Last week I introduced the concept of us being a “Worship Leading Choir”, so let’s list some of the things we do at LBC to reinforce this concept.
First, song is selected in an effort to usher the congregation into worship. In fact, as I select music for the choir I consciously connect it with the rest of the music in the service; the choir number is generally a culminating musical moment for the entire musical part of the service – all the songs preceding it lead up to it thematically.
Another thing we started doing about one month ago was to put the words to both the Call to Worship and the choir special on the screens. This is meant as an invitation for the congregation to join us in singing. Some anthems are more appropriate for congregational participation than others, but by placing the words up on the screen it is my hope the congregation will focus less on us and more on the text (and the text will naturally focus them on God).
Another element of this entire Choir as Worship Leader philosophy is that we sometimes do anthem arrangements of songs we sing as a congregation (Amazing Grace) while other times we do anthems that teach the congregation a new song we later use as a congregational song (Praise the Father, Praise the Son and You Alone Can Rescue).
Yet none of this answers the question, “How do we prepare to lead others in worship?” And for that I’m going to draw on the very first item listed in last week’s list from Robert Eric Walker: “Don’t just rehearse the music, rehearse the worship!”
We need to shift our focus at our weekly rehearsals. We should not view our time together on Sunday afternoons as a musical rehearsal time but a worship preparation time. That’s why we spend time each week praying together and talking about the meaning behind the text we sing, discussing how the music complements the message. I am working to lead you in worship during our choir time so that you can lead the congregation on Sunday mornings. In many ways you are the worship leaders on Sunday morning, not me – it’s your faces they see and voices they hear most of the service (remember, when the anthem starts I turn my back to the congregation so I can conduct you!)
That very fact – that you are the worship leaders in the service – should challenge you to understand the text you are communicating. Make sure that text reaches you into the deepest parts of your heart and soul – you need to truly internalize it. Item #2 from last week was “A song will never mean more to the people than it means to you.” That statement assumes the song means something to you – so ensure that it does! And as we internalize the song and let it mean something to us, we naturally engage our hearts and worship becomes more than just musical notes but a spiritual exercise (item #4 from the list).
Finally, as we internalize the music, we take it with us when we leave, so that we can reflect on it during the week. Remember that worship is not a once-a-week occurrence but a daily discipline (or it should be that way). As I teach you music and text I am working to equip you not only to lead corporate worship on Sunday morning, but also personal worship throughout the week. Use the songs we sing on Sundays to carry you through the week – reflect on them and pray them every day.
And what you’ll notice is that these are all connected – as you focus on internalizing the words you’ll engage your heart, which means you’ll be worshiping throughout the week, which means your worship on Sunday will be better focused, which means you’ll more easily internalize the text, which means… It’s a beautiful cycle!