I have had the privilege (and sometimes the burden) of having served and transitioned in and out of four different churches since the Lord called me to ministry. In each of these cases, I have inherited a pre-existing worship ministry, and was tasked with breathing new vision and direction into it. Each situation has had its own positives and negatives. In this article, I will highlight nine tips for a healthy transition. Hopefully they will be helpful to you! Keep in mind, this will apply specifically to transitions where you are taking on a pre-existing ministry, not ones where you are starting from scratch. I'm often sinfully envious of my friends who have had the opportunity to plant and start ministries from the ground up, but my experiences have always been a bit of a song and a dance at a steady pace to implement vision.
Here are a few key things that I have learned:
1. Work With What You Have
This may sound simple, but always use whatever processes, resources, and team members that are already in place when you first take leadership of the role. I usually give myself about a month before making any major changes. This helps me assess what truly needs to be changed vs what I am just eager in the flesh about. It also helps establish relationships and trust with the servants who have been carrying out the work of ministry before you arrived.
2. Small Changes Are Okay
Hopefully this doesn't sound contradictory to my previous point, but quick initial changes that are small are important to set the expectation for your team. While not making any crazy drastic changes builds trust, making smaller changes shows that you do have a vision and that change will happen, but not all at once. It will help people trust that you are a confident leader instead of a passive one. These changes need to be assessed to make sure they are necessary and also that they are not too big. For example: One of the things that I have experienced in most new situations is that often times people will have their lyrics formatted to show huge chunks of the song on the screen at once. This is a quick and easy change for me to implement a new standard that we will only show 2-4 lines on the screen at once. Sure, your ProPresenter person might complain that they have to click more now, but the explanation of aiming for better clarity in the content of the lyrics that we sing will help team members understand why the change was made. Like I said, make small changes that are necessary, but won't create distrust or make people feel like you're going somewhere they can't follow.
"While not making any drastic changes builds trust, making smaller changes shows that you do have a vision and that change will happen."
3. Use Songs the Church Knows Well
The absolute worst thing you can do is to come into a place and add a new song every week. People will feel left in the dust and unable to follow your leadership. Now, certain songs are out there that are completely unbiblical and are actually terrible to put on the lips of the flock. When that is the case, I would take them off the list right away — don't sacrifice your theological convictions for the sake of comfort. But if there are songs that you maybe just don’t "like" that the body has been singing lately, learn to make a bit of a compromise. Introduce songs that you want slowly as time progresses and take those ones that are not your favorites off the list. The key is gradual morphing. In the beginning, I try not to introduce more than one new song in a month. The church I just came on staff at has a pretty short song list and loves the song 'What a Beautiful Name.' They sing it all the time. I have a theological issue with the second verse that says: "you didn't want heaven without us." I believe it paints a picture of a God this insufficient without us or that desperately needs us to be happy. This of course is not the case with God, and I would hate to cause any theological confusion or ambiguity for the congregation. So, instead of killing the song, I changed the lyric in the second verse to: "Into Your presence you have called us... Jesus you brought heaven down." Same flow and rhythm scheme, better theology. But I didn't have to sacrifice a song that our people already know and love and respond to in a great way. These types of practices can be very helpful when trying to trudge through transitions in song selection.
"Don't sacrifice your theological convictions for the sake of comfort."
4. Get to Know Your Team
I can't stress this one enough. As I'm writing this, I have just come on staff at a new church this week. I'm about to start my workday and the first thing I'm going to do is to open up my calendar, open up my team list in Planning Center, and reach out to each one of them to schedule a coffee or lunch over the next two months. Plain and simple, people will not follow a leader they do not know. Now, in this case I've got about 40 volunteers that I need to connect with, so it will take some time (20 weeks precisely if I meet with two people per week), but don't let that be overwhelming. It will be worth it.
"Plain and simple, people will not follow a leader they do not know — make every effort to get to know your team."
Something that goes hand-in-hand with this:
5. Don't Add New Team Members
You're already trying to get to know everyone relationally, trust me, you don't want new people to add to that list yet. Now in my current case, my new church has had 10 people on a list to audition for the team and this list was already in place months before I came on board. They were just waiting for someone to come on staff to audition them. Long story short, I'll be having auditions in two weeks. So, there are certainly exceptions, but unless it’s a specific circumstance like that, I would wait to add people.
6. Have A Process for Adding New Team Members
This is huge. Once you reach a place where you'd like to begin adding new team members, have a process. Have auditions, an application form, an online request system, etc. There are many ways to do it, but if it is all done in an informal way, it's easy to show partiality and for people to fall through the cracks. I've done my process a few different ways, but a few key things that I always make sure are in there are:
7. Cast Big Vision Before Making Big Changes
When it's time for bigger changes, don't just make the changes but cast the vision well. This is extremely important. Once you have reached a place where you'd like to implement bigger, more drastic changes, don't just surprise people! Communication is key. Have a "vision night," or a "team night," where you can share the biblical premise and the heart behind the changes you're going to make. Notice: the changes will still happen. You're not asking for permission, rather you're helping people understand why these changes will make a difference and what purpose they serve to point people to Christ.
"When it's time to make big changes, don't just make the changes, but cast the vision well."
8. Develop A Healthy Relationship with Your Lead Pastor
Satan loves to put seeds of distrust between the worship leader and the lead pastor. They work together very closely to plan and execute Sunday mornings and to shepherd God's people. So, if this relationship is built on distrust of one another, it can easily become a huge frustration and a microcosm for division within the church as a whole. Paul warns us strictly about these types of divisions in the body. The best word here is fight. Fight for good communication. Clarity. Complete honesty. Pray for your pastor every day. Pray for that relationship every day. Ask for humility. And be open to critique with one another, understanding that honest critique is for the growth of the flock, not our egos.
9. Build Your Ministry on the Word of God
This is the single most important thing you can do. Nothing is more hollow and empty than a worship leader who has all these ideas, all these cool songs he wants to sing, and a desire for excellence if he is not rooted in the Word. I start every single rehearsal by opening up God's word and reading a passage together, then praying for one another. During a worship service, If I'm going to say anything at all to our congregation, it is not worth saying unless it's from the Bible. Let every idea, every practice, and every philosophy that you implement have deep roots in scripture. Otherwise it's just entertainment. Be bold in your convictions. Understand how to differentiate between preference and essentials. If a ministry is founded on Christ and on His word, these things become much more clear.
"Let every idea, every practice, and every philosophy that you implement have deep roots in scripture."
Contributor / Matt Wagner
Matt Wagner is the Worship Pastor at Woodside Bible Church in Royal Oak, MI and serves as the Director of Worship for ONElife Worship.
It seems to become a more and more frequent response. I don’t know if it’s a the result of the church reflecting culture more, a desire to not appear ‘judgey’, or just a general lack of biblical knowledge. It sadly seems though that any discussion of right vs wrong when it comes to our actions within a church service is supposed to stop when placed under the umbrella of ‘their heart is in the right place.’ Whether it’s in relation to singing songs with questionable theology, singing secular songs in church, preaching something of a self-help message rather than the gospel, the list can go on and on (and I'm sure you’ve had or heard of this discussion before).
I understand the desire to fall back on this; we want to think the best of people, we don’t like confrontation, it’s easier to just ‘have grace’ in these situations. But while we are called to grace, we are also called to truth — both/and, not either/or.
"While we are called to grace, we are also called to truth — both/and, not either/or."
‘But it’s not hurting anyone.’
‘But we like that song.’
‘But the sermon makes me feel good.’
‘But their heart is in the right place.’
But the problem is when we compromise truth for what is easy or fun or pleases others, people do get hurt. We may not always see it immediately, but if you are a worship pastor/leader in any regard, your calling is to shepherd the flock.
"When we compromise truth for what is easy, or fun, or pleases others, people get hurt."
There was another worship leader and shepherd who you could make this argument about too. Take a minute to read about him now:
"David consulted with the commanders of thousands and of hundreds, with every leader. And David said to all the assembly of Israel, “If it seems good to you and from the Lord our God, let us send abroad to our brothers who remain in all the lands of Israel, as well as to the priests and Levites in the cities that have pasturelands, that they may be gathered to us. Then let us bring again the ark of our God to us, for we did not seek it in the days of Saul.” All the assembly agreed to do so, for the thing was right in the eyes of all the people.
So David assembled all Israel from the Nile of Egypt to Lebo-hamath, to bring the ark of God from Kiriath-jearim. And David and all Israel went up to Baalah, that is, to Kiriath-jearim that belongs to Judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the Lord who sits enthroned above the cherubim. And they carried the ark of God on a new cart, from the house of Abinadab, and Uzzah and Ahio were driving the cart. And David and all Israel were celebrating before God with all their might, with song and lyres and harps and tambourines and cymbals and trumpets.
And when they came to the threshingfloor of Chidon, Uzzah put out his hand to take hold of the ark, for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah, and he struck him down because he put out his hand to the ark, and he died there before God. And David was angry because the Lord had broken out against Uzzah. And that place is called Perez-uzza to this day. And David was afraid of God that day, and he said, “How can I bring the ark of God home to me?” So David did not take the ark home into the city of David, but took it aside to the house of Obed-edom the Gittite. And the ark of God remained with the household of Obed-edom in his house three months. And the Lord blessed the household of Obed-edom and all that he had." (1 Chron. 13:1-14)
When David set out to bring the Ark of the Covenant back, you could easily make the statement that his heart was in the right place- he desired for God’s presence to return to Jerusalem, so the Israelites could worship their God when/where they were supposed to. He had the support of commanders of thousands and hundreds, of every leader, and all the people went with him and "it was right in there eyes."
But Uzzah was still struck dead by the Lord. Why?
Exodus 37:4-5 "And he made poles of acacia wood and overlaid them with gold and put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry the ark." (emphasis mine)
The Ark was central to Israel’s worship, and God had given them instructions on how to transport the Ark; carry it. David instead chose to move it on a new cart. One of the oxen stumbled and Uzzah (who I imagine, had his heart in the right place too) reached out to stop the Ark from falling into the dirt and was struck dead.
David, because of his zeal for the Lord and desire to see the ark return to Jerusalem, thought he could do things a better way, and someone lost their life over it. David’s heart was in the right place, but was his head in the right place?
"It’s not enough for our hearts alone to be in the right place because the heart is deceitful above all things."
And the means to transport the Ark wasn’t a mystery. There was no hidden password or secret handshake to gain this information, it was plainly explained in Exodus, part of the Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible), which David would have grown up hearing read in the synagogue and meditated on. Either he missed that extremely important detail, or he thought he could do it better another way. What’s worse, in all his council with the commanders of thousands and hundreds, in presenting the idea to all of Israel, did not 1 person speak up with the truth of how God had told them to carry the ark? We don’t know for sure one way or the other, but the important detail is that because David used his heart over his head a man lost his life.
‘But wait, this was in the Old Testament, so how can you say this applies to us today?’
Because Jesus reinforced this in John 4 when he met the Samaritan woman at the well. While the New Testament doesn’t give many details or prescriptions for Christian worship it is very clear on this point;
"God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth." (John 4:24)
It’s not enough for our hearts alone to be in the right place because "the heart is deceitful above all things (Jer. 17:9a)." Our heads need to be in the right place. But in the same way it’s not enough for us to simply have the right knowledge if it doesn’t move us to worship. If David had said ‘the Ark must be moved with the proper carrying poles’ and then didn’t bring the Ark back to Jerusalem he still would have been in error. For our worship to be acceptable before God it must be how He prescribes it.
"It's not enough for us to simply have the right knowledge if it doesn't move us to worship."
Spirit AND truth.
Head AND heart.
Both/and, not either/or.
In some ways David was fortunate because he was able to witness the repercussions of his error immediately when Uzzah was struck dead. This led him to be able to fix his mistake in 1 Chronicles 15 by doing it the right way.
Worship leaders and pastors, we won’t always get that same chance. If we choose to sing songs with poor/wrong theology it will impact the lives of our people in ways we can’t imagine. If we choose to try and ‘wow’ the crowd with warm, fuzzy, feel-good messages rather than clearly present the gospel, there may be souls in the seats of our service who spend eternity separated from God. At that time, it won’t matter if our heart was in the right place. I’m sure those words would not have comforted Uzzah’s family or friends had someone tried to reassure them that way.
"For our worship to be acceptable before God it must be how He prescribes it."
So as a brother in Christ, who loves the church, loves Jesus, and loves you, I plead with you today— yes, make sure your heart is in the right place, but make sure that that place is falling in line with your head. And above all else, make sure your head is filled with the knowledge of the word of God; His truth, His wisdom, His commands. Meditate on them, memorize them, delight in them with your mind, and then your heart will be in the right place.
"Bless the Lord oh my soul, and forget not all his benefits…" (Psalm 103:2)
Contributor / Brad Spead
Brad Spead is the Pastor of Worship Arts at Bridge Bible Church in Norton Shores, MI.
If you've been in ministry for any amount of time, you've undoubtedly been faced with conflict. Maybe someone sinned against you personally, or maybe someone on your team was living a lifestyle of unrepentant sin. Either way, where there are people, there is sin, and where there is sin, there is conflict. The question, then, is how have we handled conflict with our team members? It often plays out in one of two ways:
It's been said that "all truth and no grace is brutality, whereas all grace and no truth is hypocrisy." This could not be more true. After all, Jesus was full of both grace and truth (John 1:14). So, when a situation arises, how do we find that balance of being filled with both grace and truth? How do we handle the issue at hand in a way that honors God and respects the person we are admonishing? Fortunately God's Word, which is "profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16)," has given us a blueprint for conflict resolution in our ministries!
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” (Matt. 18:15-27 ESV)
The plan Jesus laid out here in Matthew 18 is what has historically been referred to as "Church Discipline." This is the biblical way of dealing with conflict in a way that honors God and respects the brothers and sisters who have been entrusted to our care.
Our first step to resolving conflict with someone, as seen in verse 15, is to engage that person in a one-on-one dialogue -- "go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained a brother." Truth be told, this is where 90% of situations are resolved, if you enter into the dialogue with humility.
For those of you who may be more on the introverted spectrum like me, yes, that means you actually have to talk to someone about the problem you believe exists between the two of you! You know that lie you tell yourself, the one that says the situation will "work itself out with time?" It won't. Our Lead Pastor, Eric Stewart, has always said a good rule of thumb as to whether or not you need to engage someone in such a dialogue is if you've thought about a supposed offense twice. If you've thought about it more than once, you need to give that person a call, immediately. Here's why: the more we think about a presumed offense without having talked to the offending party, the more prone we are to jump to conclusions and subsequently make the situation much worse in our heads than it is in reality. That's what having all that time to stew in it affords us. Let me assure you, avoiding conflict for the sake of comfort is the most unloving thing that you or I could do to the people entrusted to our care.
"Avoiding conflict for the sake of comfort is the most unloving we could do to the people entrusted to our care."
Extroverts, you're not in the clear either. While us introverts are prone to hope the situation fixes itself and thus leave it unaddressed, many extroverts boldly march up to the person and drop the hammer of judgement. This comes across as "holier than thou" at best and is actually bearing false witness at its worst. Introverted or extroverted, here is the best thing we can do when coming face to face with someone we feel has sinned against us or is living in unrepentant sin -- seek understanding. That's right, before we seek to be understood, we must first humble ourselves and seek understanding. As I mentioned before, the more we think about the situation, the more prone we are to build on this elaborate scheme of how this person intentionally did "this" or "that" to us, which usually isn't the case at all. So, before casting judgment and demanding an apology, we just first humble ourselves and seek to understand their point of view. Again, 90% of the time, this is where the situation resolves itself. Take that first step towards reconciliation!
"Before we seek to be understood, we must first humble ourselves and seek understanding."
Two or Three Witnesses (v. 16)
"But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses."
Inevitably, there will be times when that initial one-on-one meeting does not go well. With the hope of restoring our brother or sister, Jesus tells us in verse 16 that our next step is to bring forward two or three witnesses to go with us to once again appeal to the offending party. What is the significance of two or three witnesses? Jesus here is citing the Levitical Law concerning witnesses, which is found in Deuteronomy 19:15:
"A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that has been committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established."
It must be noted that there is a subtle difference between the Levitical Law concerning witnesses and what Jesus is implicating here though; Jesus is not instructing us to bring in two or three witnesses to testify against our brother who we believe to be living in unrepentant sin, but rather to testify to the exchange between us and our brother. We are all fallible. There is always a chance that we did not handle that initial one-on-one meeting as well as we had hoped/could have/thought we did. Maybe in our fleshly pride we came quick with judgement. Maybe we didn't seek to truly understand this brother or sister. At any rate, the best thing we can do here is bring two or three witnesses into the situation to testify to the exchange. In the ideal situation, these would be two or three people who could step into the dialogue unbiasedly, yet those the offending party both respects and has confidence in. These witnesses testify to one of two things; either this person is in the wrong and needs to repent, or we ourselves misjudged the situation and ought to repent and seek the forgiveness from the individual whom we bore false witness against.
The Church (v. 17a)
"If he refused to listen to them, tell it to the church."
In the event that our witnesses affirm that the offending party is in fact living in sin and reprove them, yet the individual resists their wise counsel and continues on in sin, Jesus tells us we are to "tell it to the church." If this person has refused your counsel and refused the counsel of two or three witnesses, we need to let the rest of the church body know what's going on. Let me tell you what this doesn't mean though; it doesn't mean that we give out the explicit details of this person's sin and demonize them before the entire body. No! However, we must let the body know that one of our counterparts is living in unrepentant sin and needs our help. We then encourage the church members to reach out to this person, to love on them, and to beg of them to return to God and to what His Word prescribes.
The goal here is not to shame someone. On the contrary! Our hope and our prayer is always reformation and restoration -- that this person would turn away from their sin and fix their eyes upon Jesus! Through it all we must remember that we, too, are sinners in need of Jesus' saving grace just as much as the person we're exhorting.
"When we address someone living in unrepentant sin, we must remember that we too are sinners in need of Jesus' saving grace just as much as they are."
A Gentile and Tax Collector (v. 17b)
"And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and tax collector."
If after three attempts to reconcile with this person they still continue in their sin, Jesus tells us we need to let them be to us "as a Gentile and tax collector." "Gentile" was a name Israel gave to all the other nations who did not heed the counsel of God; they had no fellowship or religious affiliation with such nations. Similarly, "Tax Collectors" were considered to be a group of abandoned character who the Jews would also have no contact with. The thought here is that living a lifestyle of unrepentant sin is not the mark of one of God's children, contrastingly it is the mark of an unbeliever. Jesus is actually saying that this person needs to be disowned as a Christian brother or sister because they're not living as one. In fact, they're living in such a way that it appears they are still dead in their transgressions and sin.
The New Testament often refers to the church as the body of Christ, each person being just one part of the overall body (1 Cor. 12:27, Rom. 12:4-5, Eph. 4:14-15). Now, let's cross reference that with an analogy of the human body: If one part your body is dead and not functioning as it should be, to leave it attached to the rest of your body would have catastrophic ramifications -- inevitably infection would set in throughout your entire body and in time you would die. So, that dead body part must be cut off to preserve the rest of your life. And so it is with the church, the body of Christ. Albert Barnes once said, "This is the only way of kindness. This is the only way to preserve peace and purity in the church." While we are to regard this person as an unbeliever, it doesn't mean we shouldn't pray for them daily though, it doesn't mean we should be unkind to them when we run into them at the gym or grocery store, and it certainly doesn't mean we shouldn't assist them in their time of need. On the contrary, Jesus has called us to do all of the above (1 Tim. 2:1-4, Col. 4:5-6, Matt. 5:42)!
A Real Life Testimony
Growing up in the church and having been a pastor for over three years now, I've only ever seen this path of biblical conflict resolution be taken to its end once, and it was actually a relative of mine. The church this individual was a member of followed the steps Jesus laid out in Matthew 18:15-17 to resolve some unrepentant sin; my relative refused the wise counsel of the individual, refused the witnesses, refused the church, and was ultimately put out of the hand of fellowship. But that wasn't the end... It was less than two weeks after the church leaders were obedient to God's Word when the Spirit swept in and utterly broke this person's heart over their sin and subsequently brought them to full repentance. It's been five years since then and this individual's relationship with Jesus and His Church has never been more vibrant!
There is hope in the midst of conflict, friends. Trust Jesus and be obedient to His Word. It will be uncomfortable, it will be difficult, and it will be criticized by others, but God will be glorified (1 Sam. 15:22) and He will ultimately work all things together "for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Rom. 8:28).
Contributor / Dan Dameron
Dan Dameron is the Pastor of Worship at ONElife Church in Flint, MI and Founder of ONElife Worship.
'Rock of Ages (Seated High),' written by Augustus Toplady and Matt Wagner, is the latest song to be released from ONElife Worship's forthcoming debut EP. This is the Theology Behind the Song.
"Rock of Ages, cleft for me
From the very first line of this great hymn, we see the Lord referred to as the “Rock of Ages” who was “cleft for me.” This simple line speaks to the eternality of God, the constancy of His character, and his steadfastness -- like a rock upon which we can rely. Not only that, it explains that this very rock, Christ Jesus, the Cornerstone Himself was “cleft” for us, meaning that He was broken for us. As a rock that is cleft is split in two, or chipped apart, so the body of Christ was beaten and broken to the point of death for us -- in our place. Instead of us being cleft, which is what we deserve, Christ the Rock was cleft. This is a savior in whom we can truly trust and find refuge in! We can hide ourselves in His rest.
“Let the water and the blood,
The blood that flowed from Christ, that was poured out on the cross for us, is truly a double cure. The first part is that by His blood we are saved from wrath; God the father chooses to withhold His wrath from us though we deserve it, and instead pours it out on Christ, the Son. The second part is that He no longer sees our own unrighteousness but sees the righteousness of Christ. Jesus' blood covers us and “makes us pure” in the eyes of the Father. In this single line we see the doctrine of imputed righteousness.
“Not the labor of my hands
No work of our own can account for our salvation. No labor of our hands is ever good enough to make us righteous in the eyes of the Lord. Only the righteousness of Christ can atone!
“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:21-26)
"Seated high on His throne of grace
This is the God that we look to. The God that we worship is seated upon His throne! By His grace He has saved. We rest in this, knowing that our hope for eternity is in sacrifice that Christ made for us. The Risen Jesus is now seated at the right hand of the father for eternity, interceding on our behalf.
“Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” (Romans 8:34)
"Nothing in my hand I bring,
When God regenerates us and opens our eyes, our utterly helpless state is realized. We realize that our only hope for salvation is to cling to the cross of Jesus. It is by our clinging to Christ and His cross in our trials, in our sufferings, and in joy, that we are sanctified, that is refined more and more into the image of God, and thus grow in spiritual maturity (Luke 9:23).
"While I draw this fleeting breath,
The first part of the song spoke to our justification by the blood of Christ. The second part spoke to the necessity of clinging to the cross daily for sanctification. and now we look forward to eternity with the Godhead in our glorified state!
This last verse looks forward to our beautiful hope of glorification. Glorification encompasses our moral perfection upon leaving this life (2 Thess 2:13-14; Heb 2:10-11), it includes our liberty and deliverance from these earthly bodies along with their sickness and physical ailments to our glorified body, which is immortal (Rom 2:7), imperishable, powerful, and spiritual (1 Cor 15:43-44). Additionally, glorification brings participation in the kingdom of God (1 Thess 2:12), even to the point of our reigning with Christ (2 Tim 2:10-12) and lastly includes partaking in God's own glory (Rom 5:2; 1 Thess 2:12; 2 Thess 2:14; 1 Peter 5:10)!
Contributors / Matt Wagner & Dan Dameron
I apologize for the click-bait title. I hate click-bait with a passion, but it felt appropriate because it seems to be a frequent question; "How do I get my people to be more responsive?" I’m sure we’ve all been there at one time or another:
And you look out into the congregation to discover they were replaced with extras from a zombie film. So what gives? Don’t they know how much prep work you put into the service? Don’t they realize WHO you are singing to?
If you clicked on this article I imagine it was for one of 2 reasons- either you really do want a quick fix for this problem (sorry, there isn’t one, but I will give you 3 steps on how to work towards a solution), or you thought to yourself ‘this guy really thinks you can MAKE people respond physically in worship? I can’t wait to read his article and tear it apart in the comment section!’ Either way, I hope that you keep reading, because I genuinely do believe that these 3 things can help bring about a change in culture within your church and your people.
STEP 1: Point your people to Jesus
I’ve heard it more times than I can remember; a well-meaning church member or fellow worship team member comes up to me after the service and thanks me for ‘leading them into the throne room’. While I understand the sentiment, and there were times in the past I would use this terminology, it’s completely wrong.
In the Old Testament the people of Israel could not enter the Holy of Holies and stand in the presence of God for themselves, they needed the high priest to serve as a mediator to enter on their behalf. The priests would be in charge of carrying out the sacrifices for the purification of the people of Israel and for themselves, and this needed to happen over and over because of their fallen, sinful nature. However, once Jesus died on the cross, taking on the role of both priest and sacrifice, He made a “new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh” (Hebrews 10:20). And because Jesus now stands as the great high priest who lived a sinless life, the sacrifice to purify us has happened once and for all (Hebrews 4:15, 7:27).
We can draw near to the throne of grace with confidence ONLY because of the atoning work of Jesus- worship leaders could never hope to fill this role. The best possible thing we can do is point our church family to the beauty of the gospel and the beauty of the savior we worship. As worship leaders, we aren’t the spectacle, we are the tour guide- we should not strive to be what holds the attention of the church on Sunday morning, we should be pointing with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength to the only One who is glorious enough to hold our gaze for all of eternity.
"As worship leaders, we aren't the spectacle, we are the tour guide."
So if you walk onto the platform on Sunday feeling the stress of needing to lead your congregation into the presence of God, REJOICE! Because it’s already been done by the someone who is far more able to do it.
Or if you walk onto the platform thinking that you hold the power to draw people into the throne room, humble yourself before the Lord and repent of trying to elevate yourself to the level of Christ. Let us never try and take credit for a work we could never accomplish.
STEP 2: Teach them WHY, not HOW
Scripture is full of examples of physical response to worship;
However, do your people know that these verses exist? When you encourage them to be physically responsive in worship, do you just tell them what to do, or do you take time to explain why we do it? I work in a heavily-churched area with many people who grew up in denominations where physical expressiveness was frowned upon. If you’re shepherding people like this it becomes all the more important to teach them lovingly and strongly what God asks of us in worship.
Conversely, if you’re in a church or area where people are already physically expressive it’s important to teach them what God’s word says about it. If all they know is ‘this is the part of the song where I’m supposed to raise my hands’ then we’re no better than a zumba instructor leading the spiritual macarena on stage. Physical expressiveness can be a huge blessing to the church body, but can also be a distraction when it gets out of hand (no pun intended).
Whatever your role is within your church, when you step onto the platform you are taking on the responsibility of shepherding and caring for your people. Don’t be tempted to resort to guilt-tripping or emotional manipulation to get the response you want to see- instead teach them why we respond the way we do, and point them to Jesus so they have something to respond to.
"Don’t be tempted to resort to guilt-tripping or emotional manipulation to get the response you want to see- instead teach them why we respond the way we do, and point them to Jesus so they have something to respond to."
STEP 3: Pray For Your Senior Pastor
This one may come as a surprise to you, but I truly believe it’s one of the greatest things you can do for the health of your church’s worship. I began feeling convicted of falling short in this area a little over a year ago, and have made an effort to step up in it since then. Think about your senior pastors week in comparison with yours;
We carry our own kind of stress and responsibility with us each Sunday, but our senior pastor carries more. Paul tells us in James 3 that “...(those) who teach will be judged with greater strictness” and 1 Timothy 3:1-7 lays out the biblical qualifications for a pastor or elder. It’s a high standard to held to.
Your senior pastor needs your prayer, and you need to pray for him. Why?
Because for as much as you can point people to Jesus, he can and should do it even more. For as much as you can teach the body during the time of sung worship, he can and should do it more in his sermon. For as great as the congregation thinks you are (or aren’t) they’re often holding him to a higher standard.
So pray for your senior pastor. Every week. Put it on your calendar, set a reminder in your phone, write it backwards on your forehead so you’ll see it in the mirror- do whatever it takes to make it a priority, and know that the enemy will do whatever he can to keep you from it.
Pray that he will preach the gospel boldly and clearly. Pray that God will remove anything from his message that could be a hindrance or distraction from the gospel being proclaimed. Pray that he will fall more and more deeply in love with Jesus and that the scriptures will remain fresh and new for him each time he goes to the word.
"When we dwell on Christ’s word, His character, and His commands, we will see Him for who He is and we won’t be able to keep ourselves from worshipping Him.
Because when these things happen, when the pastor preaches clearly and truthfully, it stirs the hearts and minds of the church. And when our hearts and minds are stirred towards Jesus allowing his word to dwell in us richly (Colossians 3:16) then we will see our churches begin to change. When we dwell on Christ’s word, His character, and His commands, we will see Him for who He is and we won’t be able to keep ourselves from worshipping Him. This is true, lasting, biblical change for your church. It may not look how we expect or want it to look, but we will see it. It won’t happen in 20 minutes of singing, but you may start to see it over 20 weekends of gathered corporate worship.
Contributor / Brad Spead
Brad Spead is the Pastor of Worship Arts at Bridge Bible Church in Norton Shores, MI.
In this blog entry, Matt Wagner of ONElife Worship gives us an in depth look at his keys rig!
Matt's Rig At A Glance
Hopefully this gives you an idea of the possibilities you have when running a midi-controlled keys rig through Ableton Live.
If you have an questions about what you saw in this video, or if you have a video request as it pertains to keys, let us know in the comments below!
Contributor / Matt Wagner
Matt Wagner is the Worship Pastor at Woodside Bible Church in Royal Oak, MI and serves as the Director of Worship for ONElife Worship.
From its inception, Christ’s Church has always been hierarchical in structure. We who belong to Christ should not at all be surprised by this, for when we look at the nature of the Godhead we see that even the Almighty Creator has a hierarchy within Himself. The Father, being the chief authority within the Godhead, is followed by the Son, who willingly submits to the will of the Father. Jesus is then followed by the Holy Spirit, whose desire is to attest of Jesus and the Father. The Father sent Jesus, and then Jesus, in turn, sent the Holy Spirit. Let me be clear, I am not saying that any one of the three persons comprising the Godhead are “lesser” than the other, but rather that God himself exists in a hierarchical state -- equal in worth and divine nature amongst his three persons, yet gladly submitting to the one who is above Him.
The Church is structured the same way! We have Christ, who is the head of the Church, followed by pastors/elders, then deacons, and finally the laity. Pastors/elders are not of greater worth than the man who scrubs the toilets every Saturday, however, as the ones who guard the teaching and truth of the Word, their task is given higher priority. In short, we can’t avoid the hierarchy. We are all equal in worth, but not equal in position.
"We can't avoid hierarchy; we are all equal in worth, but not in position."
Now, let me ask you, what would it look like if the church existed in such a state as well? What if our heart’s desire was to gladly submit to those above us, not jockeying for position, but rather seeking to serve those above ourselves? While you may not be able to reform the thinking of your entire church in such a way, it is highly likely that you can have a profound effect upon your worship team by following some of the suggestions I am about to share. Maybe it will begin to rub off on the church as a whole. However, before I do that let me give a brief glimpse into where I am in this season of life.
My wife and I, along with our two sons, recently entered into partnership with ONElife Church. We came from a small church that wasn’t used to a hierarchical structure. (I’m not in any way attempting to offend or speak illy of my previous church. As a matter of fact, if any of them are reading this I hope they know I love them all deeply with all the affections of Christ). Our previous church existed without any truly defined position on church hierarchy and because of this more often than not small squabbles would arise about who should submit to whom and who held authority over the other. When people left, power vacuums were created and some saw it as a good opportunity to “advance” in the kingdom of God. This is likely common with most every church.
Fittingly, as we take ourselves back 2000 years to a dusty road near Capernaum and a small house residing within the same city, the holy scripture gives us a remedy for this.
“They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.
They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:30-35 ESV)
Jesus just told his closest friends he was going to die, and while they didn’t realize He was going to return to them, they probably understood that the guy on top was getting ready to make an exit. The hierarchy of the apostles was about to be disrupted and something needed to be done. Someone had to fill that space.
How often have you wanted to be first among your brothers and sisters in Christ? This is often made easier when we see power that is up for grabs. I can honestly say that when confronted with the bare depravity of my own heart, I usually want to be first rather than last. I have to look at myself all of the time and admit “I do want to be first. I do want the recognition. I do want the glory. I do want to be the best. I do want the authority. I want to be on top. Now, Jesus, please, please have mercy and teach me to be the servant of all”.
Being a servant is not an easy thing. It takes guts, it takes humility, it takes honesty about yourself, and it take heaps and heaps of repentance. It takes a daily dying to self in favor of the glory of Christ, the strengthening of His Church, and the furtherance of His gospel.
"Being a servant is dying to self in favor of the glory of Christ, the strengthening of His Church, and the furtherance of His gospel."
1. It’s Not About You
The first thing we must do as worship leaders is remind ourselves that “it’s not about me, it’s about God.” Leading worship, unlike some of the other “leading” roles in the Church, creates it’s own breeding ground for narcissism and pride. I mean just think about it; we get to be the men and women out in front, being seen by the congregation, under the lights with the awesome gear and cools clothes. The congregation is told to follow us as we “lead them to the throne of grace” (this is another fallacy we hopefully will cover someday, but I digress). You get the picture. We are “cool,” we “hold authority,” and people follow. It is so important to remember that none of this, not Christ’s death on the cross, not the formation of His Church, not the good news of His gospel, not the songs we sing, or the breath we breathe, none of it, was ever or will ever be about us! That is why we must preach to ourselves Christ glorified in our lives and be vigilant to repent of any pride we would have in our talents and abilities. We boast in God and God alone. Which brings me to my next point.
"We must preach to ourselves Christ glorified in our lives and be vigilant of any pride we would have in our talents and abilities. We boast in God and God alone."
2. We Are Not Here to be Served
When we gather on Sunday for worship, how often is it that the first thought we have is how we can better serve our brothers and sisters in Christ? By serving those around us we are actually serving God. Like the disciples, we are probably thinking about who we can talk to and what we can do to get our agenda across and thus move up in the social hierarchy of the church. We are thinking of what we have accomplished this week and eagerly want the first person who will listen to know precisely what we have done. Or, if we are already high on the totem pole, we may be looking for people to serve our own agendas, based on the authority we already hold, to do as little as possible beyond what we feel is our “job.”
I am so fortunate to be a part of a team comprised of people much more talented and humble than myself. I look around on the mornings I serve and am in awe of what God is doing in bringing the worship team at ONElife Church together. I am also so very blessed to be the low man on the totem pole. Why? Because I am being given a crash course in humility and servitude. These are things I will no doubt need wherever God plans for me to go, however, I must admit, from time to time, I get jealous (Gasp). I know, I know… how dare I! But in all seriousness, this is a big deal for me. I left a church where I held a little authority and walked into a church where authority is not something to be sought, but to be given away. Still, there is that part of me that wants to be the greatest. The kudos, the pats on the back, the job well dones, all of it. My sinful heart desires it. The truest and most profound way for me to combat that is simply to let go of my preferences, stop looking at self, and begin to look for ways to bless my teammates and make them look good… well even better than they already do! I find that when I do this, not only do I find I am much more content with myself, but that I am far more content with my God, and in a deeper peace with my teammates. Which brings me to my next point.
3. Stop Comparing Yourself to the People You Serve With
One of the disciples main problems in the passage I shared above is that they stopped comparing themselves vertically, to Christ, who is our ultimate standard as believers, and began comparing themselves horizontally, to one another. How often we do this amongst our brothers and sisters, especially in worship ministry? Nothing good can come from comparing our sinful selves with other sinful people. This is one of the reasons Christ tells us rather to serve one another. I’m not saying we cannot become better or endeavor to learn from the people around us, we certainly can, and should be learning from others. However, when we stop trying to better ourselves for Christ’s glory and begin to seek “excellence” for our own glory, we have fallen into the same sin that got Satan expelled from Heaven. Learn from one another, seek to better yourself, sure, but don’t seek equality or to be better than anyone around you. Seek the lowly position.
"When we stop trying to better ourselves for Christ's glory and begin to seek "excellence" for our own glory, we have fallen into the same sin that got Satan expelled from Heaven."
4. Rejoice In Others Joy and Share in their Sorrows
As a part of the body of Christ, we are called to bear one another's sufferings. Paul tells us this is right to fulfill the Law of Christ.
“Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” (Galatians 6:2-3)
We also are called to rejoice with one another (Romans 12:15). So, when the lead guitar player gets a that new Fender American Jazzmaster and nails the solo on that new song you wanted to play on, rejoice, because it’s not about you. When the other soprano gets the lead on that new vocal track your band is recording, rejoice! Because it’s not about you. When your pastor chooses someone else to represent your church at a leadership summit, rejoice! Because it’s not about you. How thankful we should be that it is not about us, but about Christ! If it were about us, existence would be a rather droll and hate-filled existence.
"Rejoice! Because it's not about you. It's about Christ."
On the contrary, if the lead guitar player totally whiffs that solo, don’t sneer and be glad in your heart because of his failure. Pray for his success, and comfort him when he inevitably beats himself up about it. He will.
A Final Word
Encourage one another in Christ, and do it often! There is almost nothing better to the soul of a struggling team mate than to know someone else believes in them. I know, I’ve been that guy who didn’t feel like he measured up, or would ever measure up for that matter. The truth was I wasn’t going to. I would never be as holy as Jesus this side of eternity, and I needed someone to tell me that. I would never be the best singer, or the best guitar player, or best preacher for that matter. However, all it took was a kind word from one of my brothers to shift the focus from my shortcomings and to how great God truly is. Our teammates need that same encouragement. They need to know that sanctification is a gradual process and that all their failures, all their flaws, sins, and mistakes will one day be no more. They need to realize that you see Jesus at work in their lives and you have faith that He will do what he has promised to do in them. Encourage them to practice more, to pray more, read more, love more, and hope more. Encourage them in excellence, and in humility. Encourage them in sorrow and in rejoicing, but most importantly encourage them to stop looking at themselves so they can behold the glory of Christ.
In the end, our Savior is asking nothing more from us that what he already did. Think about it, Jesus didn’t think it was about Him, He knew His life, death, and resurrection was to glorify the Father (John 4:34). He didn’t seek to be served, but considered himself a servant to a rebellious world (Mark 10:44-45). Jesus didn’t think himself as having the same worth as the only person He could compare Himself to, the Father (Philippians 2:6-7). He rejoiced with the Father and the Holy Spirit in the work they were accomplishing together (Luke 10:21). He was filled with sorrow when others around him mourned for the death of a close friend (John 11:33-35) Lastly Jesus encouraged his disciples to become more than they were and to hope and abide in him (John 15:5-6).
"Take your eyes off of yourself and behold the glory of Christ. Rejoice in your lowly position."
So, if you're like me, and you struggle with pride, jealousy, and envy and you are a part of a team, do yourself and all those around you a favor. Take your eyes off of yourself, and behold the glory of Christ. Rejoice in your lowly position.
Contributor / Jamison Bebiak
Jamison Bebiak serves as a Worship Leader at ONElife Church in Flint, MI.
Ministry, by definition, does not exist without people. People are who we minister to; our churches and the communities we live in are filled with people. Therefore, harvesting and developing healthy relationships is of utmost importance to any type of ministry, but especially worship ministry.
Worship Ministry Is Unique
Worship ministry is unique for a variety of reasons. The first being that it is generally assumed that worship ministry is focused around music and the arts in a church setting. No other type of ministry has this focus. Because of this focus, ministers of worship tend to work very closely with a relatively small group of people with specific giftings. This is not always the case in other types of ministry. A lead pastor might work less closely with a larger group, or a youth pastor might work closely with a smaller group, but both groups and filled with people who have little in common. A worship pastor, however, is tasked with recruiting, managing, teaching, and shepherding a small group of people who all have a shared interest – music and art.
Music and the Arts Are A Very Emotional Entity
This is the power of music in the Church, that it is able to make truths come alive in our hearts by the power of emotion; it is able to soften our hearts to hear from the Lord. Because of this reality, a general trend is seen in the type of people who are typically drawn to serve in the area of worship - they are emotional. They tend to think less in binary and more in abstract concepts. They also tend to take their art very seriously and very personally, especially they feel it is being criticized. So, not only do worship leaders have the unique task of leading volunteers of a specific interest group, but they also have the wonderful privelage of leading what is quite possibly the most emotional and easily offended group of individuals in a whole body of believers.
We Must Be Relational
We as worship leaders must be relational because of this circumstance. We must be able to harvest and shepherd healthy relationships with our volunteers, otherwise any decision we make will be taken personally. Our love and our care for these emotional groups of people is what will sustain us during the times of difficult conversations and the times of having to raise expectations. I have a few strategies that I have learned from experience and study that I believe can help develop healthy, biblical relationships with volunteers so that they feel not only loved, but well led.
The first strategy is simply to pray. Pray for your volunteers daily. Pray that they will experience the grace of God daily. Pray for their families. Pray that they will see and understand the vision of your ministry. Pray that they will grow continually in their walk with the Lord. Intercession is the greatest work that we can do for our people. This means that we need to know the needs of our people and pray specifically for them. This means that we need a relationship with them.
"Intercession is the greatest work that we can do for our people."
2. Read the Word
How do we build relationships with our team members? The most effective way that I have found is to have a time to read the Word and pray for each other at every rehearsal. Share with them what the Lord has put on your heart and then at the end ask what is going on in their lives and how you can pray for them. You will get to know people a lot by what they ask for prayer for. Then pray for them right then and there! Sometimes its beneficial to ask them to pray instead of yourself. Praying together creates unity that can only be found in Christ.
"Praying together creates unity that can only be found in Christ".
3. Grab Coffee
Another great way to build relationships is to grab coffee with the volunteers [that it is appropriate to do so with.] Make coffee a time to chat about what is going on in their lives, discuss biblical concepts, and even laugh together. If you manage a larger group of volunteers, it is not always feasible to hang out with every member one-on-one all the time, but what you can do is make an effort to grab coffee with at least one volunteer per week.
The last thing that I do is send texts. This might often go overlooked, but each week I text my team on rotation. More often than not I just send encouraging texts thanking them for serving that week or applauding them for the wonderful job that they did on Sunday. This is a nice personal touch that keeps people connected to you even when they might be physically removed.
All of these things, while great ideas, should always be centered around the Word. The reality is that if we as leaders are first living a life obedient to God’s word, then we will continually be sanctified and the Lord will help guide and govern these relationships!
“I will meditate on your precepts, and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your Word.” (Psalm 119:15-16)
Contributor / Matt Wagner
Matt Wagner is the Worship Pastor at Woodside Bible Church in Royal Oak, MI and serves as the Director of Worship for ONElife Worship.
A couple of weeks ago, Matt Wagner did a fantastic job of instructing us on the kinds of songs we should choose for our churches to sing. Now that we know what to look for in songs, we are going to take it a step further and give you a look into how we actually structure our worship setlists. While there are many great methods for crafting a worship setlist, this has proven to be the most effective in our context.
It all starts with the Word of God.
"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." (Colossians 3:16 ESV)
From this scripture we see that singing is more than just entertainment or even preparing the heart to receive a sermon. Rather, singing itself serves to teach and admonish the body of Christ. More than that though, singing is actually how the Word of Christ takes root and dwells richly in the life of the believer. In light of this, when planning our worship setlists, we begin with the Word of God.
"Singing is how the Word of Christ takes root and dwells richly in the life of the believer."
What Text Is Being Preached?
Before thinking about what songs we would like to sing on a given Sunday, we first study the text of scripture our pastor will be preaching from. As we begin this endeavor, I have always found it beneficial to pray and ask the Lord to send His Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ (Eph. 1:17) and then subsequently read the text over and over again. Another best practice we've found to accompany this effort is to be reading through the same commentaries that our pastors have been studying from; this ensures we are all headed in the same direction from the earliest stages of planning.
"Dude, that sounds like a lot of work... why is it important?"
Well, since singing is how we "let the word of Christ dwell in [us] richly," we endeavor to have our songs undergird the sermon by teaching the same truths! Think about it... while you may listen to your favorite sermon three of four times in your lifetime, you will sing your favorite song hundreds, if not thousands, of times! Therefore, we aim to reinforce the big idea of the message with songs that are saturated in scripture, rich in sound doctrine, and similar in content "so that the servant of God may be equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17)." Music is a powerful tool. Dr. Tony Merida said it well, "Music is portable theology; it's theology we carry around with us." While people won't necessarily remember every point of the sermon, they will have the songs you sing on Sunday in their head and on their lips throughout the week. There is power in reiterating the sermon's content through song!
"There is power in reiterating the sermon's content through song!"
The Need for Intentionality in Song Placement
Now that we have studied the text that is being preached and have some songs in mind that will reinforce the big idea that is being communicated that weekend, the next thing we look to do is intentionally order the songs, or structure the setlist, to produce the most effective results.
Let's be honest, the average church attender does not show up on Sunday morning ready to lift their hands in the air and declare from their heart “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come! ...Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created (Rev. 4:8, 11).” Rather, we must remember that our people need to be shepherded into the presence of God. Like each one of us, throughout a given week our congregation struggles with sin, sickness, loss, depression, and many other things we are often unaware of. For some, it took everything they had just to get through the doors of our building that morning. It's negligence on our part to not have an intentional process for shepherding God's people through the worship gathering.
"It's negligent to not have an intentional process for shepherding God's people through the worship gathering."
The Five Thematic Phases
To ensure we are shepherding the hearts of our people well, at ONElife we focus on Five Thematic Phases when planning our setlists:
Songs of Gathering
Songs of Gathering serve as our "call to worship," if you will; they are where our ascension to the throne of God begins. These songs ask God to focus our eyes upon him and away from ourselves. These songs are asking God to come down by His Spirit and meet with us in power. These songs really seek to give us a singleness of mind, looking to Jesus, because our worship begins not when the band begins playing, when the deacon prays, or when the pastor preaches, but instead when we remember who God is and all He has done... and our hearts rejoice.
Songs of Testimony
Songs of Testimony serve to remind us of God's faithfulness from the dawn of creation until now. These songs tell of what God has done in my life/your life/our lives/the life of the Church, etc. As I stated above, our worship begins when we remember who God is and all that He has done, so it only seems fitting that on our way to His throne, we put his work in our lives before our eyes to remind our hearts of his goodness.
Songs of Ascription
Songs of Ascription speak solely of who God is, with little to no mention of 'me,' 'I,' 'us,' or 'we.' This is our throne room worship. This where we transition from worshiping God because of what he has done for 'me' and 'us' to worshiping God simply for who He is in essence. These songs speak of the character of God.
This third phase always proves to be the most difficult to find songs for! We are not always able to escape the 'me' and 'I,' so a good test of whether or not a song will serve this phase well is the question, "What does the chorus say?" If the chorus omits me-centeredness, it's usually a good fit, even if it finds its way into other places.
Song of Response
A Song of Response is the song that is sung right after our sermon. It is exactly what it sounds like; the pastor has just finished preaching and now the question is, "What will we do with what we have heard from God?" This song is our response to what the Word of God has taught us this day. While the goal is for all of our songs to be working together to communicate the same message that is being preached from the pulpit, this song needs to have the clearest connection and call to action to the main point of the sermon. (These songs are often more reflective and thus slower in tempo.)
Recently our lead pastor preached through Jonah 4. In chapter four, Jonah takes delight in something God created over God himself; Jonah was "exceedingly glad" that this plant had sprung up, giving him shade from the harsh weather as he waited to see what would become of Ninevah. Jonah was so upset when God appointed a worm to destroy the plant that he essentially asks God to kill him. The implication was that we do the same thing today. Rather than our delight being in the Creator God, we often take the good things God has created and turn them into functional gods ; when good things become god things they turn into bad things. As believers, we need to repent of such idols in our lives and cling to the one true God.
So, our song of response after that sermon was 'Jesus Is Better' by Austin Stone Worship, which boldy declares "Glory Glory! We have no other king but Jesus Lord of All." The bridge then pleads with God to make our hearts believe that He is better than any sorrow, than any victory, than any comfort, and any of amount of riches. As you can see, this song clearly hit on the major thrust of the sermon and thus provided a great opportunity for us to respond to God; while our intellect knows "there is no other so sure and steady" our hearts often deceive us, to which we were able to plead as a church, "make my heart believe" what my intellect knows to be true!
Song of Summary
While our Song of Response is typically slower and more introspective, our Song of Summary is where we ramp things back up to send our people off feeling energized and equipped to live their lives on mission to the glory of God in the coming week. Whereas our Song of Response is our call to action, our Song of Summary endeavors to summarize the overarching theme that was taught throughout the day.
This coming Sunday we will be working through 1 Timothy 4. In chapter four, Paul shares with Timothy, his young disciple, that as a pastor he is going to witness people departing from the faith because of false teachings from outsiders. Paul then explains that in being a good shepherd of his congregation, Timothy needs to first be a good servant of Jesus Christ. Paul then breaks down being a "good servant of Jesus Christ" into three qualities: knowing sound doctrine, Timothy displaying sound doctrine in the way he lives his day-to-day life, and teaching sound doctrine, because "by doing so [he] will save both [himself] and [his] hearers (v. 16)." The big idea of 1 Timothy 4? Doctrine: know it, show it, and teach it. Without sound doctrine being modeled in those three areas of the minister's life, the flock is sure to fall away.
Given the text, the song I have selected to be our Song of Summary this Sunday is 'The Lord Our God' by Passion. The first verse speaks of God bringing what he has begun in the Church to completion; this is a great reminder that while we do, from time to time, witness people stepping out of Orthodox Christianity and into the realm of heresy, Jesus is faithful to build His Church and our teaching of sound doctrine is part of His plan to accomplish that work! The song then proceeds into the chorus which speaks of God's immutable characteristics and how because He is ever-faithful and never-changing, we can trust Him to lead us through the darker seasons of life. Next is the second verse, which talks about God's goodness in all, because all of His plans are for his glory. Lastly, and most emphatically, the bridge declares, "We won't move without You / You're the light of all and all that we need." We will thus leave our Sunday gathering with the resolve that we will not move from God's Word, but will rather strive know it, show it, and teach it in all aspects of our life, because He alone is our provision and He is good!
While we strive to do everything with excellence, our setlists won't always come together as well as we had hoped and we won't always tackle the Five Thematic Phases with the precision we aspire... but that's okay! Our goal as worship leaders is not to craft and perfectly execute a setlist, but rather to lead the Church in beholding the glory of Christ; this methodology is just a blueprint to help serve that end.
"Our goal is not to craft and perfectly execute a setlist, but to lead the Church in beholding the glory of Christ."
If you have any questions about this topic, please don't hesitate to ask in the comments below! We would be more than happy to provide you with further explanation, additional song examples for each phase, and even recent setlists accompanied with the text that was preached.
Contributor / Dan Dameron
Dan Dameron is the Pastor of Worship at ONElife Church in Flint, MI and Founder of ONElife Worship.
'Chosen In Christ' is the latest song released from ONElife Worship's forthcoming debut EP. This is the Theology Behind the Song.
The Christian life is one marked with various victories and trials, as we struggle in the tension of the already/not yet. We see this reality throughout the New Testament:
In 1 John 3:2, we read, “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” The "already" I've spoken of, then, is the reality that we are right now actually children of God because of Christ's work on the cross in securing our redemption! The "not yet" refers to the fact that while we are children of the King, we don't exactly know what that entails, as our physical bodies are still here on earth.
We see this actualized further in Romans 8:30, which says we are “glorified” and then in Ephesians 2:6, where we read that we are seated with Christ “in the heavenly realms,” as if these things have already come to pass. If we're honest, most of the time we don't feel very "glorified," and it's certain that our earthly surroundings don't look much like "heavenly realms." The reason for this is that our present spiritual reality does not yet match up with our future, physical reality. One day, the two will be in sync, but right now they do not. So, out of sync we, as followers of Jesus, trudge through this fallen world.
A regular part of our life here on earth are struggles with temptation, sickness, physical ailments, and loss. Through the trials we face in this lifetime, it's easy to let our vertical gaze (on Christ and what He has already accomplished for us) slip away. As a result, we can easily become infatuated with the horizontal (what we see immediately around us), the not yet. Brokenness, weariness, and feelings of defeat are all a regular part of this life, especially when we've forgotten what has already been accomplished for us. It is in these moments that the believer has two options: seek rest in God and hold onto the promises of the already in the not yet, or seek fulfillment and rest in the created order (people, possessions, substances, etc.), which is to sin (Rom. 14:23b) -- to choose temporary happiness and relief over lasting joy. Being filled by the Spirit of God, when we choose the latter, feelings of guilt, shame, and self-condemnation are the inevitable end.
"Broken, weary, and defeated
As Christians, our blessed hope and rest on our worst day, even when we have succumb to those horizontal comforts and are riddled ourselves with guilt, shame, and self-condemnation, is to remind ourselves of the already found in Ephesians 1. The Apostle Paul tells us that before God even laid the world's foundation He chose us in His Son (v.4), and how "in love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ (v.5)." So, when Adam fell into sin in the Garden of Eden, infecting all mankind with sin, God the Father had to make a plan for redemption. This plan was set into motion not primarily because we sinned, but rather because of His great love for us. The Father's plan for our redemption meant sending His own Son, Jesus, to live the perfect, sinless life we could not live and die the sinners death we deserved, because "the wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23). It was the blood that Jesus shed on the cross that bought our redemption, the forgiveness of our sins and trespasses. Previously wretchedly depraved, vile, and undeserving, the riches of God's glorious grace in Jesus overcame all of our sin -- past, present, and future (v.7)!
"But You predestined from the start
The chorus of the song then reiterates the realities associated with the Father having chose us before the world's foundation and the blood of the Son having purchased our redemption; by believing in our hearts what Jesus accomplished on the cross and having confessed with our mouths that He is Lord, we now stand holy and blameless before the Father because the imputed righteousness of the Son (v.4)! As I previously alluded to, through Jesus' sacrifice, every sin -- past, present, and future has been totally forgiven and even expunged. We already stand before the Father holy and blameless, despite not yet fully understanding that reality.
"Before the world's foundation
Having been predestined and subsequently adopted into the family of God, we were sealed for all eternity with the Holy Spirit, "who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it (v.14)." Jesus sent His Spirit to testify of this inheritance in the not yet! Our blessed inheritance is that we will spend all eternity in Heaven with God, where we have been seated.
"Adopted in and sealed forevermore
Why? Why would God do all of this for people who would never "get it right," for people who would never be "good enough," for people who still toil in sin despite having been totally forgiven? The answer is that He did it for the praise of His glory and according to the purpose of His will (vv.5-6)! That's right, God chose to love you (v.4), predestine you, adopt you (v.5), redeem you (v.7), give you an inheritance (v.11), and seal you with His Holy Spirit to testify to all of this (v.13), because He desired to do so, and it was based on no "good" in you or I! He did it to the praise of His glory and according to the purpose of His will when we were far off, dead in transgressions and sin.
"To the praise of Your glory
If you are trusting in Jesus for salvation, this is your reality: despite any brokenness, any weariness, any defeat, any failure, any sin, any guilt, any shame, and any self-condemnation, you already stand holy and blameless before God the Father because of His loving you, His choosing you, His predestining you, His adopting you, His redeeming you, and His sealing you for all eternity. You are already His! Rest in this in the face of any trial that may come your way and live free from the curse of sin and darkness.
Contributor / Dan Dameron
Dan Dameron serves as the Worship & Creative Arts Pastor at ONElife Church in Flint, MI and is the Founder of ONElife Worship.