Friday, June 26, 2015

Worship Tips Part Two: Three Not-So-Simple Steps to Authentic Worship

Worship leaders walk a precarious line as the modern-day facilitators of sung worship.
On the one hand, we don’t want to be guilty of ‘engineering emotion,’ which is all too easily done. The role of music in film and other entertainment media overwhelmingly attests to this fact. It’s a disingenuous tactic to arrange a worship set to garner the most excitement or, God forbid, tears, and it yields only momentary emotionally-charged results with no lasting spiritual change.

The truth about God, who He is, and what He has done, contained in the lyrics, should be the catalyst for response, not the tempo or chord progression of a song, or the ambiance, or anything else you can learn in a music theory class.

On the other hand, however, we do want worshipers engaged emotionally, and not just on an intellectual level, to ‘feel the facts,’ so to speak. It’s one thing to know that the lyrics we’re singing are true, but it’s quite another to respond to that knowledge with actual worship of God. True, authentic worship involves both knowing the greatness and goodness of God and expressing that knowledge with sincere praise and adoration.

Below I have presented three steps for the sincere worship leader who desires to assist his or her congregation in connecting emotionally, but without taking the wheel and steering them into a desired emotional state.

As you read, keep in mind the words of Jesus, from John 4:24, who is the ultimate Authority on the subject of worship.

“God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

1) Lyrical Orthodoxy
The most important thing in planning a worship set, far above unity of theme, artful transitions, or accessible keys, is knowing, as much as possible, that everything you are asking your church to sing is true. As a servant who has been called and gifted by God to usher His people into His throne room to worship at His feet, it is of the utmost importance to make sure their understanding of Him is accurate, to the best of your ability.

Now, before you go reminding me that I'm just a guy with a guitar, not a doctorate in theology, let me remind you of what Luke Skywalker’s uncle Owen would have told Luke had he seen Sam Raimi’s Spiderman films and then lived long enough to recognize that his nephew was a certified Jedi-Master-in-the-making…

‘With great power comes great responsibility.’

Roughly one-third to one-half of any given worship service is dedicated to singing. During the time designated for sung worship the congregation, whether they know it or not, are employing the best mnemonic device known to man; they’re reading, hearing, and saying (singing) the words to each song. On top of that, at least one portion of most modern songs, the chorus, is repeated anywhere between three and a million times.

Then there’s the bridge…

The point is, the theology you are teaching when you lead worship is being memorized by the worshipers. Do you think that anyone besides the pastor memorizes the sermon?

So, be thoughtful and deliberate about everything you say or sing on stage, because you are teaching, and the Holy Spirit has some special warnings for teachers (see James3:1 and Luke 17:2).

2) Personal Authenticity
So, your lyrics about God are true, orthodox, and free of Scriptural inaccuracies. That’s great, now, are you being honest about your response?

What is the condition of your heart, and of how’re you doing responding to it? If you adore Christ and desire to serve Him, how closely is your volition aligning with your heart’s intention?

It’s between the individual worshiper and God how much their heart and actions match the words they’re singing to Him, so don’t worry about them, although offering them a micro-sized version of this point from time to time couldn’t hurt. 

As for you, fellow worship leader, your situation is a bit more complicated, because sets are planned in advance, and a song you mean on Thursday may not feel honest to sing on Sunday.

Does artistic license come in? Some say yes.

Is it that we’re okay since we’re simply showing them how and what to sing? Perhaps.

I’ll let you work this out with God on your own. Just be true to your conviction when the time comes.

3) A Roller Coaster, Not a Drag Race
With your heart right about the whole process, it’s time to acknowledge that emotion is important. A simple rule here is ‘persuade, don’t coerce.’ A set with no dynamic variety can be nearly as much of a hindrance to biblical worship as a set full of theological inaccuracies, so give them a ride that matches with the message and get out of the way as worship happens.

While it’s not okay to drag someone into an emotional reaction, creating an environment where emotion is welcome and natural is perfectly within our rights. Use builds, breaks, ambiance, minor and major keys, intense harmonies, melodic hooks, dimmed lights, candles, moving images, and everything else, as long as your intention is truly to create opportunities for the emotions to fall in line with the intellect.

If we are doing our jobs, both facilitating and modeling worship, and we are doing so with orthodoxy in mind, authenticity in our hearts, and musical excellence from adequate rehearsal time - and of course, the leading of the Holy Spirit - then the rest is up to Him. 

There you have it, three not-so-simple steps to authentic worship. I’d love to hear your feedback, including your own tips, so don’t be shy with the comments, mister (or Mrs.)!

Come follow me on Twitter, too :)

And for Part Three: 5 Ways to Show Your Team They are Valued, click that title, bruh (or sis)!

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