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Why gather? #3

February 21, 2010

Still thinking more on some comments I posted a month or so ago –

If all a church meeting is, is a bunch of songs that I’ve heard sung better on the original albums, a sermon that is essentially just a bible study read out loud, and some cheap instant coffee and inane chatting about not very much at all, then it has been a shocking waste of time: the gathered church is supposed to be the temple of the Holy Spirit, a manifestation of God’s glory on the earth: we should be led, and lead others into, an encounter with the Living God.

And specifically this time –

In worship, people don’t seem to need the same amount of help to be quiet and intimate before God as they do to be exuberant in praise.

British (and American) evangelicalism has for many years promoted the idea of a daily quiet time, bringing it central to Christian discipleship. For all its benefits, and its drawbacks, I wonder how sensitive we worship leaders are to the fact that many of our people are quite used to having quiet times with God. We seek to draw so many people into intimate encounters with Jesus, and often feel like we’ve done what we were supposed to do if we have sung a couple of fast ones and then people have got quiet before God – the ‘holy hush’.

But how helpful have we been if all that has happened is each individual in the room has had an individual encounter with Jesus? If all that has happened is that people have come to a meeting and gone away with nothing more than they already had when they came… if they got to be quiet for a bit while the rest of the room sang the latest Chris Tomlin? Surely there must be more to corporate worship? Surely there must be something different?

I feel strongly that we are a greater help to our congregations if we seek to support them in the area that most will struggle with on their own – extravagant, exuberant praise. I don’t know many people who reach this place in their ‘quiet time’, but I do know that the power and presence released when a roomful of people who know Jesus intimately from their quiet times come together in loud and extravagant praise of the One who loves them. Let’s help people dance like David danced – let’s help people shout like the Israelites shouted. Let’s help people shrug off the shame and embarrassment that the fear of man puts on them, and lets help them put on a garment of praise.

Some practical points to help:

  • Bring sufficient songs of praise – I don’t know which is sadder to me: when a worship leader takes us quiet and intimate only ten minutes in, or when the congregation let him/her. I am not saying never do this, I am saying be bold! Help your people praise their God in a way that they may struggle to alone.
  • Watch the tempo! – it is hard to dance at 85bpm. It doesn’t feel like a ‘happy day’!
  • Worship leaders, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE let your drummers do what they are responsible for in any other type of band – setting and keeping the tempo!!! In submission to your authority and leading, of course, but guitarists in particular will start songs too slow; worship leaders who are also playing an instrument often seem to struggle here, and I sometimes don’t know the kindest way to tell them. So, until I learn the best way to present this feedback– let your drummer pick the speed!
  • Look like you are enjoying it!
  • Enjoy it!
  • Model this praise at all times – and especially when you don’t have a microphone in your face. People can quickly spot a hypocrite, which is what you are if you spend any kind of time telling other people to do what you don’t do. Equally, they can see and respond to integrity of heart, and someone who is sold out to Jesus with no fear of man is an inspiration to the congregation to live their life for Jesus.
  • Be careful to choose songs full of truth – so people are responding to the truth instead of the funky bass line.
  • Be careful to understand how songs work – normally, verses provide the content while the chorus is our response to said content. Therefore, mindlessly repeating the chorus over and over can be more akin to manipulation than godly leadership. If you repeat anything, go for the verses – find ways to sing them that let the words get in to the people’s spirits, so the hands in the air and roar of praise is a genuine response to Jesus and not just “what we do in this bit”.
  • Be careful to understand how vocal ranges affect normal people – while you may very well enjoy the octave leap for the last line of the verse, or keeping it in the key the band recorded it in, the normal people out there get put off when “the song they can’t sing” gets pulled out. If they aren’t singing, they aren’t dancing, and you’ve lost them until you’ve finished the song. Watch out!

In a similar vein, I posted some thoughts about singing lies and biblical worship involving the whole person, so you can’t just be dancing inside. Next time!!!

One Comment leave one →
  1. rupert leslie permalink
    April 3, 2010 1:14 pm


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