Tuesday, October 22, 2013


As a worship leader, I have come to separate all church music into two very broad categories. Understanding that there are many subcategories, I am confident that every song we use in church will fall somewhere in the spectrum beneath one of these two categories. 

My purpose for writing this is to bring to attention an issue which I have run across various times in my decade or so leading worship through music, and an issue which I have confirmed to be present for others in my field. So, I'll quickly share these two categories, and then talk a little about the issue I mentioned.

Before I reveal them, please understand that I am not speaking theologically with these categories. They have nothing to do with lyric content, but rather the overall feel and tempo of the song. So, with that in mind, here they are:

Cross Songs and Tomb Songs

What do I mean by Cross Songs and Tomb Songs. It's really simple. It's just a fresh way of saying praise and worship. But since the term "praise & worship" has been used for so long in conjunction with church music in general the two separate words have become fused and are used together to describe all music used in church, regardless of tempo or theme.

So, I chose these two category titles based on the fact that there are two major points in Christ's primary ministry to us, and those are the crucifixion and the empty tomb. The Crucifixion is the quintessential sad moment, while the empty tomb is possibly the happiest moment in history. The Cross Songs are those which are more mid to down-tempo, reflective, somber, worshipful. The Tomb Songs are those which tend to be more up-tempo, celebratory  praise songs. All church music can be placed under one of these categories. Sure, there are songs which seem to be near the middle, but all of them can fit into one of these two groups.

A few examples might be, Heart of Worship - Cross Song, Forever - Tomb Song, Mighty to Save - Cross Song, Everlasting God - Tomb Song.

Now that I have explained the categories, here is the issue I run into. I think we can all agree that both of these categories are equally important. Without the cross the empty tomb would have just been any empty tomb, never having been occupied. Without the empty tomb then the story of Christ ends on a cruel Roman cross. In the same way, the Church of Christ needs both types of songs. We need to praise, and we need to worship. We need to celebrate but we also need to reflect. Many worship leaders run into an issue where the pastor only wants Tomb Songs. They just want the church happy, happy, happy, singing loud, clapping hands, smiling wide. And to them those Cross Songs are something they see as a necessary but unsavory condition to appease worship leaders who tend towards the mid or down-tempo songs. Of course, it goes both ways, but most gifted and experienced worship leaders understand that, while they may not prefer one category, both are necessary, because... well, that's our job.

We need to learn to communicate with our pastors these truths, and we need to be patient and loving in the process. And that goes for every area in which we might differ from the pastor, like maybe when that super reflective, somber, serious song ends and you purposefully leave some silence for reflection, and suddenly, within a nano-second, there's a pastor on a microphone with his ever cheery tone moving the service along. That's who they are, and it's every bit as appropriate as the way we are. It's just poorly timed, sometimes...

There is a great need for loving dialogue between worship leaders and their pastors and I am the first person I know who needs to take this advice to heart! What are your thoughts on the issue?
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