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?
There once was an ugly Duckling / its feathers all matted and brown
and (something) the ducks all said, "Quack! get out of town"
Quack! (child quacks twice) Quack (echo twice) Quack! Get out of town!"
I learned this from my wife, who has a voluminous collection of children's songs in her head. Being a man, I don't listen that well, hence the (something)'s. Great song, and the duckling (for those who may be fairy-tale-challenged) proves to be a magnificent Swan. But just as it is with Music, we really ought to love those who are ugly without any prospect of becoming Swans-to-the-eye, because Love changes the inside ugly to beautiful.
That's the one! The tune to "he went with a quack, not a waddle but a quack" is basically the same as the end of the chorus to All I once held dear. :-)
It is because of this fact that it will remain in our repertoire. Somehow, somewhere, people keep liking it.
Greg, I've had this thread open in a window to reply since yesterday, mostly because the questions themselves seem to pour out from a place of hurt or frustration or "crisis". So first, I want to honor you Greg, and to tell you that I'm praying for you.
As to Crisis, a few life events come to mind:
In moving a fair amount, my family has been lead to several churches without particular regard to denomination or style. When I joined the choir at one, I had to swallow my aversion to Southern Gospel. That's who they were and how they worshiped; who was I to change them for my own personal tastes or low tolerance for "blood songs" and "pearly gates ditties"? I could add quite a bit to the bass line, I thought, but sometimes felt "what's the use?" God had to teach me, with the aid of my wife's discernment, that my participation was not about musical quality, but about honoring and affirming the Body at that congregation. They really cared that I sing in the choir. Meanwhile, God indicated I should care a lot less about my own talents and tastes.
In another church in another town, the crisis came after I was asked by the pastor to form a praise band and lead worship in a very traditional, piano and hymnal congregation. That lead to a struggle balancing the desires of my band-mates, ex-rock-n-roll-band guys who wanted to rock out for Jesus and couldn't see the need to engage the congregation, with the mission from the pastor and deacon council to reach the un-churched neighborhood all around us, with the strong resistance and resentment of the majority of the congregation to any change in instrumentation or style. I did blend hymns with praise choruses and even had the youth join us for "Strong Tower" and several other rockier songs. We also opened a second front, if you will, in the form of a coffee house where we turned it up and jammed more with youth and neighborhood in mind. After about 8 months, we were dis-banded in a mostly anonymous, grass-roots mutiny in which our pastor and deacon council were threatened with a called vote and referendum. Yeah -- that hurt a lot and left me ultimately leaving that church. More importantly, I harbored anger with God and nurtured a growing disdain for what I perceived as the Church and for organized religion. I became increasingly angry and cynical and wandered into all sorts of low sins. It took a Divine intervention for God to open my eyes to my sin and folly. It's God's Church and God is due all our worship. The Church is the Bride of Christ -- who am I to dismiss or disdain her? Or, in another fashion, I wouldn't let anyone offend or disrespect my wife; do I think Jesus is big enough to kick sand in my face? (LOL) I mean, I had been blinded to much of the above and to the way I harbored the root of bitterness. And then, BAM!, God put His finger right on it, I confessed and repented and, WHOOSH!, just like that He gave me this shining love for the Church and the actual people therein. The other big thing I learned through that episode: it's all about LOVE.
And I didn't *need* to lead by position, only by example. I landed in another church, content to worship from the congregation. Didn't take long to be recruited to sing and soon to play and then to bring and teach songs and ... several God-events later, I'm now worship leader, a position I did most definitely NOT seek out. Applying my lessons: It *IS* about love. It *IS* about edifying the Body. It *IS* about giving God all the glory and honor and praises. And it *IS* about letting Him lead --- so I guess I have learned a few things, even if they were the hard way. Hopefully anyone still reading might learn by osmosis. ;)
ps) Since we all lead worship in large part by extending our personal time of worship and revelation into the corporate setting, we will find a resonance in many songs with which we worship at home. Funny thing is, my mainline congregation is, as a result, absorbing Jesus Culture, IHOP-KC, Jason Upton, Rick Pino, Hillsong and several sources of prophetic worship God first Googled for me during times of worship and study. - And they like it. - I mean jump right in. - Makes me want to weep for joy often.
We do hymns a lot, because that's who we are and because the hymns we do are quite sound. I don't need to be attracted to a song for it to work for corporate worship. It must speak to the life of our people and speak for God,
I think one can "grow to love' any music, but the main thing is to grow in love for God, one's brethren and all those whosoevers outside our walls.
I've found that one way to love people is to befriend their music (if you met a neighbor in the street and their dog growled at you, would you kick the dog?). Music is a deep part of a human being, deeper than the normal thought processes. So it is, that if we grow in love for God, we grow in love for people, and that radically (from the root) affects how we receive and minister their music.
My present state (regarding songs I don't like) is a happy one; and as long as I can remember I've felt a certain joy leading a song that doesn't do much for me, but I know it makes others happy to hear. Even if the song seems immature -- well, we just gave our granddaughter toys we don't have much use for anymore, but they sure bring a smile to her face! And when she invites me to play the piano with her (she's 2), and I am required to sit down (2-year-olds have a sense of protocol), I sure don't play Beethoven -- no I jam in her style. It fits, it feels right -- and, for those moments, I love it! Heaven happens.
I stepped out of a college where the professors sneered at Southern Gospel (though us California students didn't even know what Southern Gospel was), but when I went into the Air Force and met real live Texans and saw them as people I began to appreciate their style as well (clear words, crisp rhythms, guitar sounds so sweet and purty).
I really like what you say: "it must speak to the life of our people and speak for God." Several years ago, in a previous church, I did have a major crisis -- knowing in mind and heart there were songs that were healthy, good for our people, and our church was beautiful in the worship times; but a change in pastors brought in a mindset that was almost totally into Jesus Culture, which has produced a LOT of fine music, but the music they selected seemed to focus on only a few aspects of Christian life -- release from bondage and getting fired up. I found in staff meetings worship being analyzed; and the places where I saw a "selah", a time to reflect and absorb what the previous song said, they would say, "that was where we needed to pick up the tempo and get them dancing! don't you see?" And songs I once enjoyed became depressing, and I could sing nothing meditative without worrying about getting reamed in the next staff meeting. Now these leaders saw a different aspect of "the life of the people" than I was seeing (and who is to say they were wrong?). Jesus Culture is wonderful, Jason Upton is wonderful, Hillsong is wonderful, John Wesley is wonderful - a church Body ought to be able to absorb all of these. But I do remember conversing with a missionary to Cote d'Ivoire who told me that before he preached, each of the ten or so tribes which came had their own praise team, and they had worship for hours - successively - as none of them recognized the other's music as real worship music. Just like in the USA, except they weren't rich enough to afford their own buildings and preachers.
Three or four times in my life (40 years of ministry) changes in location or pastors or fashion have placed me in a position to "come to love" music outside my comfort-sphere (or caused friction within the congregation that I would have to deal with). This has been good -- it has caused me to grow, and not get entrenched in any fixed style or situation. "Good" only means "comfortable" for the lazy.
Do you mind if I read this out loud tomorrow night at practice? You've summarized in a very short space a very long list of issues that we've been experiencing since we started including some contemporary music with our traditional congregational singing about fifteen years ago. I've even at times been at the point where I've felt responsible for some of our musical conflict, since I supplied the bass amp, played for a while then gave the senior pastor some guidance in learning to play the bass at his request, then switched to electric guitar and began to leave my setup at church. And yet I enjoy piano and organ led congregational singing and don't want to lose that. And though our musical tension doesn't often flare into verbal skirmishes, in that one sense I'm the Friedrich Krupp of our version of the worship wars. :)
I would be very glad. Anything that helps people recognize their tensions and deal with them. Can you imagine how bad a group would sound without the passions that, when they are brought together, produce tension? You would have chocolate ice cream without the bitter chocolate, the vanilla to empower it, the sugar to sweeten it, the bracing chill from the refrigerator. You would have lukewarm milk.
This is good stuff Greg, thanks for posting that.
There are a lot of songs I put my nose to the grindstone and weather through, but for the most part it's more about how the songs are done, and less about the song itself. I put the percussion of Florence + The Machine's"Dog Days are Over" to the song "We Bring The Sacrifice of Praise" and it made it sound, "almost" edgy.
Out of general integrity I absolutely refuse to ever use the verses on "Awesome God." My grammatical/musical sensibilities can only handle so much corn.
First, the only circumstances where it is ever appropriate to sing "Puttin' on the Ritz" are in Young Frankenstein references, period.
Second, the obsessive compulsive disorder of taking the last letter off every other word was so embarrassingly "tryin'-to-be-gansta" even the suburbs shook their heads in shame. It sounded like finger nails on a chalkboard in the 80s/90s, and it still does today. Rich Mullins wrote some excellent songs, and the chorus of the song is still, "awesome" but I don't know what went through his mind when he wrote and recorded that monstrosity.
Gee, gawrsh, man, didn' ya see that awesom' video of Carman doin' Awesome God - it's so relevan' , so down TOWN, man. And yet our kids presented those Human Videos in youth group, we loved seeing Jesus go down for the eight count and get up and punch out the devil, and people still do things like that all over the world, in different forms. Folk drama. Good stuff if you don't get embarrassed easily.
Thanks... I spent years trying to heal the psychological trauma to my fragile little mind caused by Carman and you just brought it all back! lol