Keep Your Words Few

28 03 2010

Granny Chase used to say “God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason.”  James the half-brother of Jesus stated in a similar way “This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger” (James 1:19 NASB).

I don’t know why being in front of people can open the spigot of speech for some worship leaders.  Unless you are the preacher most of the time our words should be kept to a minimum.  More often than not we will detract from the flow of worship with our talking.  Whenever we interrupt the flow, worshipers have to refocus from God to us back to God.

There might be times that we have to interject something but those occasions are rare.


Reading a Song

14 12 2009

Music reading is a science within itself. There are many successful worship leaders who read very little or no music at all.  However, they do know how to read the song.  Much of singing has to do with phrasing and dynamics.  Leaders who can emphasize the right parts of the song help congregations focus on the message better than those who do not.

We’ve talked about mood and the importance of using it to set the tone of a worship assembly.  Proper phrasing is every bit as important as determining mood. Notice the following phrase, read it and emphasize the bold text and see what it does to the meaning of the sentence.

A mighty fortress is our God.
A mighty fortress is our God.
A mighty fortress is our God.
A mighty fortress is our God.
A mighty fortress is our God.

In contemporary artist Chris Tomlin’s song “How Great is our God” he means for us to emphasize this phrase differently each time we sing it in the tag.

How great is our God, sing with me.
How great is our God and all will see,
How great, how great is our God.

The power in the song often comes in the subtle nuances of emphasizing a word or phrase.  Reading a song means determining where to get louder, softer, broader, quicker or where to insert a lift or a pause.  These things will go a long way into making a song live and bringing the meaning to life in the hearts of worshipers.

Many recording artists never do the stanzas of a song the same and vary the emphasis of the chorus each time they sing through it.  Although we are not going to be able to be as fancy in our execution of a song we can punch up the style in every song we lead.

One of my favorite songs is “Low in the Grave”. As an exercise in reading a song let’s go through and mark the parts of the song that should be emphasized.

Low in the grave He lay,                  This is dark, sorrow filled.
Jesus my Savior,
Waiting the coming day,                  Here is a glimmer of hope.
Jesus my Lord!

Vainly they watch His bed,          I would skip the refrain and go
Jesus my Savior;                              right to this stanza
Vainly they seal the dead,          This time is brighter with hope
Jesus my Lord!                                Emphasis on Vainly

Up from the grave He arose,                              There is a stark contrast from the
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes,              stanzas.  This is bright and lively.
He arose a Victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever, with His saints to reign.
He arose! He arose!
Hallelujah! Christ arose!

Death cannot keep its Prey,               This is the most important
Jesus my Savior;                                    part of the song!
He tore the bars away, Don’t lead this stanza slow
Jesus my Lord!                                        Emphasis with broadening

–Robert Lowry, 1826-1899

The last time through the Refrain needs to be a joyous, powerful, almost out of control celebration.  Get bigger every time you exclaim “He Arose!”

Much of reading a song is relative.  However, some topics and themes lead us to joy, sorrow, anger, doubt, determination and many emotions.  Look for those themes and phrases.  Help your congregation see your interpretation by big facial and body movements that demonstrate the appropriate expression.

Get In The Mood

9 12 2009

Your mood is important to the message you are trying to portray. Songs, Scripture and sermons all have mood messages that are our job to duplicate. Mixed signals can confuse worshipers. The mood of “Holy, holy, holy” would be ruined if sung like “Jesus is Coming Soon.” The joy of Exodus 15 cannot be read correctly like The sad words of Jeremiah 9.

“Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord, saying, I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea. 2 The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. 3 The Lord is a man of war; the Lord is his name” (Exodus 15:1-3)

“Oh that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!2 Oh that I had in the desert a travelers’ lodging place, that I might leave my people and go away from them! For they are all adulterers, a company of treacherous men.3 They bend their tongue like a bow; falsehood and not truth has grown strong in the land; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they do not know me, declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 9:1-3).

Mood is important to understanding a message. Conversations depend greatly upon the inflection that mood brings. It will take some work on your part to bring the mood off of a dead piece of paper. Look for the clues we use in language to help discern the intended mood.

Some Mood Markings

Punctuation in Scripture and dynamic markings help you know some of the intended mood.

Sometimes the use of short or curt wording lead us to see anger or urgency. Subject matter often indicate the type of mood is appropriate. Be aware of the mood expressed and match that with your singing or reading.

It seems only natural for us to use the mood built into types of songs and passages of Scripture to build mood into a worship assembly.

Worship that centers on repentance and godly sorrow calls for songs and readings with those moods.

  • Come Ye Sinners Poor and Needy
  • Break My Heart
  • My Eyes are Dry
  • 2 Corinthians 7:8-11
  • Psalm 51

These songs and passages reflect the state of heart and being needed for a worship theme of repentance and godly sorrow.

There is much to be gained by learning to discern mood in Scripture text and in poetry and in musical phrasing.  Adjusting our mood to the passage or song will bless those we are trying lead. Fill your heart with a lot of the Bible and sing a wide variety of styles so you can shape your demeanor as needed for worship leading.