Music is as unique as individuals and also deeply personal, which is why music can be such a hot topic within a church. It is a great honor and privilege to serve the church as your worship leader, however, with any leadership role there is a dance of balancing people’s needs with the Lord’s direction and plan for our particular congregation during this particular time. If I were to plan the song services based on public opinion, I believe we would miss what God has planned for us. I have learned that I cannot wait until I am asked ‘why’ to explain ‘what’ I am doing so I am going to begin attempting to explain the ‘why’ behind congregational worship. For the last three years, I have spent considerable time studying personal and corporate praise and worship in both the Old and New Testaments. I would like to touch on two points that are important to congregational worship: one, the Lord has a plan and message for our song services and two, God wants everyone to participate in our song service—he doesn’t want us to merely observe—he wants and longs for participation on our part.
Congregational worship binds us together in unity. Participation on all our parts binds us together in agreement. Spiritually, we are united. Physically, we are in agreement. Practically speaking, how is an environment like that created? I will explain two ways. The first is that we sing less songs—not just on a Sunday, but over the course of a year. With the exception of Easter and Christmas, we sang a total of 36 individual songs in 2014. This number is significantly less than the original song list that I inherited when I accepted the responsibility of choosing music for Sunday mornings. The purpose for less songs is that we increase the frequency of songs sung, which increases our knowledge of the songs, which increases the participation of each person who attends regularly. It is easier to engage in worship if you don’t have to think and wonder what the next line of music is or if you are not continually learning a song. Secondly, we introduce new songs in a way that is conducive to learning them quickly so that they become a part of our worship. Over this last year, we introduced four songs: Strong God, The Same Love, Overcome, and More and More of You. New songs aren’t chosen based on someone’s whim or opinion or likes or dislikes or what’s popular on the radio. New songs are chosen based on the questions: ‘What is the message God wants to say to us?’ ‘What is he speaking to us right now?’
If the goal is congregational participation, then an environment must be created where the majority of attenders are on a level playing field. There must be place where everyone is given a ‘fresh’ opportunity to worship the Lord together despite how long one has been walking down this road with Jesus. This will take time, as we create musical opportunities that the majority of us know well. If the music isn’t necessarily to your personal preference, I encourage you to take advantage of the other six days of the week to listen to your favorite style and on Sunday’s to come together as one, focusing on the message God has for us in song, intent on encountering him as you engage your heart and mind in worship with other believers. The Lord is doing something great within our hearts and the time we spend corporately worshiping him. I see the spirit of God swirling about us: touching hearts and minds, in a glorious and spectacular way and as hard as the dance is between serving man and pleasing the Lord, I am excited to be a part of what he is doing.
© Jessica Van Roekel, Graceful Truth Worship, congregational worship, 12/14