Archive | —Leading a Congregation

Oh, Oh, Ooh, Ooh, La, La, Whoa

I’ve been thinking about the use of generic syllables in congregational singing for a while now. It’s not a new phenomenon. I remember singing, “Lai lai lai lai lai, lai lai lai lai lai lai,” as the last verse of the song in the 70s that was called “Then shall the virgin break forth into dance.” I think it was supposed to be the dance section. We sing, “Deck the halls with boughs of holly, fa la la la la, la la la la” and don’t think twice about it. And the Beatles did just fine with “ob-la-di, ob-la-da” and the epic ending to Hey Jude (Na Na Na Na na na Naaaaaaa). But recently an increasing number of modern worship songs feature syllables …

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What Kind of Songs Should You Lead in 2014?

I’ve read a number of posts and articles about how to determine what’s best for your congregation to sing. Kevin DeYoung did a two part series a couple years ago here and here that was excellent. As the new year began three thoughts came to me about the kinds of songs we should be leading in our churches or ministries. This isn’t meant to be comprehensive, but it might serve as the bare minimum for how we choose our songs. 1. Choose songs people CAN sing. This should be obvious. But important things often are – obvious and neglected. In one sense people can sing just about anything. I’ve been in concert setting where crowds are belting …

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Exposing Perfectionism

This semester I met with a group of interns on Friday afternoons (when I was around). Along with developing some musical skills we read selected chapters from Unceasing Worship by Harold Best. If you haven’t read it and you’re a Christian involved in congregational worship or the arts, I’d strongly encourage you to get a copy. At our last meeting someone referenced this quote from chapter 11: “Authentic worship is not perfect worship. It stands in continual need of examination, repentance, increased depth and humility as well as outpouring meekness and humility.” That led to an extended conversation on the topic of perfectionism. Most Christian …

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A Salute to the Average Worship Leader

Today I want to salute the average worship leader. Why? If YouTube videos and conference worship bands are any indicator, we’re unintentionally (I trust) cultivating an understanding of musical worship and its leaders that draws more from rock concerts and Entertainment Tonight than biblical principles. We can start thinking that the “best” corporate worship context is characterized by bright stage lights, a dimly lit congregation, Intellibeams, fog, high end musical gear, multiple screens, moving graphics, and loud volumes. We can start to think the ideal leader is good-looking, sings tenor, plays a cool instrument (usually guitar), sports …

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Manufacturing, Marketing, and Minimizing God’s Presence, Pt. 3

The past few days I’ve been posting on issues related to God’s “active” presence, especially in corporate gatherings. A couple people suggested that “active” isn’t the best word to use. When we say God is “present” we are implying He is active, whether that’s to sustain, illuminate, bless, convict, or something else. What I call God’s “active” presence is often the evidence of his “promised” presence. I agree. But most Christians will acknowledge times in corporate gatherings when we are physically or emotionally affected and God seems “present” in an unusual way. This is in line with the many examples in Scripture when one or more …

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Manufacturing, Marketing, and Minimizing God’s Presence, Pt. 2

Yesterday, I posted thoughts on attempts to manufacture and market the presence of God, both wrong responses to God’s experienced presence. One person commented that what I wrote seemed to “create hesitancy about pursing His presence” and encouraged me to “stir people’s faith to encounter God and His presence.’” Today, I want to do just that by addressing a third way we can approach thinking about God’s presence wrongly. 3. We don’t want to minimize God’s active presence. God has always intended to dwell with his people. We see this with Adam and Eve in the garden, in God’s command to the Israelites to build a tabernacle so that he might …

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Jesus and the Songs We Sing, Pt. 2

Yesterday, I shared bullet points from the first part of a message I recently gave at the Doxology and Theology Conference and the Christian Musicians Summit. I was seeking to highlight the centrality of Jesus in congregational singing. My first point was that Jesus is the leader of our songs. Here’s points 2 and 3. 2. Jesus is the content of our songs. Col. 3:16 says we are to, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Col. 3:16) That word of Christ is the word about Christ – who he is and …

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Jesus and the Songs We Sing, Pt. 1

The past few weeks I had the privilege of speaking at the Doxology and Theology conference in Frisco, TX, and the Christian Musicians Summit in Seattle, WA. One of the breakouts I did at D&T was called The Worship Leader and Christ. I shaved about 40 minutes off that message, renamed it “Jesus and Our Songs,” and gave it again at CMS. Here’s a summary of what I shared. Christians worship a triune God – Father, Son, and Spirit. All three person are equally God and equally worthy of worship. That’s one of the many things that distinguish us from Buddhists, Muslims, and Mormons. But the three persons of the Trinity possess unique roles …

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Leading Worship in Song When You’re Not a Musician

I’m often asked if it’s possible to lead worship in song if you’re not a musician. In my response I usually make the point that leading corporate worship is pastoral function before it’s a musical one. So the answer is, “yes.” Through the years I’ve had the privilege of training the men in the Pastors College of Sovereign Grace Ministries  in the area of music and worship. Most of the guys have at least one opportunity to lead the rest of the class in song, whether they’re musical or not. It helps them see what really goes in to leading, and also enables them to evaluate others in a more informed way. They learn that you don’t have to …

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From the Archives: Can Singing About the Gospel Become Rote?

One of the drums I will never tire of beating is this: All biblical worship is rooted in and made possible by the cross of Christ. In my experience, the contemporary church (and any church, for that matter) is always in danger of neglecting the gospel in its songs. I said it this way in my book, Worship Matters: The gospel is not merely one of many possible themes we can touch on as we come to worship God. It is the central and foundational theme. All our worship originates and is brought into focus at the cross of Jesus Christ. Glorying in Jesus Christ means glorying in his cross. That doesn’t mean looking at some icon or two pieces of …

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What I Learned from Aristotle about Leading Congregational Worship

Specifically, I haven’t learned anything from Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC) about leading congregational worship that I didn’t learn first in Scripture. But in his day, Aristotle sought to help speakers be more persuasive by identifying three crucial areas to keep in mind. He called them logos, ethos, and pathos. Briefly, logos is seeking to persuade through truth. Aristotle was concerned that the speakers of his day, the sophists, focused too much on flowery language and not enough on actual content. Ethos has to do with the character of the person speaking. Aristotle recognized that listeners tend to be influenced most by people whose …

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Resources for Your Worship Team from WorshipGod11: Leading, Songwriting, Tech

Last August at WorshipGod11 we offered 40 seminars for pastors, musicians, leaders, vocalists, instrumentalists, and tech teams. Today and tomorrow I’m posting the descriptions of a few that might serve you and your team in the coming year. Right clicking on the title will download the MP3, and of course, right clicking on the outline will get you the…outline. Leading Putting Songs Together – Bob Kauflin (outline) Why do you choose the songs you do? What factors go into deciding whether one song is better to use than another? What’s the difference between lyrical flow and musical flow? How can we use songs to effectively care for people’s …

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Desiring God Interview

Last month I had the privilege to lead a few songs at John Piper’s Gravity and Gladness seminar, and participate in a Q&A with Dr. Piper. It was somewhat of a surreal experience sitting next to John answering questions about worship. I first heard the audio of John preaching this series around 2000. As I listened to him again I realized how much his message of both knowing and treasuring the supremacy of God’s glory in Christ has affected my thinking. So grateful for the ways God has used John to magnify the glory of Jesus Christ. After the seminar was over, Jonathan Parnell, content strategist for Desiring God, asked me a few questions …

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Pastoring Through Song – Notes from Sydney

Here’s another message I shared in Australia at the one day TWIST Pastor’s Conference. I first gave this message in 2004 and called it “Corporate Worship as Pastoral Care.” The talk developed out of a realization that we can often be unaware of how God wants to use the lyrics of songs and how they’re led to care for people’s souls. We’re doing more than simply singing songs together when we gather, hoping for some “worshipful” or “anointed” moment to happen. The Holy Spirit is at work to encourage, impart faith, convict, and comfort as we “teach and admonish one another” through song. Here’s a brief outline of my message. You can download …

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Leading in Light of Christ’s Perfection

Since August 2010, Ken Boer (music director for Covenant Life) and I have had three men working for me at Sovereign Grace: Nathan Edwards (Florida), Matt Richley (Merthyr Tydfil, UK) and Mauricio Velarde (Gaithersburg). It’s been a joy to have them around, growing and learning with them how to serve people more effectively in magnifying Jesus Christ using the Word and music. Each Wednesday morning we meet for about 90 minutes to study a book. We generally take turns sharing what specific sentences or paragraphs impacted us or raised questions for us. Not too long ago we finished The Cross And Christian Ministry by D.A. Carson. It’s a book …

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