If you read my post on the purpose and roles in worship, I made a comment in there that I believe to be true – being able to worship together corporately is a great privilege. There are countless people around the world who don’t have such a privilege and would love to experience what we get to experience at least weekly.
So, make it worth it.
What do I mean by that?
Well, for starters, we have lots of time during the week to think about ourselves as individuals and our relationship to God. When we gather together for a worship service, it’s a pretty short time considering all the hours we have during the week when we are apart. In terms of the time that we have to sing together, it might be 20-30 minutes. I think that this means that the words we sing together, should come from ‘us’ as a group, and not so much ‘me’ or ‘I’, to God. Maybe you are a worship leader, and there is a song that simply moves you as an individual that you would like to share with the congregation, but it’s full of ‘I want…’, ‘You give ___ to me..’, ‘I will do this or that for You, God…’, ‘I love how You do this or that for me…’, etc.
Share it in a short story from the platform; post a link to the song in a blog or social media post, etc. Until these inward/individual focused words are true for all of the individuals in the congregation, their singing of those words will kind of be empty and it wastes an opportunity to collectively speak truth about God. This doesn’t mean we can’t have any introspective songs – but if God is our audience – which I hold to be the case – then we should make sure that the balance of focus for our songs should point to Him and not to ourselves.
We have just a few short minutes together each week. Make sure the words that are in the songs that we sing together are timeless truths which when shared and spoken/sung together, embolden and encourage the congregation as a whole. There is a palpable power in observing and participation with fellow congregants corporately proclaim the goodness, greatness, graciousness and glory of God.
Or maybe time-limited…
What does that mean? I’m pretty sure it doesn’t mean that the chorus of a song should repeat the word ‘Yes’ twelve times out of a total twenty-two words in a chorus, with only 3 unique words present in that chorus. That’s a little puzzle, but an actual example of a song that in my opinion wouldn’t qualify as timeless. The words in the verses to the same song are incredible, but the chorus is a throwaway time-filler, and remember – the time we have together is very limited. Sing that one yourself in your car or in the shower.
David gives us plenty to work with in the Psalms. Countless songs of the church both ancient and modern point to God in a way that is engaging to the congregation to perform a collective act of worship to God. Example – Ancient: A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. Holy, Holy, Holy. Examples – Modern: All Sons and Daughters – Great Are You Lord, Tomlin – God of this City, Jared Anderson – The Great I Am. In fact this last one, is an interesting balance of introspection and then bombastic proclamation. It is a very ‘Psalmy’ song in that regard. How many times does David describe his own inward focus and then does a lyrical power-slide turn of focus onto God?
Maybe you are a songwriter and you want to write songs of collective worship. Who should the song be about, when it’s sung from the congregation? Me focused or God focused? If you’ve never written a song, there’s no time like the present. Never before have there been as many tools and trainings to help the songwriter. Pat Pattison, who teaches songwriting at Berklee College of Music, teaches a songwriting tool that he calls ‘The Boxes’, where he states that each song should have about 3 main ideas, with the opening idea represented as a box, and then as the song develops, the 2nd main idea is represented in words as a ‘box’ which is a bigger idea than the 1st box, and the culmination/payoff box should be big enough to contain the previous two boxes or ideas. In this way, the Jared Anderson song does progress from smaller, inward focused ideas, to grand proclamation of the glory of God.
These are my thoughts. You might not agree. Maybe you have your own perspective you’d like to share. Leave me a comment, share the link, send me an e-mail. I’d love to hear from you. I’d love even more if I got a chance to worship with you.