We recently got to spend some time with good friend and pastor, Ryan Laden. The Laden family have been great friends and ministry partners with us for many years now. They currently live in Perth, Western Australia, doing some great ministry Down Under as the pastor of Warnbro Community Church. Ryan was here in Texas to officiate a wedding, so we got to spend some time with him before he returned to the other side of the world to his family. We miss them terribly, but we know they are right where God wants them and that He has called them Down Under for a purpose!
Michelle and I had a great conversation with Ryan the other day and I wanted to share a little bit of what we talked about. We were discussing the ins and outs of worship teams and worship music in the church today. As we talked I realized a few things. I want you to hear my comments with an open mind and understand that I am not saying that I am the authority on this or that I think I am right and everyone else is wrong, these are just some observations from my perspective.
If we look at the history of music in the church and the world of CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) we can see that up until recently they co-existed but did not intertwine. Worship was not a genre of music. These days it seems that every band has a 'worship' album, many of which are great and inspired. However, not all of the songs out there labeled 'worship' are necessarily meant for congregational worship.
We have to understand what congregational worship is as opposed to personal worship in order to know how to use what songs and when. Personal worship is that one on one time with you and God. Could be in your car on the way to work, as you work out or just some time spent with Him alone. Congregational worship is when a group of Christ Followers gather together to celebrate what God is doing in their lives, individually and collectively. This could be anything from a Sunday morning at church to some evening in a living room. In my opinion there are songs for both occasions, but not all of them fit into both categories. There are some songs that may speak to you personally but may not connect with someone else and vice-versa, and that is OK. That goes for both congregational and personal songs.
I think that to many times a worship leader or worship band tries to take their favorite songs, that speak to them personally and try to fit them into a congregational setting. As worship leaders it is our job to understand the difference in these types of songs and understand the group we are leading in worship, where they are and what speaks to them. As the JGB travels across the country leading worship for different churches and events, it is very evident that the same songs that connect with one group may not connect with another. We have to be aware of that and be willing to meet the people where they are. If we try to force our favorite songs on a group of people instead of engaging them, and helping them engage in worship through music, all we are doing is playing some cool music and performing. As worship leaders it is our job to help the people we are leading to connect with God through music. We can not force them to engage, but it is our job to present the best opportunity for them to connect.
Now, I am not saying that performance songs should not exist in congregational worship. No, as a matter of fact they are great tools to use to get an idea or thought across that will help connect an overall theme. But, if all you do are performance songs, then you are not giving people to connect personally through music. There are so many great bands out there that are doing great music and when we go to their concerts we may connect through their performance, but we should not be trying to replicate that at our churches. We can be using those ideas, but we need to figure out how to connect the people we are leading to worship through music.
This is where worship music and CCM collide. We did not use to see CCM artists doing worship music. They made great music and it was used as performance songs or special music in church services. Today, every artist has a worship CD and therefore the radio and popular music are saturated with 'worship songs' performed by our favorite artists. So trying to capture what we see and hear on the radio, at concerts and on the internet and use it in our churches may not work, we have to be aware of the people we are leading and how they engage and connect. Sometimes that may mean playing a song we might think is old or out-dated or making a set list that has both old and new songs. We have to remember as worship leaders that it is not about us and what we want, but about us being used and being willing to serve.
This may not be the popular opinion, but it is how I view the ministry we have been called to.
Please remember that I am not saying I am right and anyone who disagrees is wrong. I believe that there is a place for all types of worship and worship leaders. Everyone connects with God through music differently. I would love to hear your thoughts! Feel free to post them on our facebook page www.facebook.com/justingravesband.