PT5: The Art of Squeeze
Updated: Feb 12
Recently I was in a setting where the gifted worship was all over the map (lyrically). It was "he" here and "you" there and "us" all over the place, no a random no-particular-place- to-go kind of progresion.
While his motivation was pure, I found myself getting spiritual whiplash, not knowing if we were singing about God or to him personally at any given moment in the 40 minute worship set. The way I see it is after the one you've been talking about has entered the room, you may as well just talk directly to him. Otherwise, it just turns into a kum-byah song singing kind of even, with worship happening here and there within it.
So here we come to the end of our BLOG series called Choosing Music for Liturgical Settings. I briefly want to summarize a few things for the worship leader to keep in mind as music is chosen. Finally I want to talk about the place of hymns within the liturgical setting.
First a summary:
Remember this is not block logic, where each song is separate from the one before or after it. Make it a wondrous continuum, where songs naturally blend from one to the next, progressinginto a deeper intimacy with every bar.
Remember to sync your choiceswith whatever is going on liturgically around them. The gloria should be ascribing glory, the recessional should pump us up to spread the Gospel to the world, and so on down the line.
Some brief definitions for song selection follow:
Processionalsare songs calling the congregation to worship God. They tell us to lift up our hands to the coming King, to fling wide the gates of our hearts, and often include expectations and descriptives of who we have been called to worship.
Gloria. Here we have switched the tone of our glory and giving thanks away from "him" (his glorious attributes) and onto "you" (your Personhood, your glory, your great deeds, etc.) The switch from "he" to "you" is subtle but it really brings the congregation into a meaningful space. If a second song is an option, go for the juggler and worship whole-heartedly - again, however, and especially with regard to keeping God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit the sole object of these songs. I believe it's appropriate for an "I need you to hold me" song here, but they may be best saved for later. It's depending on what God is doing.
Sequence. This song should focus us on the hearing of the Gospel. If you're clever you'll find a lyric that reflects the heart of the Gospel. Either way, this is a nice place for a short, no brainer song which will prepare us all for the sermon.
Offertory. While this is a great time to teach the congregation a new song, my preference is to bring out a song that invites the worshipper to draw near to the throne of Grace. The priest of old sacrificially prepared themselves before going deeper into the Holy of Holies and this level of reverence needs to be recaptured in many churches. The word offertory says it all. We offer our hearts before God, recommitting to him our life and circumstances, all the while preparing to receive the Holy Sacrament.
Communion. Here we have options of silence, instrumental music, and other lyrical choruses that esteem God in the beauty of holiness. Songs of desperation and pleas may do well here but always end this set with a tribute of thankfulness to the God who does wonders in the midst of his people. Songs directed to "you" work best here, but "he"songs are great here as well.
Recessional. Theses include songs that lyrically challenge us to rise up, spread the word, walk the talk, live into the call, and remind us that Gods plan is ongoing and we have the blessing of participating with him in his Kingdom expansion.
What about hymns? Hymns are awesome but have the danger of being too complicated so that the worshipper is more concerned about simply getting through the thing as opposed to really engaging with the words. The advantages of hymns (both old and new) is that they are theologically compact and really provide the worshipper to engage intellectually with. Another value of hymns is that they are time-tested and the Body has usually been worshipping with them for centuries.
One of my Scripture go-to's for choosing music is Matthew 13:52. It reads:
"Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom newtreasures as well as old."
In the Anglican tradition, hymns are essential and are not to be discarded. Processionals, recessionals, and offertories are, in my mind, among the best places for hymns in our three-streamed churches.
Finally, let me say a bit about the blending of hymns with contemporary songs. There is no place in the worshipping Body of Christ for harsh attitudes regarding preferences in music. When a congregation insists on one way of worship above the other (and this includes liturgy, ecclesiastical protocol, and the spirit of perfectionism as well) they have already lost and the devil has won the game. That happens when we take our eyes off the destination and onto the roadway.
Additionally, there is no place in liturgical worship for entertainment. Of course we want to highlight our best gifts and people for Jesus but it's been said that a measly voice expressing the heart of God is of far greater worth than a vocally-trained professional. Children, in particular, are a wonderful illustration of this. We need to be practice caution regarding excessive ferocity of our stylistic preferences. All musical styles are good and they all have a place in the worshipping community. How sad and divisive it is where people refuse to sing a hymn because it's old and outdated, or when people refuse to sing anything contemporary because they think its a selling out to modernism and veering away from the faith that's tried an true. Nothing could be more devastating than those kind of attitudes which do nothing but drive wedges in the Body and disunity the worship of saints.
I hope this has been helpful.
Drop me a line. I'd love to hear some of your thoughts on Choosing Music for Liturgical Settings.