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Stories Of Risks & Rewards In Worship Leading: Familiarity and Participation (ThinkJump Journal #100 with Kim Gentes)

I am learning new things all the time and wanted to share something from a recent service and planning. On most of the posts on this blog you will find things that I've learned through practical experience. This article follows that tradition, but is actually about something that didn't succeed the way I hoped it would. Sometimes learning is about recognizing what was "OK" but needs changing to be best.

A few weeks ago, I was thinking about how to call people into our time of worship. Obvious scriptures came to mind, of which this was prominent: 

"Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;" Psalm 95:6 

Given the current service format/time constraints at my own local church, I didn't want to take an entire song to make this declaration/invitation. As I was planning, I originally thought of just reading the scripture verse to the congregation, but instead I remembered an old Vineyard song by Andy Park called "Children of Light". It is a song from the early 90's that I used to love to lead with, though it wasn't broadly used across a lot of other churches that I knew. For our Sunday morning, our vocal team sang (a capella) the first half of the chorus before we began our scheduled set:

Come, let us worship now
Let us kneel. let humble bow down
Come, let us worship now
Let us kneel. let humble bow down

Done, just vocally, without explanation, it was a simple invocation (if slightly reworded) of the Psalm 95:6 text, transitioning the service into our worship time. 

For myself, as a leader and worshiper, it felt poignant and concise, having a nice scriptural basis and performing the essential task of the introit/call to worship. However, I saw mostly interested, but uncertain looks in the faces of most people. It did serve as a definitive transition into worship, but I don't know if people saw it as much as a call to worship as I hoped it would be interpreted as.  It seemed more like people were wondering if we were starting a song and they just didn't know it.

I guess what I am saying is that it didn't seem to serve the purpose for the congregation that I was hoping for (in terms of drawing them into an awareness of a call to worship, welcoming their participation). As I thought about it, I realized I could have used the verse of "Come Now is the Time to Worship" and it might have served the purpose better, since people would likely have known that song. It says essentially the same core message:

Come, now is the time to worship
Come, now is the time to give your heart
Come, just as you are to worship
Come, just as you are before your God

The reason I had chosen the first song segment ("Children of Light") is that I wanted it clear to be a near scriptural reference. In retrospect, because people weren't familiar with the song, it seemed to not serve the purpose as well. I think if the song had been in our recent repertoire it might have worked fabulous. One of the problems with knowing 25 years of songs (in my case hundreds of songs from my Vineyard tradition) is that you are constantly reminded that you cannot draw on them.

Anyways, a few takeaways that I received from this experience, and may be of interest:

  • "Children of Light" and "Come Now is the Time" are both great songs and I wish we had 4 meetings per week so that I could employ more of the great songs that are out there.
  • Familiarity is a powerful connector for our congregations through which we can communicate our themes. Circumventing it rarely has the impact hoped for.

I've been leading worship for many years, and am constantly moving between the tension of trying something fresh and doing something known that will guarantee the community is not left behind in the experience. I took the risk of trying this a capella intro to our service because I both believed it was a good, scriptural way of calling others to worship and because I wanted something fresh to engage the people. In retrospect, it didn't work as I wished. As you think about your own services, consider how certain things you try are within the repertoire or beyond it. And consider whether that is something that will "make" or "break" the use of that song in the service.

Worshiping the One,

Kim Gentes


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