We tried something a little risky this week. Stepped out on a ledge – and probably on a few toes, as well.
We did have three songs on the docket – nothing out of the ordinary. But as we were talking early last week, we – as a Music Department staff – felt this could be a week where the worship leaders were able to take some extra time and explain a bit to the crowd why we get excited when we sing and worship together. On how the “polite golf clap” at the end of songs is really pretty weak, especially when compared to what Christ has done and continues to do for us.
Michael Phelps’ Olympic feats were also fresh on our minds by Sunday AM, and so it seemed to be a great example of how we cheer for people and yell for our country, but can sometimes clam up when it comes to our Saviour, and that we have the greatest thing in the Universe to be excited about – redemption through Christ. And that we have the freedom to exhibit that with our lives, our hands, and with our voices.
Yeah, I know that sounds a bit Charistmatic, especially when dealing with a “seeker-friendly” church like North Point. (By the way, we hate being labeled with those “seeker” cliches, just so you know…)
But ultimately, we, as musicians and – for lack of a better term – “worshippers”, long to convey to both the body of Christ AND first timers / non-Christians that the songs we sing on Sunday mornings are not observatory, but participatory. And that that participation is not hype or guilt, but a natural out-flowing of someone’s relationship with their Saviour.
And let me be clear – participation, at least as I define it, is not necessarily “hands up, eyes closed”, but rather someone’s own, unique way of connecting with their Heavenly Father. That can mean a ton of things, because it really is different for everyone. Your level of spiritual maturity and growth is not based on how loud you sing or how high you can raise your hands. But for many, many people, there comes a point in corporate or private worship when you choose to focus on God, and subsequently your soul connects with the Holy Spirit, and it moves you to an outward display of submission and adoration for your Savior. But all the while, the real connection takes place on the inside of you – in your spirit as you submit your will to God.
Our job as the Leaders and facilitators of these times of worship are to:
Encourage – Encouraging people to connect with God means that sometimes the Worship Leader, and even band and musicians, fill the role of a motivator (or, the dreaded term: cheerleader).
Enable – We give them a vehicle to do so via a well thought-out song set
Enhance – we enhance the corporate worship experience by playing the music WELL, by stimulating their brain and spirit through the best musicianship we are able to offer. You CAN worship with a poorly rehearsed band of hacks and off-pitch screamers – but it ain’t easy!!
Exit – It’s obviously ultimately not about us – the people on stage or running lights or the Front of House mix. It’s our ultimate goal to not be the show, but rather a means through which people are attracted and drawn to Christ. When we receive the glory, whether purposeful or not, then we’ve failed – big time.
Well, there you go. That was pretty deep.
Anyhoo, to help get a tiny portion of that across to the crowd, we opted to cut one of the songs, which allowed Todd Fields and Danny Dukes – two of our best “encouragers” – to “work the crowd” a bit and get them excited about worshipping God, even early on a Sunday morning.
– As part of the “cheerleading” section, we actually started with the “Alleluia” echoes before diving into the intro and Rock and Roll Extravaganza. We also included a reprise after the song’s ending, diving back into the Alleluia repeats, starting with a half-time groove, building to the full groove, and ultimately a big trash can ending.
Turned up to 11.
And was it a bit irreverent? Yep.
But the payoff was incredible. We then went straight into Breathe On Me , and the people sang it louder than we’ve ever, ever heard. I mean EVER! It was incredible.
Again, not that loud singing equals a great time of worship, but I think we’ll all agree that it’s a pretty good litmus test…
So when it was all said and done, we were all glad we stepped out on that limb. Yeah, it bowed a lot, but it didn’t break. We all agreed that it made for a great, memorable service – mostly because of how it ended up setting up Breathe On Me so well – such a powerful song, and one of my absolute favorites of all time.
Here’s a couple shots of West, where the incredible Jen Carrozza lead Breathe On Me. It was great to have it in the female key, and Jen sang and lead it to rave reviews.
And here’s East. Yeah, I know it’s hard to tell a difference. The new set for this new series is nearly identical on each side.
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East Band – Todd Fields, Steve Thomason, Chris Arias, Rachael Gillis, Ashley Appling, Pat Malone
West Band – Danny Dukes, Jen Carrozza, Brad Long, David Norwood, Trammell Starks, Earl South, Joe Lee
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What limb have YOU stepped out on lately?