Do you personally like the music you find most effective for leading worship?
To what degree is your attraction to the music a criterion for selecting it for the congregation?
Do you lead in styles you don't particularly care for, and to what degree do you find yourself growing to love the music you once didn't like? Is growing to like a song a regular process in your life?
Did the conflict of personal taste with community taste ever produce a crisis in your life, and how was it resolved, or was it resolved, and how did you grow from that?
For a very long time I had a deep and strong antipathy to hymns. I grew up in a baptist church, and hymns embodied all that was dead and dry about traditional worship, from the archaic sentence construction through to trite, cliched and predictable tunes (I don't mind predictability etc if it's fun, but when it's deadly dull there seems little point). I have only come to love hymns in the last 4 years, after moving churches to a place where it seemed so many of the songs were without any real depth, content or intimacy. It left me aching for something with some meaning in the words, and while many hymns are just as shallow and vapid as anything recorded in the last 20 years, there are also many that still have an anointing.
Generally I won't use a song I can't stand behind theologically. Above All is one I know many love, but the theology is plain wrong and the tune excruciating (at the point it emphasises the bad theology) and I would never willingly use it, though I have had to play it for other people. If it were just the tune then I'd put up with it, but the content makes it un-usable for me.
I'd say that when it comes to leading worship, what I'm looking for is something that will be effective in leading the people into the presence of God and trying to bless Him. If that can be achieved then I'll like it, what ever it is. I have been careful not to brings songs and music that I really like but would not work for the congregation, because it's not about me and my wants & wishes as a worship leader.
Sometimes the theology gets messed up by bad poetry - the need to rhyme or limit the number of syllables trumps the actual message. Thus a song had God giving His life for me by crucifying His Son! Can you imagine someone coming into church with no Sunday School background and trying to unscramble that? I wrote the author, a pastor, to question and gave a couple of alternative ways to straighten it out, but he didn't choose to respond. So I told my pastor, "this is goofy theology this way. Can I turn a couple of words around and fix it?" He didn't see the problem, either. God and Jesus were really the same to him, so it didn't matter who crucified who, or if we crucified him. So I just quietly inverted a few words on the visual, and not a soul noticed, except maybe God; but I had peace of mind, and everyone else was happy.
I can echo most of what Toni said, except for his earlier distaste for hymns. There are some songs I will not lead nor will I sing if someone else is leading because of weak or bad theology behind the lyrics. Another annoyance is when the lyric content and the music does not match.
Usually if a song is in a style I do not like (and the words are good) I will rearrange it to more suit the lyrics and my taste as a musician. As Toni said, the goal is to bring people before the Throne of the Almighty. If a song can get me and my team there, we have better success in doing that.
I have had some occasions when I have been asked to lead a particular song that either I didn't know very well or would struggle to lead with conviction. The worst times I have found have been during holiday times when home groups are let loose to run a service and they provide a list of songs they would like - and my heart sinks! (normally almost all our songs are selected by the music/worship group leader).
What I have had to do is look at the list, suggest perhaps an alternative order so they flow together better, and/or other alternatives that might be more appropriate. If all else fails I have even said that if they want to select the songs they may need to get a different leader as I would be unable to 'do them justice'!
Fortunately it doesn't happen very often and I can hold the power of veto over it, especially if a visiting preacher makes a suggestion that may or may not be known.
Sorry, but the music leader needs to be able to lead with authority and meaning. And, however well meaning others may be in choosing music, it is usually the music leader who will know what works and what doesn't.
The only time this approach doesn't always work has been when I have been asked to lead at a big diocesan event in the cathedral. Usually you have to just go with what the Bishop's Staff or Cathedral Chapter tell you to do! (and just do the best you can!). (Although I do draw the line at 'Brother, Sister, Let me serve you', as I can't abide it at all!)
When I was in charge of a worship team with four or five of them capable of leading singing, I'd have them make their own song list, asking them to select whatever songs seemed best, get the ideas to flow along meaningfully, don't have the keys bounce back and forth, and call me with the list for my approval. Usually the call came Saturday night, but I'd cheerfully listen and make a few emendations. The most common problem wasn't the songs themselves, but that left to their own, people will tend to choose the that carry the deepest meaning for them -- thus producing a Set of Seven Slow Songs. So I'd explain that "Indescribable", "How Great Thou Art" and "Keeper of the Stars" are actually the same song, and have them choose one of the three and then put a few clapper-stompers and the front to, as Picard says, "energize."
My Pastor chooses the hymns for the Traditional service (because Pastors have traditionally done this). The Methodist hymnal has all sorts of unusual songs, and Pastor finds the most unusual ones that jive with his message. It's cool. This week, we're singing three Easter favorites, including "Christ the Lord is Ris'n Today." Sounds weird in June, but they fit the Scripture, and I think people can be a little looser about these things. Our kids, when they were three and five, sang "Joy to the World" in July (as well as "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas"), and to tell you the truth, it made the world a lot more tolerable place to live.
I've usually been the "chooser", and essay to balance the pastor's Scriptural theme, what seems good for the church at this time of its life, personal requests, songs I want to sing, the abilities of the praise team, and so on.
Sometimes I delegate "choosing". A curiosity: the inexperienced chooser typically selects seven slow, sentimental songs -- even if they themselves are bright, buoyant personalities. I think this sedimental journey begins in the river of life's memories -- those songs are the ones that touched their heart; they're the ones they want to communicate to others as significant. Of course, a service of ALL such songs would be draggy and not meet the physical expectations and, I daresay, needs of a group of a variety of people assembled to worship God.
So I agree -- lead with authority and meaning, not with the favorite song but with what is good for the entire assembled Body.
I've been only playing guitar and leading worship for about 8 years now so my list is not very long yet, I've been saved for 23 years and all of the church's I've been in did more modern songs so that is what I have learned, I am trying to learn some of the old hymns that have a good strong measage because we do have some older people who grew up on them and would like to hear more of them.
Personally if I can learn it and the words are moving to show love for God I can get into it, if it has words like said before that are not scriptual and people like the song I will change the words to line up with the Word before I will do it.
If people have requests I tell them Iwill listen to it and pray about it and go from there, sometimes my limited playing experiance says no I can't do it.
I think everyone so far understands these things and does not pressure me into doing something I don't fell to do from the Lord.
Usually if the song has good meaning, even if I don't really like it at first, the more I play it the more I like it. Then there are some I really like but play too much so I lay off them for awhile so they don't get ruteen or boreing.
Right now Iam trying to spend some time learning newsongs and asking for requests and going from that list to start from. Being Senior pastor and doing everything involved in the small church sometimes I just barely have enough time to practice what we will do this week much less try to learn something new. One thing I found is that from talking to the people, they don't seem to notice so much as I do about doing the same songs every few months, so thats a good thing, that way I'm not fretting trying to learn new stuff, just take my time and learn good songs leading people to love and worship God more!!!
Eat your vegetables -- you'll get to love them!
I had to get a wife to enforce this wise policy, but today I eat spinach, pea soup, green salad, Chinese food, pizza, even onions if they accidentally get on my hamburger -- all things that never passed my prejudiced lips as a child. But I learn to put away childish things, and learn to enjoy grown-up things, including songs with long words and metaphors that seem a bit off-the-wall. I now enjoy electric guitar (something I abhorred as a young person) and Gregorian chant (which once seemed useless and dry).
But I still open my hamburger first, pull the pickles and give them to my wife.
Enjoying so many different kinds of music can be a curse and a blessing, a curse especially when someone wants to elevate a negative personal preference to a conviction. We've had, in one case, an organist stop playing and leave the church because of a conviction that praise choruses weren't scriptural. This person was not upset about some praise choruses, mind you, but the whole genre. Now I do think that there are some songs and hymns which do not require me to play electric guitar, and in fact are better off without me, and there are those songs which would be better off not being led by the piano. Recently we did an old spiritual called "I want Jesus to walk with me" and I did request that we not do the rather sterile version from our reference track, but something a little more blues oriented. We did it without piano, and it seemed to go very well. Also I'm finding that when I defer to the preferences of others rather than insisting on my own way that others are more willing to ask me for my ideas. I love the times when our differing skill sets combine in delightfully unexpected ways.
odd that the whole format was considered unscriptural, unless that person thought that "psalms hymns and spiritual songs" refered to the format of what was in the hymnal. If that is the case it is just plain ignornnce. Some pastor somewhere was falling down on the job to rightly teach the Word.
We have one song we do (just did it at our annual conference) that is accompanied for at least half the song only by bass and drums. "How I Praise You" by Joel Chernoff.
Some pastor somewhere was falling down on the job to rightly teach the Word.
Some churchgoers may be stubbornly holding opinions contrary to solid Biblical teaching, and keeping these opinions to themselves until their decisions have already been made.
blah blah blah
for His mercy endures forever
bleh bleh bleh
for His mercy endures forever
blech blech blech
for His mercy endures forever
rah rah rah
for His mercy endures forever
I'm just sayin'...