Do you love worshipping God?
Do you love getting up for work on a Monday morning?
If you don't love getting up for work on Monday morning then you can't love worshipping God.
Because getting up for work on Monday morning IS worshipping God!
How and where do you learn to worship?
At church on a Sunday morning? In your quiet times? With a guitar in your hands? In the car with a worship CD playing?
No (although they can all be part of it).
24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in whatever you're doing, wherever you are - not by going around singing worship songs all day long, but by doing what you do, and doing it all to God's glory.
The measure of your worship is not the quality or volume of your singing. It's not how you perform in church on Sunday morning, or in your quiet times. It's the way you live your life 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. THAT determines the quality of your worship, because that IS your worship!
"So you want to worship God?...
Go and wash the dishes!"
"You want to worship God?...
Clean the kitchen! Mop the floor! Write that essay! Get up in time for work or for lectures! Phone that friend you've not spoken to for months!...."
The truth of this struck me so powerfully recently. What we do in church in the "worship time" is really only 1% of our worship. The worship time quite literally lasts from the moment I become a follower of the Lord till the moment I die... and then on for all of eternity!!
Over the last couple of years I have had a passionate desire to go deeper in my worship, but recently God spoke to me on this very issue: "If you want to be a worshipper... if you want to learn how to worship... if you want to go deeper in your worship... then start to LIVE WORSHIP!!!"
Romans 12v1 talks about presenting our bodies as living sacrifices as our act of worship. Yet most of the time my focus has still been mainly on the musical side of worship (the 1%). I overlook some other things or don't put much effort into them in my haste to get to church or have some time where I can get out my guitar and 'worship'.
Yet God is saying to make EVERY part of my life an act of worship, quite literally... to put the same care and concern and effort and passion as I put into the music on a Sunday into EVERYTHING I do, and to present it all - my whole life - as my worship to God. I've often quoted the passage about loving God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. Yet I often only think of it with reference to Sunday morning or to the 'direct' expression of my love and worship to God, when actually it applies to everything we do in life.
I've heard all this so many times before, but this was the first time it really hit home to me just how real this is. It's not just that our worship on Sunday is 'backed up' or 'validated' by our lifestyle. Our lifestyle IS our worship, and what we do on Sunday or in those times of 'direct communication' with God is just a tiny percentage of the bigger picture! Often, particularly 'charismatic' Christians, we have put the emphasis of worship on the 1% and seen the 99% in relation to this, as something that flows out of it. In reality, God is calling us to put the emphasis back where it belongs - on the 100% and to see the 1% as simply a part of the bigger picture.
With this perspective, I can actually ENJOY the ordinary, routine, mundane tasks of day to day life JUST AS MUCH AS I ENJOY SINGING WORSHIP SONGS... because it's ALL worship, and I love worship... because I love God and I want to give Him the very best I possibly can!!
So... let's worship!!
Author: Brad Meyer
Scripture References: Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16
Verse Text: Ephesians 5:19 "Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord."
Colossians 3:16 "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God."
There are all kinds of songs: love songs, patriotic songs, nursery songs, battle songs, campfire songs, songs that tell a story, songs that call people to rally for a cause, songs that teach, songs that express complaint.
Singing a song is a way to communicate or express a thought. Just about anything that can be said in words, can be said in a song. The Bible mentions several kinds of songs such as a hymn (Mark 14:26), a lament (2 Samuel 1:17), a spiritual song (Eph 5:19), and a sensual song (Ez. 33:32, NASB).
Want to start an argument? Ask a group of believers what kinds of songs are appropriate for Christians to sing. Let¹s avoid the argument for now and simply look at three kinds of songs that should be indisputably acceptable: psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.
The difficulty with describing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs is in the fact that the words that Paul used were written in Greek some 1950 years ago. While we now use the words "hymn" and "psalm" that are transliterations of the words from Greek to English, we might not have the same connotation to these words as existed in Greek at the time of Paul. For example, in common practice today, Christians refer to hymns as opposed to contemporary music. The word hymn takes on the connotation of a certain style of music or a certain collection of songs; a style or collection that certainly was not known in the first century!
A few years back, after listening to too many people argue about kinds of music that are appropriate to sing in church, I did some digging into the definitions of these words. I came across a helpful book called, "Synonyms of the New Testament", by Richard C. Trench. This author has made a careful study of many of the Greek words used in the New Testament and how they were used in Greek culture, as well as how they were used by the early church fathers. After reading his discussion of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, I came to the conclusion that it makes much more sense to see these words as describing the content of songs, rather than the style of music in the songs. Let me explain.
The Greek word for psalm had an interesting history. There was a word that meant to touch. Over time it came to be used to describe touching a harp or some other stringed instrument. A related word came into use to describe the instrument itself, and then finally, the songs sung with such an instrument. This last word, psalmos, was the term used in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures) as the title of the collection of the songs of David, Asaph, and others, we now call the Psalms. When Paul used the word, psalms, in Col. 3:16 and Eph. 5:19, he was probably referring to the musical arrangements sung at that time with words from the Old Testament book of Psalms.
Hymns are songs of adoration and praise. The word had come to be used in Greek to refer to the songs about the gods and the humans who became like gods. Hercules, Zeus, and Apollo all had hymns written to them. The Christian use of the term was, of course, songs of praise to God. Under this meaning of the term, "Lord, I lift Your Name on High" is just as much a hymn as "A Mighty Fortress".
"Spiritual songs" is a phrase used only in the two passages noted above. It¹s inclusion after psalms and hymns, suggests that it is some kind of catch-all term to refer to other Christian songs that were not taken from the Psalms or that were not necessarily praise songs. That could include songs of admonition (Rise Up, O Men of God), songs of vision (We Want to See Jesus Lifted High), songs of doctrine, teaching songs, songs of petition, or really any other kind of song that expresses a thought that is spiritual. Since we are to use songs to teach and admonish one another, this category seems a very appropriate addition to Paul¹s list.
When we gather together as believers, all of these kinds of songs are appropriate to sing. We sing many hymns, that is, songs of devotion. We have lots of songs that come from the Psalms. We also sing teaching songs and songs of admonition. As a music leader I try to pick out songs that stir minds, songs that stir hearts, and songs that stir wills. I choose songs that lift people¹s thoughts to the person of God and I pick songs that focus attention on our responsibilities as followers of Christ.
The two passages that list the threesome of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs are telling us that it is necessary for us as believers to teach and admonish one another; that¹s part of what it means to walk in love. But they are telling us that we can do so not only through our conversation, but also through singing. Music is a very powerful and effective way of communicating. Finally, these passages encourage those of us who are music leaders to think broadly about the content in our songs; we can sing Scripture, especially the Psalms, we can sing songs of worship and adoration, and we can sing songs that otherwise call our attention to spiritual matters.
By Ross Parsley
In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, we are observing a desire in people to connect with God. As they search for answers in the midst of uncertainty, we realize that our times of worship are opportunities for solace where people can pour out their hearts to God, hear his voice, and experience his peace and comfort. In light of this, it becomes even more important for us as worship leaders to build our services and ministries on a solid foundation so that we don't end up offering people an empty, emotional experience that soothes their souls, but does not bring genuine healing and transformation to their hearts and minds.
Thousands of worship leaders around the country were busy planning and re-planning their worship services the week after this national tragedy. All of us who lead worship in local churches were concerned that the songs we had already chosen to sing might not be appropriate for the Sunday after September 11th. But what was interesting to me and to other worship leaders that I have talked to is that the selection of songs to choose from became a lot smaller. The subject matter became more sensitive. Every song meant something different now than it did on Sunday, September 9th.
Sports of all kinds were canceled the weekend after the tragedy and we've heard the talking heads, for weeks now, declaring that sports (among other things) are now in a more proper perspective within our American psyche and culture. I suggest to you that this is an opportunity for worship in our churches to go through a similar process. The songs we choose, the themes we gravitate towards, and how they shape our churches' view of God, all come under more scrutiny in the face of such a catastrophe.
I'll be the first to tell you that I'm all for joy in the house of prayer (Isa. 56:7). Any one who knows me will tell you that I am in favor of coming into his presence with singing and making a joyful noise unto the Lord. I like a good groove as much as the next guy. But the fact is, I found myself struggling with some of the songs we'd been singing because they weren't deep enough, they weren't meaningful enough, and they weren't theologically valuable enough to paint a picture of who God is and how imminent and transcendent He is in this world. It made me stop and evaluate the tools (songs) we've been using. Here is what I observed:
- The gravitation toward hymns to bring perspective and comfort
- The need for descriptions of God - His love, power, beauty, and authority
- The desire to connect with something ancient and rooted in history
- An inclination toward something familiar
Leonard Sweet and Robert Webber have done a wonderful job of articulating the nuances of our culture and it's current trends toward a convergence of the old and new. Nowhere was it more visible than in our churches during the last few weeks.
Now, I'm not interested in arguing that we should all sing the old favorites every Sunday and never sing anything new or creative. I was just reminded once again that the choosing of a song is an extremely important element in defining our worship and it is directly related to how people see, know, and experience God every Sunday.
So, what are your criteria for choosing your songs? Have you ever thought about it? Have you standardized it? Are you intentionally teaching and training your people about who God is and how he interacts with us as his people through your songs?
Let's give it a try. But let's be practical about it-let's consider the essentials that you would need to choose your songs. I think there are at least five elements for churches when selecting worship material.
The cover of a recent Newsweek had this headline: "Music Goes Global." It is now possible for a song to be sung on the other side of the globe within moments of being downloaded. Music is the language of our culture and a passport to every other culture. And so it remains that songs are the great teachers of our society-not necessarily the sermons we preach. Luther, the Wesley's, and other hymn writers, understood the singing of theology would allow people to learn the attributes and character of God. As technologically advanced as our culture is, it seems that some things have not changed. However, many of our songs written within the last few years have focused on us instead of Him. It's created what I call "felt need" worship-Jesus is here to meet my needs and that is why I worship. It is a true enough concept, but if that's all there is, we've just reduced God to a Coke machine. We need to make sure that our songs are Scriptural in content and directed towards who He is and not just our current cultural whims.
Each church develops a style that is all it's own. This is a good thing as long as the church is healthy and growing. If it is not, then style is one of the elements that can be changed to improve ministry to people. Of course it is essential that there be an authenticity to our churches' style so that people can connect genuinely with the Body of believers and with God. Trying to be someone you're not is a recipe for performance and programming rather than worship. The lines do become blurred here but the point is the style of our worship is partly determined by our songs. If you're in Colorado, your style will be different than a church in New York City; the church in New York will be different than the church in Seattle; and that one will be different from the church in Iowa. The bottom line is, be who you are and choose the tools (songs) that fit your style so that you are able to build.
There is no reason to put your team or your church through songs that are too difficult to play and sing. If the skill level of your team is not high enough to do certain songs, then find ways to make the song simpler or choose other songs. For lower skill players, close the parameters. With higher skilled players you have more freedom. The good news is you can worship regardless of your skill level if you'll choose songs that fit. In addition, there is no shortage of good material with the worship industry functioning at an all time high-there seems to be something for everyone. This is not to say that your team should never stretch or improve, but you should apply the principle of the parable of the talents here. Be faithful with what you have and do a good job with it, and then God will reward you with more.
4. Pastoral Preference
The Senior Pastor is the Worship Leader! At the very least he is the lead worshipper and that means that people not only look to him for the church's vision for worship, they look at him during the service to see what his vision is for worship. As a worship leader, I work to serve him and I submit to his spiritual authority over the church. I don't have my own vision for worship apart from his. We work together to form it and articulate it to the church. I know what my pastor's (Pastor Ted Haggard) preferences are when it comes to songs-and it isn't always what I like, but he's a good leader so he doesn't micro-manage me in my area of ministry. But he does communicate in a healthy way his likes and dislikes which helps me determine what my themes and song selections should be. His influence brings protection and direction and that gives me confidence to lead well.
This is when a song "works" in your congregation. You sing it the first time and people latch on to it. The problem is that you as the leader may have to sing songs that connect your people with God, but you may not necessarily like them. That's happened to me countless times. Or I will hear a song on a CD and not think much of it. Then I'll hear it live and I think to myself, "Why didn't I use that song?" Some songs make it the first try and some take a few turns but we all know when "it" happens. Use the songs that take people there, even when it goes against your own personal preference. Our job as worship leaders is to serve our congregations by using the tools that help them worship. These tools will help you build a firm foundation for your church and your worship ministry.
e Ross Parsley serves as Worship Pastor at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado and functions as the Senior Associate and primary worship leader. He is responsible for all weekend worship services and oversees all music ministries within the church.
"The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much" James 5: 16b
by Dan Millheim
The worship service was dismissed, and I began to make my way to the back of the small auditorium to thank my friends for inviting me to their church. As I scanned the room for their familiar faces across a crowd of strangers, I caught his eye, or I should say, he caught mine. His knowing gaze seemed to look through me, rather than at me. I smiled back nervously as he approached in a manner that suggested friendship despite the fact that we had never met before. Jim was the guest speaker that evening and had been introduced to the congregation as a "prophet," which I have to confess made me a bit uncomfortable. But Jim's message had been firmly grounded in Scripture, and his humble delivery arrested any alarms I might have over his unusual title--that is, until he stood before me. As I extended my hand in greeting, he placed an arm around my shoulder and, nodding his head in the direction of a few isolated chairs, asked if he could talk with me in private. "Ding! Ding! Ding!" my internal alarms sounded. "What had I gotten myself into?" I thought.
Jim spoke slowly and with compassion. "The Lord has given me a word for you," he said. "Oh, brother," I thought as I shifted nervously in my seat. He continued, "The Lord has told me that He is tired of seeing the back of your head as you rush past Him in your busyness for the Kingdom. He longs, instead, to see your face in the unhurried fellowship of prayer."
A New Beginning
I cannot fully express the power that simple message had on dispelling the apprehensions I held toward this messenger. While his statement was general enough to apply to anyone in the room, its immediate effect on my spirit was overwhelming, and I was powerless to challenge it. In that moment of truth, my heart was laid bare. I saw the futility of being so busy in ministry that I had become too busy for God in prayer. When I left that little storefront church that night, I knew that, through the Spirit's leadership, my ministry would never be the same again.
Worship ministry is demanding, and the responsibilities are endless. As worship leaders, we may be respected for our gifting, creativity, or work ethic--but how about our passion for prayer? The following are some creative suggestions for implementing prayer in your ministries. But this list is not all inclusive. I would encourage you to plan now to have had a personal prayer retreat of your own, independent of vacation, where you can spend a few days praying for new direction for your life, family, and church. Then add your own ideas to the list below. I am convinced that if we will make the spiritual discipline of prayer more central to our ministries, it will radically impact our lives and the worship services we lead.
- Schedule your first appointment of each day as a time of prayer, worship, and Bible study with the Lord. Write it down, and don't stand Him up!
- Seek out a prayer partner who will lovingly hold you accountable to a daily ministry of prayer.
- If you are part of a church staff, ask if other pastors or support staff would be interested in meeting for prayer once a week before your workday begins.
- Commit to reading two classic books on prayer in the next year. (Andrew Murray's With Christ in the School of Prayer is a great place to start.)
- Do something that will remind you to pray throughout the day. A pastor friend of mine sets his sport watch to beep every two hours when he is faced with a challenging issue so that he is reminded to pray repeatedly throughout his day.
- Occasionally turn off your car radio and use that time to pray aloud while driving.
- Do a Bible study on the different postures of prayer.
- Watch less TV, and go for prayer walks instead. Your body and soul will thank you.
- If you wake up suddenly in the middle of the night, ask the Lord if He is prompting you to pray instead of immediately going back to sleep.
- Discover a scenic outdoor place in your community where you can go for private fellowship with the Lord when your schedule allows.
- Develop a worship ministry prayer card that your team members can fill out in rehearsals. Tell them you desire to make prayer a top priority this year.
- Pray with your team members. If we can sing and make music together as musicians, we should easily be able to pray out loud together in rehearsal.
- Keep a prayer journal and record God's answers to prayer. Share them with your family, staff, and team members.
- If you are part of a non-liturgical church, discover the art of writing some of your personal prayers in a journal.
- Send out a few weekly postcards to various team members and include what
you're praying specifically for them about.
- When someone asks you for prayer, stop and pray at that moment, rather than promising to pray later.
- In conversation, ask people how you can pray for them--and mean it!
- Develop a fun way to pick out name each week of a team member you can learn more about in rehearsal as well as pray for as a worship community.
- Before rehearsal, pray over the choir loft and band area for your individual team members before they arrive.
- Recruit two or three intercessory prayer warriors to pray for you and your family each week. Worship leaders need prayer protection! Meet with these intercessors once a month to keep them updated.
- Invite your church members to attend rehearsals for the purpose of praying for your teams while you rehearse for services.
- Use your e-mail lists of worship team members to send out a weekly prayer posting.
- You have a worship team, but do you have a prayer team? Ask God to raise up lay leader(s) who will shepherd a rotating prayer group that meets for pray during your services. Your ministry will never be the same!
- Encourage your worship teams to pray regularly for your church leadership.
- Invite an elder, deacon, or pastoral staff member each month to observe a rehearsal and lead in prayer.
- Schedule an annual prayer retreat or half-day of prayer for your worship team.
- Build relationships with local worship leaders in other churches in your community and pray for them by name in your own rehearsals.
- Invite small groups of worship team members to the church each month for a brown-bag lunch and prayer time. Mix up the people so they get to know other members of the team. Praying together will strengthen your unity.
- Occasionally, before you dismiss your choir, band, or vocal team rehearsal, have participants sit in various sections around your auditorium to pray for the people who will be sitting in those seats on Sunday.
- Before you begin your pre-service music on Sunday, lead your team in prayer on the platform acknowledging your need for forgiveness, strength, and ability as ministers of worship. This is a powerful witness for your congregation.
I trust this list will encourage you in your fellowship with the Lord and your leadership of your worship teams. Father God longs to meet daily with each of us in unhurried communion (see Rev. 3:20), if we would slow down long enough to see.
Dan Millheim is worship pastor at Harvest Church in Watauga, TX.
- Bob Kauflin -
I. General Comments
A. While songs are not intended to be systematic theology, our songs teach, one way or the other.
1. What God is like.
2. What we are like.
3. How we are to relate to God.
4. What matters most in our relationship with Him.
B. Don’t underestimate the work evaluating songs involves.
1. Not simply a matter of finding what’s current or hot.
2. Not enough to rest on what has worked in the past.
3. Music director of John MacArthur’s church said they look at 60 songs for every one they use.
C. Realize there may be one great song in the midst of many average songs There may be one unusable line in the midst of 20 great lines.
D. Helpful to listen to CD’s or play the song a number of times. Allow songs to settle and become familiar.
E. Use the time you have wisely.
1. Limit your listening to songs that others have used and recommended.
2. Follow up immediately on great songs you hear in other settings.
3. Use trusted resources.
4. Listen while doing other things.
F. Maintain a humble, grateful attitude when evaluating songs
II. Areas to Evaluate:
A. Doctrinal soundness
1. Whenever possible, read the words before listening to a CD, and only consider songs that are lyrically strong.
2. Don’t confuse good production with a good song.
3. Doesn’t undermine any of God’s attributes.
1. Is the exaltation of God the clear purpose of the song?
2. Is subjective expression rooted in objective truth?
3. Not a matter of how often first person pronouns are used, but HOW we use them.
4. Can be sung to or about God.
1. Look for songs that expound the Gospel.
2. Look for songs that mention the cross in different contexts (celebration, repentance, awe, etc.)
D. Singable melody
1. Appropriate range. This is subjective, but generally from a low A to a D.
2. No difficult skips.
3. Variety of range, or located in a “sweet spot” for most voices. (C-G for softer songs, F-C for louder sections)
4. Not overly stylized.
1. Each line and word can be understood in context.
2. Clear overall theme of the song.
3. Watch for biblical phrases or words that are misapplied.
F. Breadth of relevance
1. How many people could this song appeal to stylistically?
2. How many ways could this song be done?
G. Easy to learn
1. Not a decisive factor, but worth considering.
2. Forego songs that are difficult to learn because they are poorly written.
H. Artistic excellence
a. Are the words fresh and creative? Does this song add any new emphasis or perspective to our worship of God?
b. Has there been obvious thought put not only in to the content, but the structure and choice of words?
c. Are images and analogies consistent?
d. Is there a connection between names, titles, thoughts, and pictures?
a. Is there evident creativity and originality?
b. Is the music appealing?
3. Complementary music and lyrics - Sometimes you have great words and mediocre or unfitting melodies or styles.
I. Distracting elements
1. Sometimes words, phrases, melodies, or progressions just sound peculiar or out of place.
2. Seek out the opinion of others when in doubt.
J. Corporate vs. individual
1. Is the focus consistent (I/We, Me/Us)?
2. If from an individual perspective, songs should still have a corporate voice.
III. Other Factors to Consider
A. Topics the church is learning or going to learn about.
B. Subject material that is lacking or weak in your repertoire.
C. Songs of different styles and tempos
D. Musical state of the church. Is the need simplicity or complexity?
E. Skill level of your vocalists and instrumentalists, as well as time available to practice.
F. Desires of your pastor(s).
Page 6 of 7