Over the past few weeks, my worship team has been reading The HD Leader by Derwin Gray. The book speaks about building multiethnic churches and embracing diversity. According to the book, a homogeneous church is one that is made up of 80 percent or more of the same ethnicity. Ring […]
In the original post, “Five BAD Ideas to Make Your Worship Services FAKE,” I discussed some ways of thinking that seem to reinforce inauthentic worship. Hundreds of shares and thousands of readers later, the new year has brought us a new and even worse list! I know, it’s not the […]
We have all been there. Everything may sound fantastic, look attractive, and planned with purposeful intent. But, something just doesn’t seem right. You feel fake vibes when hoping for authentic ones. Regardless, what makes a worship service fake might be boiled down to a few things even though there may […]
Photo Credit Sophia Louise Creative Commons It was repeated several times in a church staff meeting, so it was nothing new this time. The pastor instructed us to essentially be his “amen corner” during the sermon and exuberant charismatics during the musical time of the service. Laugh, visibly take notes, […]
As I was assisting the unpacking this new church’s first sound system, the young pastor asked me something I thought strange in the moment. “Rich, by now shouldn’t you have a couple books out by now?” The conversation centered around his view that my ministry career should be at a certain level of achievement given my supposed status. He mentioned his path was to start this new church, and as it grew he would write a book, and then there was the platform that was needed in all of that. At that moment, I was in a big church and yet taking time as a friend to help set up audio gear in his large suburban, three-bay garage. His church had not even held its first public service, but his personal platform and achievement was center of what he wanted to talk about.
I have enjoyed being part of worship and music ministry in the local church since the days I used to develop Kodak Kodolith slides projected over a cyclorama curtain. The changing colors and the sharp, crisp slides were all in analog, including the spelling errors! The Saturday night ritual of developing in my darkroom-closet was quickly terminated upon the purchase of our church’s first digital projector. Then, the horrors of PowerPoint as applied to congregational singing commenced.
From the first note to the last, what is played musically in church matters. Music is one of the historically prominent and powerful vehicles for our Christian worship–today as well as in the past. Whether the worship is expressed on a Fender strat or sung by a choir in full robes the music matters. Like the beams of a building need competent engineering, the execution of our music leadership requires skill. You can compensate all you want with automated loops, tracks and auto-tuning but in the end polished bronze is still bronze. Gold is the real thing. Just because something is shiny does not make it valuable or worthy in the long run. Is what we are offering as valuable as we think it is? Good musicianship and the several components that it contains matter.
At least two extremes exists when describing the role of the worship leader. Today, we ask for rockstar-monks to lead us in worship. I have heard an influential leader say repeatedly at conferences, “Your role is more important than mine as the preacher.” Really? This made me feel important at the moment, but reality says something else. As a worship leader we prepare people to hear the word, lead them in prayers, but how is that more important than leading and forming a congregation spiritually through preaching? As a worship leader, my role is surely significant as I serve the whole congregation and have a part in the spiritual formation, but not a superior part. I am simply just a part. And, to put that on me or any worship leader is to raise this role to monk status.
We want to be relevant with our worship music and need to have spiritually vibrant worship. A church itself is described by many leaders by the musical “ style” offered. There is traditional, gospel, contemporary, and modern as some words to describe just a few of the menu options. Music itself appears to how we brand our worship. If we brand worship as a music style what message does this send? I may have bad news for those who would be so pragmatic. We want something that works. Would we rather have something dumbed-down that we can control, or something that actually is culturally relevant, powerful, or engaging? In a discussion about styles of music in worship, we have to ask about the intent. Why do we want to be germane with our music? My point is clear. It’s complicated.
Yes, you know you hate to love these top-five or top-ten lists. One fact I state clearly before I teach leaders and worship leaders is that I have made many mistakes over many years of leading music and worship. The list I below comes from such real-world experience. I know the ideas may not be news to many of you. But, having the basics articulated for both yourself as the leader and your team greatly improves your game. Also, teams need to have unity. Unity must be intentional, not randomly executed.
Here are five simple tips will massively produce better results if attended and followed. Why am I so sure? Well, did you not read in the above paragraphs about my many mess-ups? My pain is your gain!
I have some questions for you my friends and readers out there. The reason I have been blogging for so long–almost 9 years now–is the dialog with real people. I have prepared sermons, found places to visit and changed my thinking because of the encounters I have had with you. This topic is for us “creatives” out there.
In ministry leadership at times you must make a clear choice. Will I be influential or will I be popular? When both are possible–which is a rare occasion of fortune–you have a windfall of capital to leverage. However, popularity and the power that comes from it is acquired by the minutia of the direction of the wind, and is as fickle as the latest fad. Influence, on the other hand, is based on time and the reputation that results. To maintain popularity requires a crisis management at every threat. To maintain influence simply means you keep a steady hand.