Thursday, May 8, 2014

Worship Tips Part One: 4 Worship Leading Questions the Bible Doesn't Answer

In my experience every well-meaning worship leader comes across questions about worship ministry from time to time which he or she finds difficult to answer from Scripture.

Very often, especially when Google is employed, we are able to find what are advertised as biblical answers to these questions, and almost just as often those answers are nothing more than the closely-held opinions of someone who is great at rhetoric, and maybe not as great at discerning between moral issues and matters of taste. Following is a sampling of these questions and what I believe to be more balanced answers for them.

1) What clothes should I wear?
Listen, I understand that the issue of dress is ad-dressed (pun so intended) in the Bible, but the average worship leader, when considering Sunday morning wardrobe, isn't trying to decide between a one-piece or a two-piece bathing suit. This is more of an issue of button down vs. print tee, or Little House On the Prairie dress vs. stylish jeans and a modern top.

The fact is, people, that this issue is primarily one of taste, but also cultural sensitivity. Generally speaking, we should make our wardrobe decisions based upon the culture at our respective congregations. In other words, a three-piece suit is no more or less holy than jeans and a flannel button down.

Don't take this as a license to be sloppy, but also don't stress about it, it's just clothes. And that old, "Sunday Best for Jesus" thing should be tossed out along with transparency projectors. Jesus is with you all day every day, so if you honestly think He has a preference about which department you bought your clothes from then you should be dressing that way all of the time.

2) Should I keep my eyes opened or closed, or some mixture of the two?
This one is of particular interest to me since I'm about 70%/30% closed/open. The arguments for and against closing your eyes are all varying stages of convincing, until you stop and think for a nano-second. 

Try it.

Just ask yourself if Paul or Peter would have taken any time at all to consider, much less address this question. It's just my opinion, but I'm going with a solid "no way, man." And remember those guys walked EVERYWHERE, so they had the time.

Just for the sake of those reading this and going, "but this!" or "but that!" I'll address the most commonly sited argument.

"You should open your eyes because how else are you supposed to know what's going on out there, man?" I could just say, "the Holy Spirit," and like totally win this, but listen, the thing is... the Holy Spirit!

Friends, it's not our job to stick our dual ocular thermometers into the Body and gauge how well they're worshiping God. That's His thing. We lead and pray they follow, but ultimately only the Father draws.

Now, practically-speaking, it doesn't hurt to just take a peek to see how a new song is going over, but I can guarantee that no one's salvation hinges on the position of your eyelids.

3) Should I use more hymns or more modern praise and worship?
At the risk of inciting the riotous blue-haired mob to end all riotous blue-haired mobs I am going to make a statement that too often goes unsaid, when it absolutely needs to be shouted from the rooftops.

Hymns are not Canon.

There it is.

Now, most of you are thinking, "I know that." I know you do. That statement wasn't for you to hear. It was for you to repeat.

I can almost guarantee that someone sitting in your congregation on Sunday morning needs to hear it. But say it with gentleness and respect. Sure, many old hymns were Christian lyrics set to drinking songs, but using that analogy probably won't get you very far. Use your love. That's what it's there for.

So, with that out of the way, does the Bible tell us what our hymn to modern worship ratio should be?


No, it really doesn't. I'm sorry for lying to you. I immediately felt the painful sting of conviction.

So, here's the truth: God probably isn't as concerned about when a song was written as He is about how many truths/lies it contains. Use that brain of yours on bigger issues. Lots and lots of songs, both old and new, contain actual heresy, or at least a reasonable facsimile of heresy. Once you've weeded out those stinkers, you can turn your attention back to this minor issue.

I think a good rule of thumb is to come up with a rough ratio, in your head or on paper, of the amount of people who prefer hymns to the amount who are more into modern stuff. Use that ratio as you prayerfully choose your set. Something like this: I have a 2-1 ratio of people who prefer modern P&W over those who dig the oldie-but-goodies, so I'll try and do one hymn for every two modern songs.

4) Should the lights be off, dimmed, or brighter than the sun?
It doesn't matter. Seriously, are you still reading this? Go rehearse your set or something.

Well, those are my top picks, but how about you, fellow worship leader, lead worshiper, worship facilitator, worship arts director, or whatever you want to be called? Can you think of some that I missed? If so, share them, why don't ya?

For Part Two: Three Not-So-Simple Steps to Authentic Worship, click that overwrought title.
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