Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A Fresh Approach to Old Songs

One of the hardest parts about leading worship is how to keep things fresh even though we rotate some of the same songs a hundred times! A goal for worship leaders is to allow our people to be moved by songs that moved us long ago. Below is an exerpt from Kathryn Scott's (Writer of Hungry) blog. I think she has some great thoughts here that we should keep in mind as we work with our teams. Enjoy

LEADING WORSHIP: Putting an Arrangement Together

It's been a while since I wrote about leading worship - so I thought this might be helpful.

I think that arranging a song is one of the most exciting things about leading worship (apart from actually getting to see people express their hearts to God!) The reason is, that you can take a song that people have heard a hundred times before, and breath new life into it, just by the way you play it. It's also one of the most daunting things too - because where do you begin?

Here are some thoughts that might help you get started on the road of creativity again....

When I choose a song, I play it over a few times by myself. I'm trying to find hooky rifs that I can play on the piano that might freshen it up a little, and I'm looking for a 'feel' or 'vibe' that might suit it. Then I take it to the band and say very roughly what I'm looking for - sometimes, I just don't know until we start to play it together.

As a band, we play it through a couple of times, and each time through, I'll be telling the guys individually what I'm liking (maybe the bass player has hit on a great line, or I love what the drummer is doing in a certain place), and we build from there. Once we've got the general idea, we start thinking about 'shape' - in other words, the layout of the song as we are going to play it - where we are putting the verses, where we'll sing choruses, and how many etc... and we write down a rough guide, or 'road map' down the side of the chord sheet so that we don't forget. It also means that we can start thinking through 'light and shade', the dynamics of how we are going to play, and then write it in on our road map too... (it's amazing how many things you forget unless you write them down :)

Some things to watch out for are, be careful not to overplay - it can sound pretty messy if everyone plays everything from the beginning to the end of a song. Maybe you could come in at different parts of the song (the bass coming in on the pre chorus for example, with the hi-hat during the chorus, and then full drums in verse 2) - or, if it's a really big song, everyone coming in at the beginning, and then cutting right back for the first verse. There are so many ways to do things. My advice is to listen to songs you really love, and try and think about how they have been recorded - where do instruments play, how do they play, when do they drop out... The other thing - especially in leading worship - is to remember that the arrangement must serve the song - if it's too creative, the congregation might just miss the reason why you've put all the work in - they might get totally distracted by the band, and forget that it's all about reconnection with God.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Worship Fueled by Obedience

Have you ever felt like your daily worship is completely void of any transcendent connection to God? You walk day in and day out without any sort of divine revelation or spiritual nudge concerning small or large matters. Often times I find that these days leave me clouded and poised to make both common and critical decisions without any thought to what might be pleasing to God.

That leads me to the topic of discussion today…obedience. What role if any, does our obedience play in our acts of worship to God? If one merely sees worship as an emotional experience that happens when the music and lighting are just right on a Sunday morning, then our lack of Godward obedience could possibly never impede our worship. However, if we look at worship through the Romans 12 lens, then we would see that every act of obedience is in turn an act of worship to God. In addition, if we see our corporate worship gatherings as a place to outwardly express our worship to God from the overflow of an obedient life of worship, then how deep and how rich will that worship experience be!

Sometimes I’m able to use my Sunday morning worship experience as a sort of “obedience barometer” for my life. It is often very apparent to me when my lack of obedience is hindering my worship to God. There is a disconnect…short circuit…a real spiritual heaviness. It is almost as if I am not released to worship. Why? Because I am bound up by thoughts and problems that disturb my posture of worship. It says in Ecclesiastes 7:29, “God made man simple; man’s complex problems are of his own devising.” When there is a definitive dark cloud over my worship to God, most likely there is an obedience issue on my part that is of my “own devising.”

So where do we go from here? Search it out…come to grips with reality. I find that most often, I am well aware of where the disobedience lies. I just prefer to live in denial. Sometimes there is fear when I think about obeying...fear of the unknown or fear of losing control. Andy Stanley says this about our fear…

“You’re afraid. So what? Everybody’s afraid. Fear is the common ground of humanity. The question you must wrestle to the ground is, “Will I allow my fear to bind me to mediocrity?”

I recently saw an incredible picture of a person whose worship was fueled by obedience. Because I knew this person’s story, watching her worship on Sunday morning blew me away. Walking through the murky waters that lead to obedience, she finally relinquished control and obeyed what God was calling her to. That very weekend in our morning services, I saw her stand; arms open wide in complete worship to God. She was the only one standing…uncaring of her surroundings and unbridled in her worship. Why…because she was free! She stepped out and obeyed…and from the overflow of an obedient lifestyle came a worship experience like none other!