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Expressing the Value of Intimacy Through Song Selection (ThinkJump Journal #34 Kim Gentes)

A whlie ago, our family had recently moved to a new area, after having lived in the same city and church community for 20 years. Moving changed my perspective on how I view church. After 20 years of being a leader in a couple of church plants, pastoring, and serving as a worship leader, I found myself and my family looking from the outside in when it comes to finding and engaging in a local church family. It was a sobering thing. My thoughts on the topic here come from that perspective. 

As I thought about the concepts of intimacy and familiarity, I thought about what happened on our first visit to a new church. My family and I were still reeling emotionally from the change of the move from Arizona to Tennessee. As we stepped into this local church for the first time, the music was skillful and worship was exciting and vibrant, but none of us became deeply engaged. My sons, my wife and I couldn't help but stand amongst a new family and feel out of place, lost in someone else's songs and community. Certainly, we understood that this time of devotion is about God. He is worthy, He is good and He is due our honor and praise. Yet, in the pain of our human circumstance, our emotions and hearts lagged far behind our knowledge of God's faithfulness. He was worthy, but we felt lost in the moment of our personal grief.

As the time of worship neared an end we heard the familiar progression of a song we all knew. The soothing lyrics began to lift us. The keyboard player, a lady, began singing  the classic "Breathe". My wife, who rarely ever cries in public, melted by the powerful message of the song we all knew so well. As the words rang out "I'm desperate for You" and "I'm lost without you", she cried, I cried- we just wept, knowing that it was so true. For that moment, God seemed to draw close and remind us that he cared about us and knew exactly about our situation of having our lives turned upside-down. Probably without knowing it, this little local church had offered a place of intimacy for our weary family, not because we got to know them relationally, but because they played one song we knew.

The whole ordeal does sound a bit silly now in recounting it. But for our family, that tiny act of encouragement on their part exposed the value of intimacy that was embedded in this local church, simply by including one well known song in their Sunday morning play list.

In my life as a leader, I long to find such simple touch-points for every person I have the opportunity to encourage. Whether it be in familiar songs, scripture quotes or just a kind hand of support at the right time, I have found that the simplicity of my service will change the lives of others if I honestly consider how life must feel from their perspective.

How many familiar songs should a worship leader include in their Sunday morning worship? Each church must listen and follow the direction of the Holy Spirit on how their song selection reflects God's heart for their community. But I would urge you to consider that you are not just a cloistered community waiting for the great rapture, hoping to escape the rough storms that rage in the sea of humanity that surrounds your local church.

Your community is an outpost, a lighthouse, for the weary travelers that come to your light. As those travelers come to your light, the sound of a familiar song silences the storms of their lives, giving them a moment to possibly hear from the heart of God. You serve them, and not yourselves, when you include those anthems of the faith in your times of worship.

I believe it is that kind of selfless service in which Jesus once mentioned-

"I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward." (Mark 9:41)


Serving with you,

Kim Gentes

(originally written for: The Essentials Worship Values with Dan Wilt)

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Reader Comments (40)

How wonderful to be a part of the Church. But are you using "worship" as a synonym for "music"? Because I had a very similar experience when I moved to Los Angeles many years ago, but related to the preaching as well, and perhaps more than, the music. The Word was handled so accurately, and the meaning was explained and applied so clearly, I was nearly moved to tears. God was so gracious to lead me to a place where His Word was so highly exalted. It was what my heart longed for and He gave me the desire of my heart. It is all worship.

November 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterScott Holmes

I recently had the same experience, also after moving from one town to another. We also felt a little lost in the church we had started visiting. Even though it was similar in some ways to the church we'd just left, enough was unfamiliar that we felt a bit bereft. In particular, this church plays a lot of original music, so we didn't know most of the songs. We told ourselves it was superficial and didn't matter, because we knew the new church had sound doctrine and clear devotion to God, but struggled to learn new song after new song. Then, my second or time there, they played an old hymn that I love, and my tears also started flowing! That's not the only reason we decided to stay in that church, but it certainly helped to find a bit of continuity with the experience of worship I was familiar with. Since then, they've continued to feature at least one song a week that we knew before, and meanwhile we're starting to learn the new ones. (Though last week, I nearly fell apart when they played a song our old church played all the time last year! I tried to view it not as a reminder of losing our old church, but as a reminder that God is at work in our new church just as He was in our last one.)

Thanks for the post, because I didn't want to complain, but did want church music directors to realize it's helpful to occasionally play songs that not only praise the Lord, but also, to some degree, connect people with other experiences they've had with God's church around the world. It reminds us that we're not, as you say, a cloistered community, but part of the much bigger family of God, and that one day we'll all be singing His praise together!

November 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlison

Great post Scott. Well said. Love what you have said about how any act of a community church gathering can bring the heart to worship. I agree that great preaching, liturgy, music, devotion, prayer, helping and hospitality are examples of other types of service in which worship may take place.

In my opinion, worship itself happens as an act, and can be seen through people doing these acts as devotion, or also in the reply of those engaged as their response to the service being expressed.

From what I have studied, strictly speaking, the scriptural words that are translated "worship" normally have their roots in two specific meanings:

1. worship (submission; obeisance)- to bow, to submit, to surrender, to offer. An act of submission. Specifically- obeisance. In this first rendering, the worship words always clearly point to an offering, a posture, and always an act that is in response to another (normally God).

2. worship (service) - an act of service, sometimes related to the duties of a priest. This is the lesser translated term, and is what we find in Romans 12:1, where the worship word is often translated "service".

In this light, anyone can sing music, render service, give a sermon or offer a sacrifice- and it may itself not be worship. The moment it becomes worship is when the submission of the heart of person is engaged. In that sense, "it is all worship". However, I don't take the general tact that anything done in church (or outside) is worship. Because the submission aspect is a requirement of scripture in its use, I generally think it must exist in the act in present day for it to be considered worship. Thus, when I see/engage in music that is devotionally submissive to the Father, offering the hearts of the singers in its activity- then I consider it worship. Problematic of that is how inability (and thankfully our non-qualified status) to actually determine whose heart is submitted to God in the process of such a time. He will measure, He will determine. I must give my brothers and sisters full benefit of believing the best for them- that their hearts are bent towards Him.

Anyways, blessing to you. Thanks for the comments.


November 14, 2009 | Registered CommenterKim Gentes

Great thoughts Alison! Glad you shared. Us worship leaders can occasionally get too narrowly focused for sure. Like others, we are so busy and working hard at just getting through the day/week that we sometimes don't consider others and their experience. That said, we are trying to do better and love it when people like yourself share your experiences to help us see these things. Thanks for sharing your heart.


November 14, 2009 | Registered CommenterKim Gentes

Kim Your article brought back a tidal wave of feelings and emotions. Once having been the pianist for a praise team, I was somewhat "in charge" of the selections, based on the agreement of the other members of the praise team. We encouraged members to tell us of favorites they would like to sing. We got a few from this effort. I tried my best to include newer contemporary songs like Shout to the Lord , Clap YOur Hands, Because He Lives, and old hymns like The Old Rugged Cross.
But I moved from sunny California to lovely Oregon with its four seasons in full array.
I went to a number of churches trying to get settled in to this community. Genreally I found when the music was impersonal, cold, mechanical, so were the people! I finally landed in a church in which I think the music is perfect. Here's how it is done:
After the welcome a good have dozen or maybe one or two more Praise and Worship songs gets us up on our feet and throwing our hearts to the Lord in praise. You know things like Open My Eyes Lord, This is the Day, Majesty, All Hail the Power of Jesus Name, Jesus Name Above All Names, I'll Fly Away, Isn't He? Well you get the pciture.
This is followed by 3 old hymns dispersed through the rest of the service. Old standards like Amazing Grace, Come Thou Font, Wonderful Wods of Life, Great is Thy Faithfulness.

It seems balanced, and I think everyone really feels like they have connected with each other and more importantly, with the Lord.

Music in the church service is so crucial. I strongly disagree with some who claim the old songs are meaningless...that they are songs about God, not to God. Some how I think God is pleased with both...especially when the attitude of the singer is one of true worship.

November 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCatelin

I have to smile, as I experienced something similar but it wasn't even in church. We had recently moved cross country. We were going to a good church we really liked and were making friends, but still some days I so missed home and the family who still lived there. As I was driving in the car, I heard a song playing that was a popular one at my old church. It was like a hug from God to encourage me in a big way that day and every time I thought of it. Due to caregiving needs that kept me busy, it took three years to really start feeling at home there, and then it was time to move again.

Now the move is over, and I am again back in the new spot you were in. The music at our newest church is definitely different, but God is still there holding me close and reminding me, through this article and good memories, that He will be with me through it all.

Thank you for an interesting article and a good reminder. :)

November 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKaye Swain

I love your comment Kim.
I have led Worship for several seasons at a First Nations Church on a reservation in Southern Alberta.
Even though their culture was somewhat different than what I was used to, one thing we had in common was worshiping and praising the Lord. Since I lead the Worship team, I would always start out with prayer for guidance of the Holy Spirit as to what songs to bring forth. We would never rehearse but let the moving of the Holy Spirit flow freely. Many times a particular song that was sung, music that was played would be specifically for someone that just happened to walk in, searching for answers. We would sing new songs and old.....whatever the Holy Spirit moved us to do.
We would sing spontaneous songs and play music that would come forth through the Holy Spirit.....a new song, that very instant! Exhortation through music.....what a blessed time it was!
In our time of worship we would call forth those from the congregation that had a song to sing from the Lord and a word.
Our praise and worship would last anywhere from 1 to 3 hours.
I have since moved on to a larger city and have come to realize that most congregations operate through time factors and preselected songs and hymns for the day. I feel the Holy Spirit hindered by man's schedule and man's order.
I again long to experience the free movement of the Holy Spirit as I did in that little Church with the First Nations People.
I believe this is what worship of today will be made manifest..........unhindered, spontaneous, total congregation participation........all lead and governed by the Holy Spirit!
Bless all of you and keep singing for His Glory!!!!!!! Amen!

November 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDenise-Marie Demers

Very provoking article, Kim. You, as always, were very skilled in crafting words that experessed your thoughts and the emotions that envelop them. I especially appreciate that you made applications for those of us who have the privilege, due to our calling and assignment, of welcoming and including new people who come through our church building doors. People tend move more effortlessly from the known to the unknown, or from the familiar to the less familiar. Something as simple as a song can be such an effective vehicle to move people in so many ways: To feel welcomed. To sense God's presence. To be encouraged. To be comforted. To open an otherwise closed heart to the moment. To regain some stamina for the fight. The list is endless. For me, the foundation that all these observations rest on is this: Our AMAZING Father will use any and all opportunities to connect with us, heart to heart. When worship leaders, pastors and other folks who are expressly assigned to welcome and include "get it", the outcome is often beyond anything we could do in the natural. Part of getting it means that we become more intentional in our part of helping to connect people to the Father...heart to heart. A simple, anointed song becomes miraculous in the hands of God. Your article is a great reminder that we are all potential vehicles which God, the Holy Spirit will use to give folks an "easy" ride right to His heart!

November 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMark Morgan

Kaitlin, Kay and Denise, thanks so much for your thoughts and chiming in. Great points and encouraging stories for each of us. God is as diverse as we are and has so much in store for His children. Thanks for your thoughts.

Mark- thanks for giving us a great perspective from the pastoral leader. Really, we need those kinds of dialogs... us worship leaders tend to think we are the only ones worried about these things :) ... Truly appreciate and love your heart and ministry. Bless you..

November 14, 2009 | Registered CommenterKim Gentes

I loved your post. I am not sure how I got, but is has significants for me. I was a member in a church that split and since them have been over 50 churches searching for a new home church. My faith in God has not changed. During this time I have learned that Worship is not just an action word, it is a place where I want to be. I do not go to church to experience worship, bring worship with me. During a very stress full time in my life, the end of a marriage, health issues and trouble at work, God has allowed me to learn a very special lesson. I must live my life in worship, this does not mean you walk around singing, but your spirit is worshiping him. I recent experience when I was in a hospital, a doctor said he was concerned because even in sleep my vocal chords were moving. The nurse wink at me and said "Doc she is praying without ceasing," I would have said I was worshiping. I

November 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterWanda Patrick

I have no idea how I received an email to this blog but I have to say that it makes my heart cry out…
I have been very involved in worship – as a leader and a musician – in a few churches over these past two decades and my heart just aches. God used some really tough times in mine and my family’s lives to teach me about surrender and to show me His heart. He had to take me to the place where I would be content – delighted even – if I never did another thing except just love Him.
I know Pastors who, after getting a small taste, long so much for relevance, long so much for their flock to touch God, that the worship and service becomes an orchestration. (and the flock follows along… things can get really wild, if you know what I mean.) Conversely, I know Pastors who, being so repelled by the ‘show’ (and the ones who are ‘way out there’) that they make sure that doesn’t happen where they are, and in doing so, end up quenching the Holy Spirit and prohibiting a personal (and often emotional) touch-point with our Father. In both endeavors, God is not the focus; God is not what it ends up being about.
I am so very conscious that these thirty to sixty minutes may be the only time someone has been in a place to touch God; the only time someone has been still enough to hear Him or quiet enough to really feel. I take that very seriously. God must be the focus, God must be in control. We must seek Him with our whole heart and allow…
I know that if we could just get to that place… I know that He so longs for us…
My heart rejoices when I hear of things like your experience. He is more than enough; He will be glorified; and oh how He loves us!

November 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterT Hartzell

Very good article Kim. It really stirs my heart and look at the local church in a different perspective.

Bless you.

November 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBryant Chatley

meant to say "it makes me look at the local church from a different perspective" :)

November 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBryant Chatley

Hi Kim,

When preparing a list of songs for the musical portion of a worship service, I try to stick with what is familiar. I've found that a good place to start is the CCLI top 100. I've also taken some good new songs from KLOVE's top 25. Shuffle that all with a more popular hymn and it seems to work. As far as current repertoire is concerned I add maybe one to two songs every other month and once a song is introduced I try and do it two weeks in a row, let it rest a week, then do it again. Now, this doesn't mean I don't do songs that aren't in the CCLI top 100. If it's a great song and I "own" it and the team "owns" it, it'll make it's way into the rotation.

Maybe we can for a moment think of worship (musical portion on a Sunday or whenever) like a pot luck meal. If you're like me then you might sort of gravitate toward what is familiar. Don't we look for the mac and cheese and deviled eggs or stick with what we brought or look for or favorites or what our friend brought. I think we try to stick with those things that appeal to us? We're creatures of habit and we like to be comfortable. If we're comfortable with the familiar (root is "family) fare we might venture out and try something new and different.

Several years ago I was blessed to lead worship for a Racers for Christ chapel service at an NHRA event. My wife and I led songs that I took from the old standby CCLI top 100 and threw in Amazing Grace because I figured everyone would know at least the first and last verses with a Praise God verse thrown in. The chaplain commended us for not doing "(y)our own thing" and putting on some kind of show. We were asked back the next year. We did a couple of the same songs as the first year and swapped It Is Well for AG. Again, the chaplain was very pleased because most of the attendees at the chapel service sang out. I tried to stick with what I thought might be familiar to those who would be in attendance. When you're doing something where people are coming from different church backgrounds it's a fine line to walk.

I guess my point is that corporate musical worship isn't about me (or "us" as worship leaders, singers, musicians) and more about service to the Body and the Lord.

I hope you and your family continue to find comfort in your new surroundings.

Be blessed!


November 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKeith Caughlin

That was an excellent post. I'm glad the Holy Spirit made sure that song got into the set so it could bless you and your family.

November 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMark

Hi, Kim! I haven't had to change churches in 18 years, but I've had similar feelings when visiting other places. Less intense, because I know I'm not going to be staying long. But enough to make me aware, and hopefully sensitive to the needs of visitors to my own church.

I try very hard to NOT do too much newer music on any given week, although the Spirit leads that way on rare occasions. I find myself on the opposite end of the spectrum: I try to use good hymns and proven contemporary songs as the foundation, and use the newer songs judiciously. My goal is never relevance for its own sake, but helping people engage with God through singing. And I think the well-tested songs aid in that goal. They also tend to be better songs, which is why they've held their own over time, whether that's 3 years or 1000 years.

[I have to admit, while I commend my approach, it has also resulted in me getting "behind the times" with regard to some newer songs, so I've been reaching out to colleagues for song nominations. I don't want worship to be trendy, but I don't want it to be stale, either!]

November 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPaul LePine

I empathise with you. We had been in our home church for over 30 years. Over 2 years ago we moved big time, to another city, church and country (India).

As we entered the small church for the first time, the vibrant singing grabbed us, and we (my wife and myself), felt this was somewhere we could fit in. In this city of 15 million, we had plenty of choices for churches, but we did not get past this first one. Yes the songs were about 10 years behind what we had in our home church, but we knew them and were able to fully participate in the worship, right from day one.

We still go to that church. We are involved in mission work in this great country of India.

November 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDave

I struggle with the idea that we have to know what we are doing to worship. "If I don't know the song, I'm not going to worship." Or "if the song isn't my song, I'm not going to worship."

At the same time, I recognize that familiarity breeds comfort.

Yet, I still recognize that God calls each church to bring its best - and while that worship offering might have some similarities to its neighbors, there are going to be things that are unique.

When our culture was more uniform (note the use of "more uniform" and not just "uniform), this wasn't as noticeable as a problem. But these days, churches seem to be experimenting with giving the kind of worship offering to God that they think they ought to be giving: which means breaking from the norm.

Many churches who can't afford or don't want to pay costly CCLI fees are relying on public domain music and even writing their own songs. THIS IS GREAT!

Ultimately, while the question concerning how much familiar music should be involved in a church's worship offering is a common question: I think it misses the most important aspect of our worship offering and makes a churches worship offering more about the people giving it than it does God.

It should be said that we give the worship offerings that we give because this is what God has asked us to give to Him. And since we have a wide variety of cultures in our country - this means that we are going to have different worship offerings too.

November 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCory Zipperle

I am a worship leader in our church and the worship team of which I am part, uses many of our own songs, other new mainstream songs and songs from less common 'stables' which to us become familiar but to those coming in, are completely new. Yet people who come in, new to us, will often speak of how, in the midst of all the new, they really sensed the presence of God.

I have read the original post and follow-up comments with interest and can understand that desire to feel a place of belonging and how this may be met by the use of familiar songs. I also agree with the point made that when you're doing something where people are coming from different church backgrounds it's a fine line to walk to make it accessible and certainly when we do a 'joint service' for a group of churches, we are careful not to use all new material.

BUT, and for me, this is a big but, it's important always to remember that:

Worship is for God not for us. In corporate worship, we simply cannot know the emotional state and needs of every person in attendance and the truth is that it is very easy to confuse soulish nostalgia with anointed intimacy of spirit with God simply because tears flow and emotions run high. We have one lady in our congregation who can only meet with God when we sing the songs of her childhood. I'm sorry but there's something wrong there. The Word says "Sing a new song" and so we should be able to worship with both old and new. God will use whatever vehicle He can to meet with His people. He is so much bigger than we think or imagine!

In terms of song choices, if we follow the concept that it is important to be mindful of those who are new to our meetings and therefore always include songs that are familiar, then what about being mindful of those who are, for example, bereaved, wounded and in deep pain. Should we then avoid being too happy clappy with our song choices in the midst of their pain? I know I'm laboring a point but this is the danger of choosing songs to suit people, me, you, us. I believe that when we make worship about what suits the congregation, we lose sight of the purpose of it which is and should always be our sacrificial offering to God. I might be feeling the lowest of low but He is still worthy of my praise and worship, and as we cannot outgive God, if I give sacrificially, no matter now I feel, He will find a way to bring blessing to me in return.

Many of the old hymns are brimming full of truth, fantastic and still and probably always will carry an anointing. However some familiar old hymns are so full of antiquated words that some people find them incomprehensible. Others simply aren't true to the Word. We need to remember the power of songs to form doctrinal viewpoints. The content needs to be understandable and biblical.

I know my views will not be accepted by some but I feel so strongly about this thing, and even more so about song choice. Why, when the leader of the service or the worship leader says "Let's praise the Lord" or Let's worship" , do so many then launch into songs that are asking God for something instead. If I come to God to worship, surely it's for Him and about Him, not about ME. Asking him to "Open my eyes, I want to see Jesus" is asking Him to do for something for me, not telling Him how wonderful He is. If I sing a song about me and my Christian walk then how can I ask others to sing that song with integrity if their experience isn't the same as mine? I love the song Breathe, as a ministry song but to ask a whole congregation to sing "I'm desperate for You" and "I'm lost without you", just isn't integrity because you can bet that a lot of them aren't either desperate or feeling lost and yet they are being asked to sing these words. Isn't that asking them to lie?

So yes. I agree that the use of some familiar intimate songs will be a help but really it shouldn't be about my needs and the words should be true for everyone to sing not just me in my current emotional state. So as long as the song is God-focussed and about Him, therefore always true, no matter how I feel, I agree with the points made about familiar songs and hymns having their place.

November 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCate


I'm not sure how I even received your e-mail but I am happy I did. Your story rings very true with my experiences. I am a Mechacnial Engineer by trade but have always had a deep rooted pasion for music. I would consider myself an OK musician but certainly not a pro. However, music of any kind has always resonated to the core of my sole. Even a simple 4 part vocal chord has caused my spine to tingle and on occasion moved me to tears. I regard music as a very spiritual experience and as such a very powerful tool in many settings. A scarry movie would be much less scarry if there were no sound track.

I played bass in one of our church worship team bands for about 5 years. Our group evolved through many phases over the 5 years including composing and recording some original songs. Throughout that experience I always felt an immense responsibilty to understand the power of mixing spiritual, emotional, and mental responses. I think worship musicians have a profound influence over how and what people worship in a congregational setting. In my opinion there is a very fine line between enabling worship and manipulating it. Our pastor once offered the notion that the only spiritual experiences we as human beings are aware of are those that are coupled with an emotional response. Our spiritual being may encounter many spiritual events that our concious mind is unaware of since there was no corresponding emotional response. The Lord works in mysterious ways many of which we never know conciously. That comment by our pastor is very thought provoking and gave me even more reason to consider the role and responsibilty of a worship team. Leading worship is all about enabling and facilitating a connection. The element of that connection that we will be aware of is the spiritual/emotional one. I think it is hugly important that the worship team understand and "read" the congregation so that every opportunity exists for every member of the congregation to connect. This of course holds true for dance, sermons, drama, choirs, and all other elements of a worship service.

I have had the pleasure twice now to participate in a song writing course taught by Brian Doerksen, Robin Mark, and Paul Baloche. This was at Breakforth in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada my home town. The setting was a small classroom with about 50 students for an entire day. It was a fantastic experience and those three guys are fantastic people. I was there as a greenhorn song writer to simply learn. Of course there were a few budding professionals who were much more advanced. I believe it was Paul Baloche, but don't quote me, who queried who in the group thought they had something unique and different that they had created. About 5 hands went up. Paul responded by explaining the concept of eternity which would suggest an existence that was, is, and will always be infinite both historically and in our future. Paul concluded by saying that "It's all been done before so get over yourselves. That's not what it's about." Paul's delivery was very respectful and done with love. However, it did make the point that what ever we do is pre-understood and pre-ordained by God and that we should get our focus on him rather than our own accomplishments. Somewhere an angel has or will write that melody or that lyric already. The point is - whatever is needed to assist someone to get closer to God is what should be done or played in a worship setting. If a single drum with a single beat is needed at that time then that is what should be played.

I once asked my 10 year old daughter why she believes in God. She said "I just do". Worshiping God is very simple. "Just Do !!!" I think he intended it that way. I was always amased at the response when we just played "O come let us adore Him, Oh come let us adore Him, Oh come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord". It is a simple and very universal call to worship that likely just about everyone in the english speaking world has heard at some point in their life. It immediately evokes a response from just about every member of the congregation. That's what music, speach, light, and movement in a worship setting should do.


In Christ, Brad.

November 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBrad

I had a similar experience of God's grace and love a couple of years ago while attending an easter camp in New Zealand. I was on holiday at the time with my son in Auckland, and went to the easter Camp as a servant to help setup and act as parent help to his youth Group. The camp was awesome yet I felt lost inside as I was away from home working with an awesome though new to me youth group in a camp of about 3500 youth.
Sunday night rolled around, hjust another time of loud worship sinnging mahy unfamiliar (to me) very loud worship songs when the band began to play Majesty. As we hit the word "your grace has found me just as I am, empty handed but alive in your hands" I was just overcome with the love of God, standing there, tears pouring down my face. I couldn't understand it at first, I was there to serve, and had not thought about myself or my needs at all and here in the middle of this service God came to me and showed me and told me just how much I was loved, How much he knew I needed His love enven though I did not know myself.
I was blown away by the this. I love worship, yet in all my 60 years as a worshipper, worship leader God has never touched me the way He did that camp. Being displaced and lost seems to create an openness for God to minister to people (me) in a way He cannot when I am in control and feeling fully self reliant. God needed me to become vulnerable to be able to show me His love when I least expected it.
Even now, sitting at my computer writing this, the memories of this are so strong I can hardly see my keybopard to write for the tears of joy in the presence of God's love!
Bless you for this message,
David Vercoe

November 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Vercoe

This whole exchange certainly hits home for me as a worship leader. I take seriously the responsibility of choosing worship music, and have the great privilege of close communication with the pastor so that the worship music is in tune with the message. Our pastor plans his messages months in advance and I then am able to plan music correspondingly. I do not see this as cold, manipulative, or in opposition to the flow of the Spirit. Rather, the pastor, myself, and others on the worship team are praying in the spirit as we prepare to communicate the message that God has given.
In so doing, I try to choose among "Psalms, hymns, spiritual songs," to use a variety of traditional hymns, familiar contemporary songs, and new songs. I try to keep in mind that music serves the purposes of touching hearts and spirits for worship, connecting us to God for petition and comfort, and touching our minds to teach Bible truths (and help our memory by linking the melody with the message.)
Our church at the present time is undertaking a purposeful transition from being an older, established and aging church, to reaching out to younger families, those new to the area and even those who don't have any prior experience of "church." It is not possible for me to know the needs of all who come, but God does, and I strive each week to listen to his spirit as I search for that balance, blend and flow that is music in worship.

November 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBeth

Years ago while I was at Langley Vineyard Brian Doerksen received an interesting semi-critique. The church was filled with talent, for besides Brian there was Craig Moussau and a number of others who wrote songs. We really could hardly sing all the new music that was coming out. But the comment was, "I wish that we could sing some of the old songs." There is comfort and memories attached to "old songs" even when they are two or three years old. I love the new and the creative, but there are times for the old and traditional, even newly traditional. They may not stimulate the mind like the new ones do, but they nourish the soul. That is a song in which God has met us, and in which he continues to meet us. Brian's response was to sort of hang his head as he does and say, "I know." We were a blessed church with lots of creative people, but in our blessing we still needed to find a place for the old.

November 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Davids

Many of my thoughts have been covered in one way or another by others but I wanted to weigh in briefly on two points as a Musician and Worship Leader:

As worshippers and Worship Leaders we DO need to make sure that we are not equating “music” and “worship” to the exclusion of other options for Praise. Music is a great tool to praise God but it shouldn’t be the only one we use or offer.

All too often our modern worship services are designed for the singer and the listener but not the non-singer. If you sing, you can participate but if you don’t, you are often left to listen and observe. You can pray along while everyone else is singing, but that is not very fulfilling.

That is where the millennium old traditions of responsive prayers, Psalm recitations, scripture readings and the like find their place and their use. Everyone can participate in these by simply reading along and they don’t have to learn a new melody to do so. Our sense of community across denominational lines can be maintained through scripture, if not through music, and all can worship together – with no-one feeling left out.

As for music selection, we also need to guard the congregational song from being taken over entirely by “the new song.” We are called to sing to God a new song but also to balance “Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs.” We shouldn’t allow ourselves to be so infatuated with the new that we toss out all the old, abandoning both our Elders and Seniors as well as visitors who may not be as “up-to-date” as we are.

The spirit is in the new but by singing the ancient hymns and psalms along side them, we are truly joining an eternal choir of believers – we can almost see the generations of Saints that preceded us as we join in songs that they sang. Then we can also proclaim God’s worth in the new Songs of our day.

November 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDenes Van Parys

Thanks so much for this article because it makes me realize as a worship leader that we need to add some older music in with the worship list. Sometimes we get caught up in adding the latest & greatest music that we forget about letting the words of older songs minister to the congregation. Not that the newer ones don't minister to the heart but it's always nice to hear an older familiar song that everyone can sing along with. I was just praying the other day and God spoke to my heart about using older songs in my worship list. I've started adding and few and WOW it makes such a difference in our time of worship.

November 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLeanna Wilson

Wow, this is such a coincidence for me. Although my worship background as a Roman Catholic is decidedly different from the type of service you all are used to, I am very interested in the role of music in the liturgy. We follow a set three year cycle (lectionary) for our scriptural readings and our music (in theory) taps into the readings of the day while hopefully still drawing the worshipper into a deeper prayerful relationship with God. I am working on my Master's Degree in liturgical studies and am examining the notion that people sing what they believe...I am limiting my research to Catholic liturgy to keep it manageable as recommended by my advisor. It will be a while before I have anything concrete written to share but if anyone wants to see my thesis whenever it is finally finished you can email me and I'll share it when done.

November 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMaureen

When entering a church as worship leaders, we can’t help critiquing the song portion of the service. And as humans we have expectations even when we try to be open to a different style than what we are accustomed. But no matter who we are, I also believe that we have to make a concerted effort to enter into worship when in a new place. Because I believe it’s largely a matter of our heart.
How many of us can honestly say that we go to church to meet with God? Aren’t we looking for a place to belong, wanting to fit in?
Moving from one place to another can be very frightening and difficult, no matter what the circumstances. This will make it harder to enter into worship. The safety net (those things and people that are familiar) is stripped away. And for the first time, perhaps, you realize how desperately you need God. The ones that you leaned on or became accustomed to seeing each week are no longer there.
Yet another thing that can happen: we feel freer to be ourselves and let our guard down before the Lord.
No one expects you to “act” a certain way because they don’t know you. If you are willing to take the risk, you can worship at church as though you were the only person in the presence of God. That’s another aspect of the song "Breathe", right? “This is the air I breathe; this is my DAILY bread…” God’s presence and Word-how wonderful to know we can’t live without Him. And then for someone to lead a song that addresses just how we feel! How awesome is that?
As a songwriter, I think the words are most important. As a musician I think the music is what takes us into the throne room of God. Yet knowing this is incomplete and oversimplified, I believe the heart of the person can transcend both.
I’ve been to various types of worship services and was lead into God’s presence more readily by a team that was clearly in an attitude of worship themselves.
However, my heart attitude can take me quickly into God’s presence or keep me in the outer court.
Kim, I am glad for you and your family that God is showing Himself faithful in your time of grief. As you let go of the familiar and grab hold of the new, ahh the things God has in store for all of you…
Keep growing in Him,

November 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah Sanchez

Greetings Kim,

Got your post through Worshipmusic enewsletter.

Great articile. As a worship leader and musician, I can certainly identify the importance of using "familiar songs" in our worship song list. I find that it is during the singing of such "familiar songs" that the congregation step into worship instead of singing. Congregational worship is more than singing, having a good feel, nice song or lyric ... it's about the lavishing worship from our heart (in unity) to our Lord & King!


November 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRicky Sim - Singapore

Kim - Thank you for sharing. I have saved your website and Think Jump Journal on my favorites. I miss your teaching and grateful for the connection. I'm praying for the time when I can have internet at home again, but until then I can tap into those who the Lord uses to feed by soul in little snippets here and there. I pray for you and your family often and bless you. I totally relate to the insight of your article. I am in a place of looking in from the outside in a few areas of my life. It is truly a humbling place of complete surrender and submission to the Lord ---- easy to say and know --- difficult to recieve and live out in my humaness --- only in the joy of the Lord which is strength. Thank you for blessing all of us, Diana

November 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDiana

I was deeply touched by your post Kim. I first read about this on Essentials Green which i am also doing. Your quote above about being a 'lighthouse' to the 'weary traveller' really got somewhere deep.

As you will have seen (i hope) on my comments on week 1 question, my church is going through a transition which has affected me deeply. I've been removed from my position as one of the main worship leaders and the choir leader - all because of a man made set of instructions i cannot follow which leave me with a feeling that there is no integrity in leadership.

I now feel like i am on the outside looking in on a community i was once leading. I am looking for that lighthouse but it seems to have disappeared. I am clinging on to faith and trust in my God that He will see me through. Our worship was sooo vibrant, introducing new different songs yet still embracing the beauty of old classics - Blessed Assurance. I know that Jesus is mine.

When we joined this church, the team was very much Hillsong lookalike in music style and appearance. There is a cultural diversity that needs to be considered so we serve all of the community. Now, for some reason, the light is flickering out of the lighthouse.

I desperately want to relight it as i know we serve a risen God and we have experienced Holy Spirit fire. I cannot lead for now, but i pray, as i faithfully serve God by still praying and worshipping, He will make a way, where there seems to be no way. God bless you Kim, i will look in on this blog more often and find encouragement from what i have read so far. Thank you.

November 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRosemary

was thinking of you and the family and praying for you just this week.
was good to hear from you on the subject of worship.
As a non worship leader and someone who can't carry a tune Worship is
a special part of any church service. Having moved much since we retired
from our jobs, Mexico, Costa Rica, Belize, & in the US going to a new church
the first thing in the service is the worship and it is hard when you have never
heard the songs so when one comes along that you know it is as if GOD is saying
you are so loved.
We miss you and your family at church May God keep you all in the palm of HIS hand

November 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMarti B

Reality is that we have very little control over how our music choices affect every individual. There are as many musical preferences, personal backgrounds, emotional baggage, theological perspectives as there are people. One person can be enjoying themselves and singing away while in the same room another person has his arms folded, refusing to sing along.
There’s something to be said for having some structure and familiarity to our worship services and crafting as creatively as possible the elements that go into each service. Too much newness throws people into imbalance. People naturally need a certain degree of the familiar. A carefully planned order of worship can be very effective and meaningful, but I think that the element of control is ultimately out of our hands. Once the songs are delivered we don’t really know what kind of ears they are going to fall on.
I also think we need to be careful in eliminating and ruling out certain songs simply because we don’t think someone is thinking a certain direction that we might be or that they aren’t grasping a certain concept within a song. We don’t know that they are or aren’t. God has His way of speaking to people that we could never plan or orchestrate. If you think about it, many sermons are delivered with a certain theme, a definite title, and typically three points. I don’t think a speaker would choose not to deliver the message because they don’t think a listener is at the same place spiritually or intellectually on one of the points. I’ve led in worship and had people tell me how they were moved in a certain way or how God spoke to them in such a way that I hadn’t even intended or expected.
As a Worship Leader I see myself as a lead worshiper and a guide of sorts. I have found it to more effective when encouraging our choir and praise team members to lead by singing and worshiping from our stories with the hopes that we can bring some others along with us. Not that they should be like us, but that they will become softened and more open to desiring more of God’s presence. If I sing “I’m desperate for You” and someone doesn’t feel they are, perhaps they will begin thinking, “Maybe I ought to be desperate for God” because the reality is that we all are desperately dependent on Him. Some of this can be guided by what you choose to say before or after a song.
Bottom line for me is that I pray and then allow the Holy Spirit to guide me in my music choices so there’s some variety, some continuity and flow. The rest—the results, how it all affects individuals, and how they respond—is up to God.

November 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Parmelee

Hello, don't know how your site got onto my work e-mail but I'm glad it did. Like Brad, I too have always loved music. I have been exposed to all genre's of music, including gospel at an early age. My mother sang on the same church choir with Patty Labell at Beulah Baptist Church, My father, (who is deceased), played gitar in a jazz band, which by the way is my all time faviorte kind of music. All four of my brothers, (two who are now deceased as well), have been, and still are involved in music in some way shape or form, be it singing or playing an instrument. When I was growing up in my Mother's house, the only time I heard gospel of any kind was between the hours of 11:00am and 2:00pm, when I went to church, which was almost every Sunday. What I heard didn't really move me to much because I didn't understand a lot back then. Now that I am more muture, and understand a lot more about salvation and the Holy Spirit, and since I have become the technician and the Minister of Music at my church I know how important it is that the Holy Spirit is ushured in to the service. When I listen to people like Israel Houghton, Freddy Rodriguez, Donnie McClurkin, Darlene Zschech, Commissioned, Fred Hammond, Marvin Sapp, Tye Tribbett, Kirk Franklin, Don Moen, Paul Wilbur, Joel Chernoff, Ben Tankard, Donald Lawrence, Jeff Majors, J Moss, Micah Stampley, Martha Munizzi, Byron Cage, All The Clark Sisters, All the Winans, Shekinah Glory Ministry, just to name a few, I welcomed them with open arms because it brings me into the presence of the Lord and I know that God is using them mightly to usher in His purpose and plan for peoples lives, especially for the young people because they are our future. These annointed men and women of God arn't singing to us, there singing to the Lord. They just let us go along for the ride. So I say, Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Psalm 100:1.

November 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBernadette

Thank you Kim for being so open and honest in sharing your experience. God has led me through a similar experience (in fact, it was the very same song that was my breakthrough also). Because of this experience I, like yourself, have been made sensitive to creating "touchstones" and "familiar landmarks" in my worship planning & services. I want to create a space and place where this can happen for someone else. We can never know what will be said/sung/done that will be a special tool in the hand of God to remind a hurting heart of His infinite love and mercy.

November 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterOlive

I am amazed that singing and types of music can cause people to leave a church. As long as contemporary music is played or southern gospel is emphasized the lyrics must conform to what the Bible says. I too feel good when i hear a familier song, but in corporate worship the music should compliment the sermon. I am sensitive to the hurting member, the burdoned worshiper who needs support and affirmation, but if we go to church to just feel better, to be entertained we risk the possiblity of worshipping the wrong thing. We have so many sensitive issues about how soft or loud, how soothing or praising, how accompaniments are string, drums, gutier, piano, or organ and whether or not that offends some while it brings others to a psychological high. Our music must be Christ centered and emphasize the gospel as well as bringing glory to God. One person will find a service inspiring while another is offended. It seems that many of todays Christians are so sensitive about irrelavent details that they miss the whole point of worship.

November 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFloyd

I have been a music minister in the past in California. But I am a nurse professionally. I can say that there has been many times during work that words from an old hymn or a chorus would come to my mind. It seemed to bubble up from inside of me and often the words were what I needed to hear at just that time. Also, there have been many times that a patient will begin singing an old hymn that has been a blessing to them. Often the words are just what is needed to remind them of the goodness and greatness of the Lord. Often, if they are elderly, the old songs reminds them of happy times and of friends and family and stabilizes them in heart and mind.
As far as the different experiences when moving around the country. I have moved an awful lot, especially when I was younger. People are different in different parts of the country. I have had to learn not to judge them by my past experiences, but to simply accept them as they are. If they seem cool and distant, allow them time to warm up to you and accept you into their group. Music is a nice way to break the ice. God also has composers all over the place and not all compositions are shared across the state lines. It is good to share and experience new things and appreciate old things as well.

November 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNGreen

All good points. Our church doesn't use old hymns very much, but when I choose songs I try to have a good mix of "older", more generally known songs, some newer. When I bring a new song, I do it week after week for a little while to make sure that people have the time to learn it. I repeat the chorus many times so that maybe they won't be able to sing it the first time, but after 4 or 5 times, usually, everybody can join in. I believe it's good to bring new stuff because the Lord is doing new things in worship throughout the whole church, and it's refreshing to get new perspectives, new sounds and new words to express our worship. But I also understand the need to keep everybody in a somewhat familiar territory so they can participate. Once in a while, also, a very old song will come back in my repertoire for a while because it expresses perfectly what is going on at that time in our worship. Balance is the key!

March 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAbigail

This is something I often struggle with.
I just changed church about four years ago, and have since then gotten involved in worship leading at the new church. The problem mainly became the fact that alot of the "old, familiar songs" I picked to be safe turned out to be.... totally new to the congregation.
So it's difficult to for me to define which songs can be considered well-known or familiar. Several of the well-known songs in the current church have actually been totally unknown to me, or at best, vague recollections.
And this isn't between churches a few states apart. We're at best half an hour's drive apart, and are involved in quite a lot of inter-church programs.

November 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

Kim: I would make most of the songs we use familiar ones and only introduce one new song on any given week. I like to include at least one hymn and one song known universally. We sing for an hour, so we have lots of room. However, we have to some day get past the point where people come to church to have their own needs met. We can each get our needs met at home and during the week. I do it and so can everyone else. We can then come to church to just give what we can to God and to others. If the song selection and musicians disappoint us....if the pastor disappoints us, sometimes, we will not go home disappointed, because we already have had our needs met all during the week. We can even read our Bible and sing songs to the Lord before our Sunday morning services. That is what I do.....not because I am so spiritual, but because I need to get my needs met and cannot put that burden on others. Just something to consider :)

December 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLenny Smith

Lenny (and others),

I agree that the focus of our devotion and worship is God. Our needs can't be the sole focus of our gathered experience. For me personally, having served (along with my family) for over 20 years in local churches, I have always believed we come to bring God honor and praise and to serve the one another. The story above is not about making my needs the point- the story is about how we MUST serve one another. This is the whole point Jesus was making at the last supper when He washed the disciples feet. We must serve one another. In fact, the taking of the body and blood (bread and wine) is a reflection of not just Christ's sacrificial offering but the uniting of himself to us as a community-- he calls us His Body.

All this to say- worship leaders and leaders in churches are to be Christ's servants here on earth. There are weary travelers coming to your doors every week. Christ told us to offer them the peace of God and a drink of fresh water. To say that we need to "get past the point where people come to church to have their own needs met" is a shallow summation of the broad picture of the Body of Christ. Some are joyous and healthy- let them praise! Some are broken and hurting - bring them healing! Some are mourning - weep with them and give them comfort. What we are doing is feeding the sheep by giving them the Word of God in flesh- real people enacting God's compassion. We can preach them sermons all day long, but if we don't feed, cloth, encourage and love them, we mock the message of God by saying it and not doing it.

The music we play in church has a profound primary direction- to God! But in the midst of that, God himself responds with his character of love and kindness. We must always seek to give him glory, but we can't shut out our brother and sister from bringing their offering of a broken heart in worship because we deign to only do songs that we know. Why not do some common songs that the whole body of Christ can join in with?

Paul rhetorically asked, "For if a trumpet make a sound which is not distinct, who will be prepared for battle?"

The point? If we are going to sing a song, why not sing (at least) one that everyone can join in ? Should we make it difficult or make it so the whole body of Christ can sing a song in unity? Why not rather sing a song in which we bring one voice to God for his glory, reflecting the multitudes in heaven who join in with the song of the Lamb?

In my opinion, it is more selfish to ignore the broader body of Christ and "play our own stuff" than it is to consider others so that we may all join in and sing our "amen" to the Father.

All I am fighting for here in this article is a consideration that we must, as pastoral leaders, consider others in our song selection. If we want to bring more glory, honor and praise to God why not help MORE voices and hearts join in by considering what others simply might know?

Turning that message around and talking about people being selfish because they are broken and tired is itself a misunderstanding of the function of the Body of Christ, in my opinion.

I hope that clarifies the point I am making here and the message of the article.


December 6, 2011 | Registered CommenterKim Gentes

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