some people just want to play. They live to gig. If you’re a drummer and you can’t sing, you’re never going to be center stage, and people might not even know your name, but that’s okay, right? The idea is to simply make music, either in a live context or in a studio. The busier the schedule, the better.

Profile

For others, being center stage is really important. They are attracted by the idea of being a name you would know. They might already have their own web domain. Or an agent.

Product

The goal for some people is just to make an album. They aren’t looking for bookings and they aren’t looking for fame. They just want to have that physical CD in a plastic case that they can give to their friends, and show to their kids some day. (“That’s neat, Mom. Too bad we can’t play it on anything.”) Or worst case, the digital equivalent. Sales in retail stores would be an added bonus.

Publishing

The nice thing about this as a goal is you don’t have to give a single concert or even be able to carry a tune. But if you can compose meaningful songs and get others to perform them your music can travel to places you can’t. For people who are happy behind the scenes, this is an achievable goal, though usually the singer/songwriter usually has their own material. For people who do perform, the goal here is getting their songs covered by other groups or solo artists.

Production

Just as there are frequencies that only dogs can hear, there is a smell in recording studios that only some people detect. To most of us, a 48-channel recording console looks intimidating, like the cockpit of a jet plane, but to them, the lights and dials are all in a day’s work. Their job demands that they live to serve the needs of others, but we know the names of many producers who have never recorded a single note themselves.

Profit

Although this can apply to any of the areas listed above, if we’re dealing with the area of motivation, then money can be a driving force. If you’re competent at publishing, performance, production, etc. and you need to pay the bills, you do what you’re good at.

Proclamation

This is the one I feel is more common to Christian musicians, though it’s not entirely unique since it applies to anyone who feels they have a message to communicate, whether it’s 60s hippies protesting the Vietnam War, or 80s rockers crusading for environmentalism. Today the message might still be anti-war, or racial equality, or perhaps gay rights. It is in this milieu that Christian artists raise their voices to express their faith or tell their story, though in the last dozen years, Christian music has been dominated by vertical worship — we could have had another P-word, Praise — which lessens the number of testimony or teaching songs being heard. We have, as Randy Stonehill put it many, many years ago, “the hottest news on the rack,” and so that motivates Christian musicians to make music which reflects their core faith beliefs.

…Of course, playing because you want to have a message to share is a noble ideal, but many musicians also fall into one of the other categories as well. They want to make an album, or achieve popularity, or be able to make a living from their art. That’s okay, right?

Tomorrow we’ll look at some of the practical ingredients of worship, comparing it to a recipe that worship leaders bake each week!

This may not interest everyone, but today, one of the other blogs in the Thinking Out Loud blog network is celebrating its tenth anniversary. Christian Book Shop Talk is written for the owners, managers and staff of Christian bookstores in Canada. To drop in on the party, click this link.

 

August 2, 2018

Breaking the Repetition Factor in Worship

A few days ago, our friends at Flagrant Regard posted this question at Worship Leader’s Collective:

 

Does anyone else feel the 7/11 treatment of songs (7 words, 11x in a row) can get a bit taxing if you’re standing, have ADHD or just want to sing worship songs that render its message in 4 minutes or thereabouts?
 
We took the nearly 8-minute version of Elevation Band’s great song ‘Resurrecting’ and rejigged it down to a comfortable 5 minutes (example below). Anyone else doing the same or feel the need to?”

We asked if we run this larger response for readers here at Thinking Out Loud.


Hey there. It’s the Original Poster (Flagrant Regard) here. So, after reading the many responses to the question asked above, the first thing I’d like to say is thank you all for taking the time to answer/reflect. Much appreciated!

I think from the many responses, the idea of the worship leader/team having to cut back on a Hillsong/Bethel/Elevation song’s length during worship time seems to be out of sync with the modern worship trends and not a favorable action with the majority here.

You know, if it were just young people in your services who are into the whole Bethel/Hillsong/Elevation Worship thing that has come to dominate the ‘industry’ of worship music in this century, I’d be like, “Yeah, that’s fine. Don’t cut back on your song lengths and repetition of choruses.”

But the church is made of many parts and many peoples. People who give a fig about older hymns, people who don’t. People who like songs from the 90’s and 00’s, people who don’t. People who like to sing and people who’d rather read the lyrics on the overhead projections and just ‘soak’ while the worship band does their shtick.

What bothered me in this thread was how some of the reasons for not wanting to trim some songs (in attempts to accommodate many people’s comfort-levels in the church body) came across as rather snobbish or selfish even. And musical snobbishness is a reflection of worship leadership that is more concerned with elevating one’s self or one’s musical agenda rather than attempting to meet many people where their at in an oft-diverse congregational body. We are taught in Scripture to ‘be all things to all men’. One good way to do this, as a worship leader, is to not just play the music YOU dig or get into. To honour one another above yourselves is sometimes playing that old hymn for those 10 or 11 folks there who would so much appreciate the effort that you’d take to do so. Maybe play only 1 longish song with multiple layers/choruses and then play others from the 90’s or the 00’s even that are less repetitive. Not everyone in the congregation is ‘bent’ toward meditative worship music that constantly refrains things for up to 8 or 9 minutes. This does not make them less spiritual than you. This does not make them less deserving of your respect or outreach or occasional accommodating their comfort-levels.

What’s wrong with a balance of song styles/lengths to reach a whole congregation and not just the Bethelites/Hillsongians among the crowd?

Listen to how much of your ‘SELF’ came out in your responses to the question.
“Gets ME into a meditative state”

“Sometimes it takes a little time and repetition for ME to really set aside MY day …”

“I THINK they can stand for 25 minutes once a week”

So it’s about you is it?

And then some of the reasoning for playing longer songs had me going, “Uh, really?”

“Why don’t we feel the same way when Scripture gets repetitive? Psalm 136 is a good example. … I wonder if we can’t stand as long because we just don’t want to. We like things our way because we feel entitled to things being done our way.”

“people who complain about repetitive lyrics, ask them if they like the Hallelujah Chorus”

“that whole idiotic 7/11 thing is what many of the prominent reformed guys use to smear the entirety of the charismatic church, while still being fine with the eternally repetitive ways that the angels are projected to be worshiping God in heaven.”

1. Psalm 136. Reminds me of my Roman Catholic days. You know, where every Sunday you’re made to say the same prayers over and over again in a ‘call and response’ fashion till it became lip service. Who warned us against ‘repeated prayers’ because of their inherent nature to disengage us from reality and make us think we’re doing something spiritual when we’re not? (Matthew 6:7)

Not saying that this Psalm isn’t wonderful. But I was able to read it aloud comfortably in under 2 MINUTES – TWO MINUTES folks … Not eight.

2. The Hallelujah Chorus … is not a congregational piece. It’s a highly designed performance piece. Doesn’t fit in with Sunday mornings now does it? Silly example.

3. People of a certain age (you’ll get their friends, trust me) will be sore. Yes, the ‘whole of Israel’ (hyperbolically speaking) was there for the reading of the Decalogue in Nehemiah, but Israel would not be telling a crippled old widow, “Stand up, you lazy serf. We’re worshipping God here.” Unless you believe in a God who would expect that, our role is to accommodate the suffering and struggling in our midst. People struggle with attention spans when they’re very young and very old and long, repetitive songs DO NOT ASSIST in their attempts to become more spiritual!

4. The angels in heaven … are in heaven. They are angels and not humans. They praise God because they are self-aware in a way that you and I could never comprehend (in this life) and feel compelled to worship our Mighty God in ways that you and I could never fathom.

Not all raise their hands in praise. Are they less worshipful? Not all have a singing voice, is it right to compel them to sing or hear things over and over again that do not centre their minds on God, say, the way a well-worded sermon does?

My wife was right yesterday when she noted that the modern worship service seems to be moving in this direction: its structure is being dictated by the worship music or leadership … not the pastor, not the preaching, not the theology, not the disciplining efforts.

She was right, I began to conclude. Is it because the whole ‘paid worship pastor’ thing (which is rather new in the history of the modern church) forces the worship pastors to ‘earn their salt’ by making sure they’re ‘performing’ to expectations? That their singing long enough songs … playing extended musical sets?

I wonder how many of those here in favour of the longer songs and longer sets are the same people who start looking at their watches when the pastor begins to go ‘overtime’ with his message? If you’ve ever done that … do you see the duplicity you’ve just found yourself chewing on?

I guess what it all comes down to is this:

Who are you serving? Why are you serving? How could your serving best meet the variety of souls that have to listen to you for 25 minutes or so? Old music is not bad. I used to be one of those ‘hymn haters’ … “Why can’t they do the new stuff here? They’re such FUDDY-DUDDIES!” But that was because my agenda was to make them – the less ‘with it’ folks – get with the program. Yeah, that’s what Christianity is about – making the people bow to YOUR preferences.

Christian worship leading is not about fulfilling YOUR preferences. It is about ‘being all things to all men/women’ and ‘honouring another above yourselves’ VIA YOUR GIFTINGS.

So before next Sunday, think about your congregation – the blue hairs, the young, the middle aged, the smart/the not so smart, the attentive, the less talented, the seeking … are you doing everything in your power (in the Spirit’s power, rather) to lead them closer to the Throne by meeting them where their at by way of the many songs available to you from the many glorious eras of Christian song that are wonderful as well and often succinct in their message/presentation?

Worship the Lord with your love and humble-heart, and love others with your various giftings. Play well and professionally of course. But love others – as many others as you can – with your gifts.

That is the true Worship Leader’s calling.

July 5, 2018

Theology for which we Don’t Have Songs

This post originally appeared under the title,

When We All Get to Heaven

Rapture art

If someone were to ask me if there are any paradigm shifts I’ve noticed in Christian perspectives on various issues, I would have to say that among my peers and those with whom I converse online, three things might quickly spring to mind:

  • A rethinking of the afterlife as ‘New Earth,’ rather than a ‘heaven’ that’s up there as opposed to down here. (For this, see the book Heaven by Randy Alcorn.)
  • A reconsideration of the ‘rapture theology’ that has dominated Evangelicalism for the past several decades. (See End Time Delusions by Steve Wohlberg.)
  • A re-assuming of our social justice responsibilities as opposed to placing the weight of our emphasis on doctrinal proclamation. (See Pursuing Justice by Ken Wytsma.)

However, the songs that we sing in our churches today — and by ‘our’ I mean those of us who have moved toward modern worship as opposed to gospel and classical hymns — do not reflect this change in thinking.

The hymns and gospel songs were consistent with things being preached in the pulpit and for many of us, these doctrines were ingrained through exposure to the music. Consider:

Some bright morning when this life is over
I’ll fly away

That’s rapture theology pure and simple. The hymn When We All Get to Heaven does talk about seeing Jesus and being in His presence, but implies that we are going to get to heaven, some place that’s out there.

Another example of a song under reconsideration, Onward Christian Soldiers talks about taking the cross to the world, but our crusade doesn’t appear to include demonstrating compassion or there being servant leaders among the soldiers. (Most people today agree that crusade is the wrong word; even the Billy Graham Association has dropped the term.)

I’m not opposed to those songs entirely; they shaped who I am today. It’s just that in today’s vertical worship environment, we don’t have songs that tell our story and describe more of the thinking that is currently being taught in our churches. Let me conclude with an illustration.

Last weekend we visited the anchor store in a large chain of musical instrument dealerships. I was telling the manager how my son, recently graduated in electrical engineering, has an interest in designing mixers, keyboards and especially synthesizers. I asked him if the store, when it hires people, is looking for product specialists or people who are good at sales.

He said basically that the product knowledge is a given. Nobody is going to apply who isn’t already a customer and very familiar with what’s in the store. So it’s the sales aptitude that they look for and develop in their staff.

Similarly, if I were asked to speak at a Christian songwriting conference, I wouldn’t talk about the basics of musical composition, I would, like the store manager, take that as a given. Instead, it’s a knowledge of the the lyrical foundation in the writing process that I would want to cultivate. I would want to encourage young Christian musicians to craft pieces that express where the church is today, the things that are central to us, and the things for which presently no songs exist.  

It’s not that vertical worship we have is inadequate in and of itself, but perhaps the whole vertical form is over emphasized to the point we no longer have songs of proclamation that fit our doctrine as it is constantly being amended (i.e. the parenthetic reference to crusade above.)

As we re-think certain Biblical interpretations, our music — or specifically our musicians — should be tracking with our different doctrinal emphases.


We found today’s graphic image along with a very thorough article at this website.

For an entirely unique view on this, here’s an old post I wrote about how a particular sect expresses their story in song.

April 28, 2018

Songs of Mission: Part Two

Guest post by Lorne Anderson 

This is a response to an article we posted yesterday.

Songs of mission? Certainly, you can’t be suggesting that we should be looking beyond our navels? Perish the thought!

If you are want you eat, as the saying goes, are you also what you sing? If so, what do modern worship choruses have to say about English-language Christianity? As music goes, so goes the church in many ways, so if our songs are not missionary, the church probably won’t be either.

I’m old enough to remember the Jesus movement of the early 1970s, when young people caught the vision of the need to spread the gospel, especially given the expected immanence of the return of Christ. That movement was in many ways driven by its music, which was a blend of evangelism and a call to personal holiness.

The late Larry Norman set the tone with “I Wish We’d All Been Ready,” a lament that there would be some not prepared for Christ’s return – which was also a call to go out and tell your friends about Jesus. Others followed. The church as a whole may not have understood, but the youth did.

The songs sung in small group meetings may have been worshipful (“Father I Adore You”) but the need to reach the lost was never far from front of consciousness. Young Christians were excited to have discovered Truth; sharing it was an imperative. The spokes-musicians for what would eventually become an industry felt an urgency to share their faith. Worship music as a genre did not yet exist.

Today it seems worship music has become the dominant Christian musical expression, stifling all other forms of musical creativity. A lot of “worship” music isn’t truly about praising God but more expressing our feelings about praising God. Believe me, there is a big difference. We have become inner-directed to the point that we forget the reason for the church’s existence isn’t just to praise God, but to bring others into a relationship where they want to do the same.

But how do we inspire people to care about the spiritual well-being of others when our songs are all about ourselves? We’re so busy contemplating our navels, and how God loves us, right down to our belly button lint, that we’ve missed the point that we are supposed to be passing God’s love on to others. (“It only takes a spark…”

‘Jesus Music’ inspired my generation. We went out into the highways and byways looking for people who hadn’t heard the good news that is Jesus Christ. Our songwriters led the way, framing our zeal for evangelism in music.

We are supposed to praise God. But if that is all we do, if we lose that missionary vision, our praise in many ways become just resounding gongs and clanging cymbals.

It was easier when the mission field was so far away. In my area of a large Canadian city, there are now more mosques than churches – the mission field has come to us. That makes it everyone’s responsibility, not just those who feel an overseas call. That also makes it harder — we have to show love to our neighbor, on a daily basis, and put that love into action.

We no longer need to go to “Greenland’s icy mountains” to reach the lost. They have moved into your neighborhood, into my neighborhood. On the city bus I hear a myriad of tongues and see a variety of skins tones.

Where though are the songs about the spiritual needs of those people on the bus? Who is inspiring the church to leave the comfort of its walls and take the gospel to the nations that have arrived on our doorstep. Who is writing the soundtrack for missionary activity in the 21st century?

“We’ve a story to tell to the nations.” We’re just not singing it right now.


To learn more about Lorne, follow his blog, Random Thoughts from Lorne. We occasionally steal articles from each other but this one was initially written for readers here.

April 27, 2018

Songs of Mission: Part One

Wall maps like this one at Wolverine Baptist Church in Michigan adorned many a church bulletin board with push pins and string highlighting the church’s mission outreach around the world.

We’ve written before about the shift to vertical worship means there are no longer songs of testimony. But also missing are songs of mission, as well as other categories. I realize that it is no longer politically correct to talk about evangelistic crusades and that songs like Onward Christian Soldiers sound different to 2018 ears than it did when the 1865 lyrics were combined with music in 1871. But I thought we’d collect some stanzas from these classics today perhaps for a last look before they disappear into obscurity.

These are hymns, but you could include some 1980s fare like “Shine Jesus Shine” and “We Wanna See Jesus Lifted High” in this list.


We’ve a story to tell to the nations
That shall turn their hearts to the right
A story of truth and mercy
A story of peace and light

For the darkness shall turn to dawning
And the dawning to noon-day bright
And Christ’s great kingdom shall come to earth
The kingdom of love and light


From Greenland’s icy mountains
From India’s coral strand
Where Afric’s sunny fountains
Roll down their golden sand;

From many an ancient river
From many a palmy plain
They call us to deliver
Their land from error’s chain


Far, far away in heathen darkness dwelling
Millions of souls forever may be lost
Who, who will go, salvation’s story telling
Looking to Jesus minding not the cost?

“All power is given unto Me
All power is given unto Me
Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel
And lo, I am with you always.”


There’s a call ringing o’er the restless waves
Send the light! Send the light!
There’s are souls to rescue, there are souls to save
Send the light! Send the light!

Send the light, the blessed gospel light
Let it shine from shore to shore.
Send the light, the blessed gospel light
Let it shine forever more.


Rescue the perishing, care for the dying
Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave
Weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen
Tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save.

Rescue the perishing, care for the dying
Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save.


O, Zion haste! Thy mission high fulfilling
To tell to all the world that God is light
That He who made all nations is not willing
One soul should perish, lost in shades of night

Publish glad tidings, tidings of peace
Tidings of Jesus, redemption and release.


Out in the highways and byways of life
Many are weary and sad
Carry the sunshine where darkness is rife
Making the sorrowing glad

Make me a blessing, make me a blessing
Out of my life may Jesus shine
Make me a blessing, oh Savior, I pray
Make me a blessing to someone today.


A charge to keep have I
A God to glorify
A never-dying soul to save
And fit it for the sky


To the regions beyond, I must go, I must go
Where the story has never been told
To the millions that never have heard of his love
I must tell the sweet story of old

To the regions beyond, I must go, I must go
‘Til the world, all the world His salvation shall know


Hear the Lord of harvest sweetly calling,
“Who will go and work for me today?
Who will bring to Me the lost and dying?
Who will point them to the narrow way?”

Speak my Lord, speak my Lord
Speak and I’ll be quick to answer thee
Speak my Lord, speak my Lord
Speak and I will answer, “Lord send me.”


Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
Does His successive journey run
His kingdom spread from shore to shore
‘Til moons shall wax and wane no more


Who is on the Lord’s side? Who will serve the King?
Who will be His helpers other lives to bring?
Who will leave the world’s side? Who will face the foe?
Who is on the Lord’s side? Who for Him will go?

By Thy call of mercy, by Thy grace divine
We are on the Lord’s side, Savior we are thine.


So what’s the point of all this? Just a trip down memory lane for some older readers?

No, the issue is that we don’t have anything today — with the exception of the Getty’s revival of Facing a Task Unfinished, which wasn’t entirely new lyrics — that is thematically equivalent. Our songs are all introspective. We don’t challenge each other.

This was the music of the church, until recently. This is the content that Christians sang on Sunday morning. This was the power of music being used to inspire us to think beyond our church walls, beyond our city, beyond our state, beyond our country and to consider our response to the Great Commission. 

We ought to lament this loss.

 

 

April 21, 2018

Adding to the Difficulty of Singing Modern Worship Songs

Filed under: Christianity, music, worship — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:12 am

When the musical aspect of the last ten years of modern worship is examined, the unique technical distinctive that will be remembered is what’s known as “the octave jump.” For reasons outlined in the video below, it has become a staple of modern worship. Unlike “the key change” which increases energy, but usually doubles the number of chords required for any given song, octave-jumping allows musicians to continue following the same basic chord structure, while the vocalists do the heavy lifting.

If we’re talking about a concert, then it’s the people onstage who are trained singers. However, in a church setting, the aforementioned vocalists are you and me, and the result is going to be vocal strain. Bungee jumping might be safer than octave jumping, and that’s allowing for the screaming when you first jump.

After two weeks looking at the issue of the pitch range of modern worship songs — especially when contrasted with their hymn counterparts — a veteran worship leader looks at octave jumping. We’re joining David Wesley in the middle of a series here, so if you’re up for more or are just a frustrated congregation member who wants to forward something to your worship leader (!) click through to YouTube — on the bottom right of the video — then click his channel name underneath the video.  On the other hand, you can just click here.

 

April 3, 2018

Cruising the Liturgical Worship Continuum

A few years ago, Evangelicals starting using words like Advent and Lent and Lectio Divina. While some purists probably thought this was the proverbial “Road to Rome,” some of us were thankful that the Episcopals, Anglicans and Catholics didn’t have a copyright on the liturgical calendar.

However, at the same time as this is taking place there is another distressing trend at the other end of the worship continuum. Increasingly, worship leaders seem blissfully unaware that there are songs which are especially suited for Easter Sunday and more disturbingly, Good Friday, or the mandate that these days issue to them.

I attended a number of Good Friday services this year and got to witness this firsthand. The lack of focus was rather appalling, however, as I said, the standard has been eroding for at least the past decade, to the point where younger worship leaders and worship planners have never had an Evangelical Good Friday service properly modeled for them.

I covered this in two previous articles:

One of the services I attended included Hosanna, which is a song for Palm Sunday and comes packed with the mood you’re not trying to create on Good Friday. Ironically, of all the services we attended or watched online, it was a capital “L” Liberal denomination’s church that got it right. We sat in a room with only 22 attendees and although there was no sermon, I give them 100% for liturgy and 100% for music in terms of capturing the intent of a Good Friday service.

This is a rant I will never stop. I’m sorry, but… well, here’s what I tweeted a week ago, possibly in anticipation of the weekend which was to follow.

It’s not just Good Friday, either. Thanksgiving has slowly fallen off the worship leaders’ radar. I’m not saying we need to sing We Gather Together or Come, Ye Thankful People Come endlessly; I’ll take a modern worship expression of the same theme. But the people choosing our songs apparently live in a total vacuum when it comes to awareness of the seasons in question. (And yes, I know Thanksgiving isn’t part of the liturgical calendar.)

December 7, 2017

Free Open-Source Worship Lyric Projection Software

When we’re asked to lead worship at another church, I try to get as much information as I can about the congregation and which songs they have been singing and what a typical service looks like. However, on a more practical level, we also need to know what type of piano/keyboard they have and which presentation software they use for worship songs (PowerPoint, EasyWorship, etc.).

The church we’ve been asked to assist this coming weekend introduced us to something new in terms of software, and my wife was impressed with some of its features. Furthermore, it’s free. I asked her if she’d be willing to share this discovery with readers here…

by Ruth Wilkinson

As a worship leader in my home congregation and occasional “guest worship leader” here and there, I enjoy writing, arranging, creating and sharing music and images that help people engage with Scripture and the God who gave it to us.

Over the years I’ve found no shortage of people wanting to sell me stuff to help the process. And fair enough.  A workman is worthy of his wages, after all.

But as a volunteer, I must say it’s lovely when, now and then, I come across a freeware or open source piece of software that has a lot to offer.  Most of the programs I use week to week fall into this category.

Most recently, we were introduced to VideoPsalm, a presentation program that describes itself as “missionware.” As with many freeware programs, this seems to be a labour of love (I didn’t even see a ‘donate’ button on the website). The terms of use simply ask the user to support a missionary/organization financially or in prayer and to “take a little more at heart the evangelical Christian mission.”

The functionalities are comprehensive — images, text, video, PowerPoint, scripture, announcements, countdowns… — with one particular addition I really like: It’s ChordPro friendly.  Which means that, with some editing, chord charts can be projected along with lyrics. (Now if only someone will develop a ‘lead line’ option to make teaching new songs easier. (Dear Santa…)) But this is definitely a nice feature.

As with any program, there is learning to do (for example, how to import a particular song from CCLI.) Video tutorials are available through the website.

For smaller churches or home groups, VideoPsalm could be a real God-send, considering the cost of the commercial presentation software.

…And for what it’s worth, a few other budget friendly (ie free) programs:

OpenOffice –  Word processing, spreadsheets, “PowerPoint” with thorough format compatibility

MuseScore – Music notation software with pdf, midi and mp3 exporting

SoftChord – ChordPro editor

Gimp – Image editing (like photoshop) with a lot of tools and options

OpenShot – Video editing software.  I haven’t used this one myself, but I’ve heard good things

StudioOne Prime – Nice audio editing program.  This is the free version, fully functional but lacking some fancier features

Audacity – A more basic editing audio suite, but quite user friendly and good for recording sermons and whatnot

 

October 27, 2017

God’s Power? Yes, As Long as We Are in Full Control

If you grew up in Africa, the West Indies or even in the North American Black church, you’ll wonder what all the fuss is about in today’s column.

Lord, send the old time power;
The Pentecostal Power

Although we sang that gospel hymn at many of our church’s evening service, indications of God’s power were looked on with extreme suspicion. While the Charismatic Movement had contributed to explosive church growth in many locations, the megachurch where I grew up was having behind-the-scenes meetings to discuss how far they were willing to let that movement invade our fellowship…

…I noticed her across the auditorium from the corner of my eye. Middle aged woman positioned ideally on the aisle for what she was about to do. We were singing a very lively hymn, possibly even the one above and the music at the church was quite loud as she started moving to the music, then stepping out into the aisle putting one foot ahead and back, and then one foot behind and then back. The aisle sloped slightly so she was moving forward and backward, up and down the aisle, though never far from her seat.

The ushers serving that aisle watched each other from the back for confirmation and then wasted no time. Swiftly she was confronted but apparently lost in the music continued the dance.

Then the unthinkable happened. They attempted to pick her up. She went rather rigid at that point — to avoid injury to them one would think — and they carted her out of the service like she was a large piece of lumber. She was perpendicular to the floor and one carried her head and shoulders while the other carried her feet.

I kid you not. Down the aisle and out the door. Never to return…

…Maybe your church has stories of people shutting down Charismatic expression. (The man who ran up on the stage at John MacArthur’s church to give a word of prophecy comes to mind. That was dramatic!) …

…One of the songs in that church’s youth group was “The Holy Ghost Will Set Your Feet A-Dancing.” This was a noble goal for those seeking the fullness of God’s Spirit, as long as things didn’t get out of hand. I don’t remember us doing much more than clapping to that piece. But then a discussion would follow about wanting what the Pentcostals and Charismatics had; wanting to see more of God’s power displayed and active in our church and in our lives…

…Today’s there’s the bridge in “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever” which goes,

O, I feel like dancing.
It’s foolishness I know.
But when the world has seen the light
They will dance with joy like we’re dancing now.

My wife and I haven’t used that song much when leading worship, but when we did, we always skipped that bridge. The purpose of leading worship is to give voice to the congregation to express the worth-ship of God and their aspirations of response. Most of the people in our congregations did not feel like dancing in those moments, and if you’re not dancing, the song really makes no sense.

They would concur the second the line however, “It’s foolishness I know.” David danced before the Lord. Thank goodness we’re in the New Testament now…

…I’m sure the woman in my story recognized that our church wasn’t the best fit for her and eventually found a home in the many Pentecostal and Charismatic church springing up all over the city where you could take a few steps back and forth without being a distraction.

I wonder how many that Sunday night secretly admired her freedom?


It would be interesting to know what insurance providers and court judges would think of the physical confrontation I watched. Do not try this at home…

…And yes, YouTube would be several generations down the road, but this one would have been great to have captured. Today camera-phones would have been tracking her from the first few steps of her jig.

 

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