When the music fades…

It seems like for years that a main thrust of those of us who teach and train worship teams has been to bring an excellent performance ethic into an already overflowing heart of worship. It comes as something of a surprise then that in our current COVID shaped landscape congregational sung worship has been chained (limited by governments fearing churches could become super-spreaders of the disease) with the result that the sung worship we’ve been training for has become diminished in its scope. Our on-line services are valiantly streamed with songs embedded in the hope that at home people will be joining in with gusto. But have you ever tried doing congregational worship on your own accompanied by your laptop speaker? Immersive it is not! Even with the rest of the family joining in, I suspect that there will be an abundance of self-conscious worshippers.

In thinking and praying about this I wonder what the future direction might be? As a result, I have some ongoing thoughts which I hope may help, particularly those in Pentecostal and Charismatic churches.

  1. All of that excellence must not be forgotten but needs to be channelled into getting the one or two songs you as the worship leader will sing as polished as possible. Yours may be the only voice heard. Let it be in tune and in a key to suit your voice. Let the music support and embellish that vocal. Let it breathe in order that the gathered few allowed in the building (depending on the size of that building) can at the very least reflect on the goodness of God and the depth of the sung lyrics (as opposed to being offput by a shoddy piece of singing or playing)
  2. If it is up to you to choose, pick songs which draw you to worship or praise, or which draw from the depths of your spirit offerings of thanksgiving. Be authentic to the gift that is within you. After all, people cannot in this current time join with you in song. But they will join with you in an act of worship if you are worshipping.
  3. Repetition in this season is of limited point. So pick songs which are already lyrically rich and which allow your congregation (both in the building and watching on-line) to reflect upon the depth of meaning of a song. This isn’t a plea to return to classic hymnody, but you would certainly find some rich veins to mine there.
  4. Since the congregation are currently not allowed to sing, there may be a case to find songs that they don’t know which are nevertheless worshipful but away from the normal staples of current public worship. CCLI has Hundreds of thousands listed. If the congregation don’t know them, they will be less tempted to join in regardless. Oh, and by the way, if they do join in, that could cause quite a headache for your pastor…  
  5. If they are not allowed to sing, what else can they do?
    I think spoken recitation and spoken prayer can be done – masks on please!
    How about reciting a Psalm? (Choose wisely!)
    How about doing a call and response prayer?
    How about borrowing some formal liturgy?
    In this season your job as worship leader isn’t just about choosing songs and singing them in services (not that it ever was though) but it is about finding ways to engage the congregation under your care so that they worship God. When the music fades worship leaders step up and still manage to create a space where worship happens, it’s just not sung worship.

This is a difficult time for worship teams and musicians. Perhaps it’s time to lay it all down again in an act of sacrificial worship that at the right time we will be renewed and ready to serve.

God bless all of you in this season