Author Archives: PfPT

What is Worship?

Worship is one’s emotional, spiritual and practical expression of reverence, allegiance and submission to God/a god/gods, that is shaped by one’s understanding of who this God/god is.

Based on this definition, worship could have a variety of expressions. If one’s understanding of God is that he/she is a hostile entity, worship might take the form of seeking to appease this Being by various acts or rituals. If one’s view is that God is represented somewhere on this earth by a physical image, one might make a pilgrimage to this place and present offerings and make requests of such an image or representation. If one’s view is that this God/god has provided clear directions for how to express one’s allegiance, one might study those directives and seek to follow them to the letter. The stronger one’s allegiance to one’s God/god, the more intense those expressions of worship will be.

On this sight the God we speak of is God as He is revealed in the Christian Scriptures. These Scriptures are understood to be consisting of the Old and New Testaments. Christian worship then consists of one’s expressions of reverence, allegiance and submission to this God of the Bible.

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Pointers about Style

When we think about the style of a piece of music, we are thinking about an identifiable pattern according to which the piece of music has been constructed. Many of these patterns have names. We talk about jazz, classical, swing, hip-hop, rock, blues, country and so on. All these terms have to do with the pattern according to which a certain piece of music has been constructed.

When we apply the word style to “Christian Music” we often talk about traditional versus contemporary styles. One traditional style of Christian music is the hymn. Hymns are pieces of music that are constructed according to a certain pattern or format. Contemporary Christian musical pieces resemble a different pattern. A contemporary style resembles a musical pattern that is more current.

Everyone will have a style preference. Generally the preferred style is the one that we are most familiar with. It may be the style that we grew up with, or the style that is currently popular in the media, or that is being used by an artist whom we favour. We prefer the musical style (pattern/format) that we are most comfortable with or that we can most easily relate to. Sometimes our preferences change with the times; what was once a favourite style is set aside in favour of one that we now like more, or perhaps one that our friends like more.

Another thing to consider with respect to style is the instruments that are usually associated with a given style. Organs and pianos may be associated more with traditional kinds of music, whereas stringed instruments, amplified and electrical instruments and percussion instruments may be associated more with contemporary styles. There is no hard and fast rule here. Any instrument can be associated with any style.

In order to answer the question “How important is style in worship music and singing”, we need to ask ourselves what the relationship of style is to worship. In no particular order, here are some questions to ask:

1. How important is style to God? Does it matter to God, the one whom we are seeking to worship with our music and songs, which style we use? Does HE have a preference? I think the answer is pretty obvious – God is more interested in the heart of the worshiper than in the style of the music with which we worship God. The style with which we chose to worship will not make up for the things that are lacking in our heart.

2. Is one style of music more spiritual that another style of music? As a general rule I believe that style is neutral. Style does not make the music more spiritual or less spiritual. The spirituality of worship music resides in the content, that is, in the words of the music and in what the worshiper does with this content and with these words. The content of a song is what makes the song spiritual or not so spiritual. Spiritual has to do with the Holy Spirit. If the words are in agreement with the Holy Spirit, and the Scriptures which he authored, then the music/words are spiritual. If the words are not true in what they say about God, or the Christian life, then they are not spiritual. No amount of style can make a song spiritual if the words are not spiritual.

3. Does the style of music have an impact on the worship experience of the worshiper? I would say yes. Our lack of comfort or familiarity with a certain style of music may serve to lessen the ability that we have to focus on the words of the music and so to focus our heart on God. This will be especially so when we feel that a certain style is being forced on us. We may have to battle a sense of resentment and this battle will be a distraction to our worship. Just as we are most comfortable to worship God in the language of our mother tongue, so we will also be most comfortable and it will seem most natural to us to worship God in the style with which we are most familiar. So, as a basic rule, style does matter in that it increases or decreases our level of comfort or distraction.

4. If we allow for the theory that style does impact our worship, does it follow that we should separate into different groups during worship time in order to accommodate sections of the congregation according to their favourite style of music? My answer is that this does not follow for the following reasons:

1) The style of a piece of music can never be the most important thing about a piece of music. Style is much more like the wrapping of a gift than the content of a gift. It is the content of a song and the content of the heart that sings it that is by far more important than the style in which this gift of worship is offered to God.

2) The unity of the fellowship of the worshipers is more important than the style of a piece of music. To give up something important (unity of the body) for the sake of something less important (the nature of the style of worship) is to give up the blessing of fellowship for the sake of a personal preference. Being together as the body of Christ ought be more important to us than preserving the pleasure of singing and worshiping according to our preferred style.

3) The variety of style-preferences in a congregation provides a beautiful opportunity to practice love and acceptance and tolerance and patience – in short, the fruit of the Spirit. The Bible calls us to think of others more highly than of ourselves – to regard not only our own interests but also the interests of others. To separate a congregation over what are our own interests would appear to be in conflict with this desire of the Spirit in our lives. Differences in style preference give occasion to the leadership of the church and the Praise Team to ask: How can we show love to one another by accommodating the different style preferences that are in the body, while maintaining the unity of the body. Differences like this provide the members of a congregation with an opportunity to grow in their walk with God by considering not only their own preferences but also the preferences of others.

5. Is it possible to learn to like or to adapt to a new style or an old style of music? I believe that this is within the realm of possibility. Often style has to do with familiarity. Increasing familiarity may lead to increasing tolerance for, and acceptance of a different style of music. We can learn to develop new tastes in clothing or food. Why not in music?

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Pointers about Stage Presentation

How should the musicians of the Praise Team present themselves on stage?

My answer is – be natural, be yourself. Do not try to imitate another musician in how you sing or play or hold your instrument. You are not there to be somebody else, but who God may YOU! God has given you your own voice. Don’t try hard to make it sound like somebody else’s voice. God has given you a unique personality. Don’t use it to try to copy someone else’s personality. Let your own personality come out in your singing and playing. The Holy Spirit wants to use you according to what God is doing in your own life, not according to what he has done in someone else’s life. So be real. Be yourself.

A word about being “yourself”. “Being yourself” does not mean being the self that you were before you became a believer. Or the self that you are when Christ is not Lord of your life. You want to be the self, that new self that God has created in Christ Jesus and that is obedient to the word of God in the power of the Holy Spirit. You want to live out the new life that God has put into you.  The Bible says that when someone is in Christ he is a new creation. It is that new life that you want to give expression to. To the glory of God.

 

 

 

 

 

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Pointers about Repetition

It is the opinion of this writer that there is meaningful repetition and meaningless repetition.

Repetition can be used to reinforce a point that the song is trying to make. By repeating a line in a song, or a stanza or even a whole song, the worshiper is given the opportunity to reflect more carefully on the words he/she is singing.

We all have experienced times where we were singing a song without thinking. We simply sang because that is what everybody else was doing, and perhaps our mind was on other things. In such a situation repetition can lead the mind of the worshiper back to the song. We are brought back mentally to the thing we are presently doing, namely worshiping God, and suddenly our mind reengages with the song and the music. So repetition can be meaningful because it calls the worshiper to concentrate on what he is doing and saying in his song.

Another value of repetition is that it allows for the worshiper to ponder the words he/she is singing more deeply. Good worship songs have words that are meaningful. They express certain truths about God and the Christian life. Sometimes it takes a while to understand the meaning of the words and the intent of the songwriter. Repetition allows for reflection on the content of the words and their meaning. And when the meaning becomes more clear to the worshiper, he is able to sing and worship with greater understanding and meaning. It would seem unnecessary to say that greater worship takes place in the heart of the worshiper when he understands what he is singing that when he does not understand what he is singing.

Another positive reason for repetition is that it provides the opportunity to repeat a certain truth back to God a number of times. When this truth is centered on a certain attribute of God, such as his holiness, or his love, it may be rewarding to the worshiper to repeat his adoration of this aspect of God’s character or work to him a number of times, because of the depth of feeling he has toward God concerning these truths. So in these ways, repetition can be meaningful.

Is there such a thing as meaningless repetition? I believe so.

There seems to be a belief “out there” that repetition is useful for its own sake. In other words, worship singing becomes better when there is lots of repetition. But is this so? I do not think so.

Lets ask first of all: What is meaningless repetition?

Meaningless repetition happens when the purpose for repetition has been accomplished, but the repetition is still ongoing.

For example, when repetition of a line or stanza or song has successfully focused the attention of most of the worshipers in the room on a line in the song or a stanza or the whole song, it is no longer necessary to continue with the repetition.

Or, when the repetition has led most worshipers to enter into greater understanding of the content and the meaning of what they are singing, it is no longer necessary to continue with the repetition. If a song’s meaning is reasonably clear, most people (believers) will “get it” after a couple of repetitions.

Also, when the depth of a believer’s feeling for a certain truth has had the opportunity to be expressed multiple times by means of repetition, it may be time to move on to another truth, or another aspect of God’s great work for us in Christ. However, I would not make this a hard and fast rule. There are times that a congregation of worshipers can actually be overcome with the awareness of a particular truth, so that there is actually a desire in the congregation to keep expressing this truth over and over again. But this is different than repetition for repetition’s sake.

When repetition continues for its own sake, because it is seen as something good “in itself”, it may actually lead to less worship happening, rather than more. Why? Because after a certain amount of repetition, the minds of most worshipers will say “I get this”, and go into a “state of rest”. In other words the mind will become inactive. This does not necessarily mean that the emotions of the worshipers will become inactive. But it does mean that now the emotions of the worshipers will no longer be grounded in the words, but in other things, such as the environment in which they find themselves, the sounds that they hear, the instruments or other things. When the mind “cancels out” worship does not become more, but rather less. And the mind cancels out when it finds repetition to be without purpose.

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Pointers about Volume

Here, in the opinion of the author, are some principles to observe with respect to the volume level of the voices and instruments of the PT (Praise Team).

1. A lot of noise is not automatically the sign or indication that something spiritual is happening. There can be loud sound coming from the instruments of the PT and from the voices of the singers, but this is not an indication that anything spiritual is happening in the heart. 

2. Nevertheless, the loud volume of the instruments and of the singers can be a sign that something spiritual is happening. It may arise from the enthusiasm that the worshipers feel about God and Jesus and about various other spiritual themes. Excitement about something will generally raise the level of volume of voices and instruments. This is not a bad thing!

3. Volume is to some extent governed by the words of the music and by the mood of the worshipers. When enthusiasm is expressed in the words of a song, it is appropriate to express that enthusiasm with voices and instruments. If a song calls for quiet contemplation is would seem appropriate to let the volume express this also. For example, loud music would seem inappropriate for a funeral service. Generally, when the mood of the worshipers is enthusiastic, the volume of the music will rise.

4. On occasion the enthusiasm of the PT will be greater than that of the congregation. It would not seem inappropriate that the volume of the singers would therefore be greater than that of the congregation. In such a situation the enthusiasm of the singers could be contagious for the congregation, and they may catch the enthusiasm also. But this is not the same thing as volume for volume’s sake. The volume is in relationship to the enthusiasm of the PT.

5. Generally, the volume of the Praise Team should not consistently drown out the volume of the congregation (People of God). It becomes discouraging for worshipers when they can not hear themselves or anyone else sing. As the volume of the congregation rises, the volume of the PT may also rise.  In other words, there should be some correspondence between the volume of the PT and their instruments, and the volume of the congregation.

6. The reason why worshipers should be able to hear their own voices and those of other worshipers is that one’s own faith can be strengthened when one hears the voices of others lifting up their own voices to the same God. The expression of the faith of others encourages one in his/her own expression of this faith.

7. In summary, volume should not be like the motor of some furnaces. Some furnace motors have only one setting – full blast. In my opinion, praise and worship singing will be more enjoyable when there is some correspondence between the words of the songs, the mood of the congregation and the volume of the voices and instruments of the PT.

 

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12 Practical Pointers for Praise Teams

If I were to summarize what the most important factors in making for an enjoyable experience of praise and worship are, I would list the following:

 

1. Please keep the beat!!!!! 

2. Try not to let the volume of the playing/singing of the PT dominate the congregation’s singing. It is beneficial for the congregation to be able to hear not only the singing and playing of the PT, but also its own singing.

3. Teach the congregation music that is singable. Try to avoid complex rhythms and melody lines. Remember: The congregation is not made up of musical professionals.

4. Chose songs with texts that are meaningful and theologically accurate.

5. Avoid meaningless repetition.

6. Remember to balance the learning of new songs with the singing of better/well-known songs. People get more pleasure out of singing songs they know. It is hard to put one’s heart into songs one hardly knows.

7. Be more concerned about the content of the songs (the words) than about the style of the music. God is more concerned that we worship him in spirit and in truth than that we worship him according to the latest style. Teach the congregation this principle.

8. Seek to approach the singing and worship time with an attitude of reverence and awe. We are worshiping the Holy One.

9. Discourage “showmanship” by the musicians. We are not here to impress anyone, but to lead others in worship.

10. Seek to avoid dress that draws the worshipers’ attention away from the music and  to the musician. God should be the primary focus of everyone present.

11. Remember the elderly when standing for long periods of time. Show solidarity with them by adopting a sitting posture from time to time. Let them know that you are aware that it may be difficult for them to stand with the rest of the worshipers.

12. Let everything be done in love.

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Seven Pointers for the Heart

Leading the People of God in worship is more than merely a musical venture. It is also a venture of the heart. Here are some pointers for the “heart”, that innermost seat of the emotions and attitudes.

 

1. Members of the PT are committed followers of Jesus Christ whose main desire is to glorify God with their voices and instruments.

2. Members of the PT desire to work together with and in submission to the leadership of the church.

3. Members of the PT will seek to preserve a spirit of unity within their group.

4. Members of the PT will see themselves as partners in worship with the congregation.

5. Members of the PT will realize that success depends on the blessing of God on their endeavors and will ask God for his blessing on their work. They will remember to thank God when he answers their prayers.

6. Members of the PT will maintain an attitude of dependence on the Lord while they lead the congregation in praise and worship.

7. Members of the PT will maintain an attitude of humility toward God and others when success comes their way.

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Pointers about Appearance

Does it matter how the Praise Team members are dressed? Does their outward appearance matter?

I believe that appearance matters. Here’s why.

The purpose of the PT is to lead others in worship. The goal of the PT is to direct the attention of the people of God Godward. So, if this is the desire of the PT, they will try to avoid drawing unnecessary attention to themselves. Of course there will always be some attention on the PT. After all,  they are there on the stage, visible for all to see.

When it comes to appearance, what would be considered an unnecessary distraction?  This would depend largely on what is considered appropriate in a given location. For example, if, in a certain church culture, short hair for men is considered appropriate for worshipers, long hair on a man could prove a distraction. In an environment where women wearing pants is considered inappropriate, this would be a distraction.

In the word of God, women are urged to dress modestly. Therefore, dressing immodestly may not only be a distraction, but also disobedience to the word of God.  Standards of “immodesty” will vary from place to place. Immodest dress in women may lead to the men in the meeting being tempted to have sinful thoughts. (Of course men may be tempted to have sinful thoughts in the face of modest dress also. But my point is, that immodest dress may lead to an unnecessary increase in exposure to temptation.) Men are urged by the word of God to “flee temptation”, but how does one flee from a worship service to which one has come to worship God?

It is my belief that men may also dress immodestly. In some congregations, might it not be possible that men, who have turned to Christ from a gay lifestyle, could be tempted unnecessarily by the tight fitting attire of a well-intentioned worship leader? Just a thought.

PT members who’s hearts are right with the Lord will care about how their appearance affects those watching them leading the worship. They do not want to become a distraction to the people of God who are seeking the face of God in worship.

At this point it is necessary to say a word about judgemental attitudes. We know that there are those who love to find fault with just about anything. Critical comments from the people need to be evaluated carefully. Is this a genuine criticism or is the person simply engaging in fault-finding? Also, if someone’s appearance is found to be distracting to a majority of those present, it does not follow that this person deliberately tried to flaunt a certain standard of modesty. Someone may simply have been following the pattern set by someone else. It may all have been done innocently, and without awareness of the impact on others. Correction, or instruction needs to take place with gentleness and in love.

PT members who love the Lord will not want to be “unnecessary distractions” when they lead the worship. They will also consider honestly any criticism that comes their way. They will want to err on the side of caution.The leadership of the church will seek to protect the PT from unfair and unkind criticism by addressing those who engage in it.

May God give wisdom to PT members, and the leadership, to navigate a course that brings the maximum amount of praise to God.
 

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Pointers for Pastors

Not all pastors are musicians, or musically inclined (gifted). As a result they may be tempted to hand over the reins of the music ministry to those who have the skills. This arrangement may work well if the leadership of the Praise Team is spiritually minded, understands the elements that constitute healthy congregational singing, and cooperate well with the pastoral leadership.

Difficulties can arise where this is not the case. In such circumstances the “non-musical” pastor may feel reluctant and unsure in how to bring about the desired change. In addition he may be faced with a popular musician/team. Because of his lack of expertise he is reluctant to “touch” the musical ministry. How should this be handled?

Here are some pointers that may be helpful.

1. The musical ministry is, and needs to be accountable to the leadership of the church. It is an arm of ministry and the leadership of the church is accountable to the Lord for the ministries of the church. There is no place for “loose cannons” or “loose ministries” in the church. Therefore the leadership of the Praise Team is accountable, and needs to report to, the pastoral leadership.

2. The pastor (elders/deacons etc.) can do an inventory of the effectiveness of the ministry of the Praise Team by examining whether the ministry is accomplishing its goals. Two areas should receive special attention.

a) The impact the ministry of the Praise Team is having on the congregation

Here the following questions can be asked: How well is the congregation participating in the singing? Is there active participation, or is the congregation only passively engaged? Is there enthusiasm? Is there discontent with the music, and if so, why? Is the ministry of the Praise Team drawing people in? Are all age groups involved in the singing? Is the choice of the music edifying to the congregation? The main purpose of examining this area is not to cater to all the preferences of style or choice of music, but to establish whether during the singing, worship is actually taking place. Are the members of the congregation experiencing a sense of satisfaction and participation in worshiping?

b) The main focus of the Praise Team

Is the main purpose of the Praise Team to honour God/Christ? Are the musicians drawing attention to themselves more than to God? Who is being glorified? Are the musicians more concerned about how they come across than whether the congregation is actively involved in the singing? Is the music working together with and in support of the preaching? Is the Praise Team responsive to directions from the pastors/church leaders? Or do they “buck” the leadership? The issue here is the spiritual maturity of the Praise Team. This is really an issue of discipleship and has very little to do with musical skill. Is the Praise Team being discipled in their walk with God so that their ministry will become increasingly God-focused?

The musical skills of the musicians may discourage the non-musical pastor from “touching” the work of the Praise Team. But this need not be. In the area of congregational singing the key and ultimate question is not how well the musicians play, but whether the Praise Team is succeeding in drawing the congregation into worship. Musical skills do not automatically accomplish this. Musical skills may camouflage  the fact that during the Praise Singing very little worship/congregational singing is actually happening.

Non-musical and perhaps even musically minded pastors may be tempted to take a “hands off” approach to the Praise Team. But the desire of a leader in Christ’s church always needs to be first the pleasing of his Lord and Master. He desires what is best for his congregation and what accomplishes the purpose of the task. If it is determined that some changes need to be made, he then proceeds out of love for Christ and the congregation, and with love for the members of the Praise Team.

 

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Pointers about the Lyrics

How important are the words of the songs that the congregation sings? It is my view that the words are very important.

The words of the songs are the means the congregation is given to express their worshipful thoughts and feelings to God. Words can stir hearts and minds to worship. Words have the power to influence the thoughts of the congregation in a certain direction. The content of the words of songs will determine whether the worship that is being offered to God is in spirit and in truth or not.

It is important to realize that the Holy Spirit will only empower songs that consist of words about God that are true. He bears witness to the truth and not to fanciful imaginations of men. Truth will inspire the hearts and the minds of the worshipers and fill them with thoughts about God that are worthy of God.

So one of the important questions to ask in choosing songs for worship is: Do they convey truth? Are the lyrics filled with truth? Do they say things about God that are true?

Another principle to consider when choosing songs for worship is the loftiness of the lyrics. Are the words that are being stated about God expressed in a way that is worthy of the subject that is being sung about? The Bible deals with lofty subjects, with majestic themes, with matters that have to do with eternity. Do the lyrics convey a sense of the grandeur of these themes?

I believe that the more fully and accurately the song-writer is able to express the great realities of our salvation and of our Saviour in words that convey the worthiness and loftiness of these realities, the more likely it will be that these words will resonate in the hearts of the worshipers and bring forth feelings of joy, awe and conviction, as the Holy Spirit bears witness to their truthfulness.

 

 

 

 

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