Archives for posts with tag: corporate worship

The following is the product of a few conversations I’ve had lately (with fellow members at my church) regarding the skills needed to lead singing in church. While I’m an advocate of musical skill (including 4-part congregational singing) in the church, our culture sadly tends to relegate music to nerds and superstars. So here are some thoughts to challenge that tendency:

  1. In a culture where music participation is considered the sole property of recording artists, we should encourage our people to sing to the Lord genuinely and fearlessly. They should not feel a burden to stack up against recording artists who “are the real musicians,” nor should they feel it appropriate to say “I can’t sing” because they are not trained musicians. Singing is part of being human, is a natural response to deeply held affection (of any sort), and is even the assigned task of the church (the Psalms, Col.3, Eph. 5).
  2. A capella singing may help increase a congregation’s confidence in singing. Our church has been attempting to do this more frequently, sometimes singing from the hymnal (since some of them can read 4-pt harmony), other times from the screen (since some of them will improvise harmony, which is an important skill, too). By singing stanzas or entire hymns this way, we remove the “cover” of instruments and normalize the sound of the “unadorned human voice” (that might be a quote from someone–maybe Alice Parker). For a lot of people in our culture, singing is foreign and awkward, and normalizing singing will take a while. But our church is trying  this on songs our people know and love, and so far, so good.
  3. We may need to disentangle high musical expertise from our congregation’s concept of (a) ordering corporate worship and (b) leading singing. So there are two aspects here: a liturgical task and a musical task, and I suspect in some cases that our people’s concept of both of them is more complex than it needs to be.
    (a). On the one hand, perhaps you have guys who are quite capable of choosing excellent songs and Scripture readings but would never consider offering to “lead worship” because they don’t know how to play piano, “wave their arms,” or play guitar (never mind that congregations usually just follow the loudest instrument anyway). They’re capable of the liturgical task but don’t know it because they associate it inseparably with being a musician.
    (b). On the other hand, perhaps you have children’s program leaders who don’t include singing in their weekly ministries because they don’t consider themselves good singers. But again, just as you can be an effective liturgist without being a lead musician, you can lead musically (with your voice) without being a highly trained musician (or having such musicians on hand).
  4. I’d like our people to know how simple music leadership can be. Lots of churches thrive with no songleader, worship leader, or “emcee.” The organist gives an introduction for the next hymn in the bulletin, “breathes” with the congregation as they play, and things have gone swimmingly for 300 years. Congregational singing, provided the congregation sings, can subsist very well on very little. And while my own church isn’t accustomed to this, it would healthy to add it to our “toolbox.” It not only is really handy when musicians are in short supply, it also highlights the centrality of the congregation’s singing.

We still need need skilled singers, pianists, and guitarists who understand their craft. But regardless of the level of musical talent we happen to have in our church at the moment, we can always “Sing to the LORD,” successfully and joyfully, with the people we have.


On Acts 4:23-31 (which I’m preaching in a few weeks), Eckhard Schnabel says this regarding the NT pattern of prayer as a habit of God’s people:

“If sustained prayer is eliminated from ‘worship services’ on Sunday mornings because they are deemed unattractive for ‘seekers’ who expect to be entertained, or awkward for churchgoers who expect to be guided through a fast-paced program, the risen Lord may well be knocking at the door–from the outside (Rev 3:20).”

From Acts, ZECNT (Zondervan 2012), p. 261.

Also this: “Christians who do not pray regularly and consistently are a contradiction in terms — they deny what they profess, that they have been reconciled with God (with whom they do not want to spend time), that they follow in the steps of Jesus (who prayed), and that they have received the Holy Spirit (who is God’s presence, which is experienced in prayer).” (p.262).

For those of us in musical leadership in a church, our remarks in corporate worship are often well-meant (we want to help others sing with understanding) but lengthy, cumbersome, unclear. Hear, then, Bob Kauflin:

“[My pastor] told me that if I wanted to grow in communicating effectively, I should write down what I wanted to say and keep it to a certain length. He assured me that the more I thought through my comments in advance, the more substantive they would be and the easier it would eventually be to prepare them. He was right.”

(Worship Matters, p. 40)

A professor in my undergrad church music program used to say, “You’ve got two sentences before people tune you out. Use them well.”

These are good words for any believer, but especially for those of us entrusted with the responsibility to lead some aspect of corporate worship. Referring to the friction between David and his wife after he danced before the Lord (2 Sam. 6), D.A. Carson remarks,

[Michal] despises David precisely because he is so God-centered he cares very little about his persona. People constantly fretting about what others think of them cannot be absorbed by the sheer God-awareness and God-centeredness that characterize all true worship.

— For the Love of God, p.254

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