The Task of a Worship Leader (Part 2)

I have finished the second section (“The Task”) of Worship Matters by Bob Kauflin.  As a reminder, the section covers the author’s definition of what a worship leaders should do: A faithful worship leader magnifies the greatness of God in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit by skillfully combining God’s Word with music, thereby motivating the gathered church to proclaim the gospel, to cherish God’s presence, and to live for God’s glory.

As the author went through that statement phrase by phrase, there were two chapters that stood out as gems and another two that supplemented those two gems.  They are chapters 11 & 12, “Skillfully Combining God’s Word” & “With Music (Part One: What Kind?)” and chapters 13 & 14, “With Music (Part Two: Planning Sunday’s Songs)” & “Thereby Motivating the Gathered Church” respectively.

The two “gem” chapters were able to bring out with clarity the fact that all of our worship is based upon the Word of God and then how the Bible uses music with the Word and how we can utilize both.  The next two chapters get very practical in the preparation of songs and how we can bring the gathered church into a worship of God.  Of all the book that I’ve read so far, these are by far the greatest chapters (I’ve come across so far) and are must reads.

Here is a small sampling of those first two chapters:

Chapter 11: “Skillfully Combining God’s Word”

“Singing and preaching aren’t incompatible or opposed to each other in any way.  Both are meant to exalt the glory of Christ in our hearts, minds, and wills.  The whole meeting is worship; the whole meeting should be filled with God’s Word.  And the whole meeting should be characterized by the Spirit’s presence.  Eagerly expecting the Spirit’s power in our meetings goes hand in hand with a radical commitment to the authority and sufficiency of God’s Word” (p 89).

“Songs are de facto theology.  They teach us who God is, what he’s like, and how to relate to him…That’s why we want to sing God’s Word…If the Word of Christ is going to “dwell in [us] richly” (Colossians 3:16), we need songs that explain, clarify, and expound on what God’s Word says.  We need songs that have substantive, theologically rich, biblically faithful lyrics.  A consistent diet of shallow, subjective worship songs tends to produce shallow, subjective Christians.  That doesn’t mean every song requires a seminary degree to understand, or that it needs seven verses.  Simple songs can be just as biblical and helpful as complex ones, especially when they avoid overused or trite phrases” (p 92).

“Too often we can be tempted to choose songs because of the music rather than the theological content.  We need to realize that when words are combined with music we can be deceived.  Music can make shallow lyrics sound deep.  A great rhythm section can make drivel sound profound…[that’s] why I typically read the lyrics before listening to a CD…It’s not that music is irrelevant.  If great words are being sung to terrible music, no one will remember them or want to sing them.  But according to the Lord’s command, what should be dwelling in us richly is the Word of Christ, not musical experiences…

I should mention here that a skillful leader can fill in what a song might leave out.  No song, traditional or modern, says everything we want it to.  But just because a song is incomplete doesn’t mean I can’t use it.  I can add spontaneous comments between lines, say something in advance, or place other songs around it to supply the missing elements.  The bottom line is: Sing God’s Word.  Lyrics matter more than music.  Truth transcends tunes” (p 93).

Chapter 12: “With Music (Part One: What Kind?)”

“We have been intentional about helping people focus on the lyrics as they sing.  We’ve taken to heart Gordon Fee’s comment: “Show me a church’s songs and I’ll show you their theology.”  We know that people need songs that feed them, not simply songs that feel good.  Here are specific ways we’ve tried to serve the lyrics with our music.

The words to our songs should be as strong and memorable as the truths we set them to or the arrangements we put behind them.  At times I’ve chosen not to do a well-known song because I thought the music was more impacting than the lyrics.  The catchiness factor surpassed the weightiness factor…

Songs can say something in different ways.  Objective lyrics tell us something true about God that helps us know him better…Subjective lyrics express responses to God such as love, longing, conviction, or adoration…Reflective lyrics describe what we’re doing as we worship God…These three categories aren’t hand-and-fast divisions, and many songs contain all three perspectives.  All three can contribute to strong lyrics.  But when we don’t major on objective truth, our songs can quickly drift into emotionalism and self-absorption.  We start to worship our own experiences.

Again, that doesn’t mean that all our songs need to be theological treatises.  But if our primary criteria for using a song has to do with whether it’s popular or enjoyable to sing, we’re going to have a hard time persuading anyone that truth matters more than music” (p 101).

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