Guest Post by Chris Knox:
The “good ole days” of traveling with my husband in a Christian rock band are long gone. We’ve “grown up”, had four children, and have excitedly accepted the God-given calling to build a worship culture at our church.
I describe that culture as combining the ingredients of music and art with excellence to provide an atmosphere where people can connect with God in worship. In that atmosphere, He inhabits the praises of His people! So, when we worship in spirit and truth, with hearts set solely on Him, we can experience moments where something of heaven touches earth. We get a glimpse of such heavenly moments in worship when we get so lost in the realization of who God is that it compels us to go to deeper places of expressing our love to Him in a myriad of ways. As a result, we are radically changed and/or reminded to live a lifestyle of worship that draws people closer to Him.
I suppose it’s obvious to say that creating this atmosphere requires the musicians to play with excellence rather than having musical “train wrecks” all through the worship set. Have you been in a setting where one musician is playing parts to get noticed, another is not sure what key we’re in, and the drummer is marching to his own beat, so to speak? If you’re familiar with this scenario, I thought I’d share some of the practical ways we aim to bring our team together so the people have no distractions in worship that would keep them from drawing near to the Lord with their whole heart.
Maybe some of you have seen the movie, “Drumline”, about a university marching band. There’s one particular member of the band who keeps trying to outshine everyone else, and the leaders begin to teach the principle, “one band, one sound”. I’ve taken that to heart in building a worship team that strives to provide excellence. To do this, I make sure the musicians have an audio cd of the music in conjunction with their song charts. They pick these up Sunday at church, work with them until we practice on Wednesday night, and then “tweak” what’s necessary before we come together the next Sunday. I ask them to be somewhat practiced and prepared before we work on the music on Wednesdays, so that our practice time is productive.
We also have come together occasionally on a Saturday for a time to practice “jamming” together. During these jam sessions, we encourage our team to listen closely to one another and execute the “100% rule”. If there are four musicians playing, each one gets to play at a level of 25% on the “busy scale”. If there are more musicians, everyone needs to play less. In this environment, each person begins to listen to his/her teammates to create a musical space that merges into “one band, one sound”. This allows creativity, increases musical excellence, encourages unity, and is a blast!
Another aspect of building a team with excellence is having fun together. Worship teams are very ministry intensive, and musicians are very expressive musically and emotionally! Therefore, it’s great to get together as a team outside of a ministry setting where everyone can get to know one another and form relationships that can weather mood swings, tough times, and hectic schedules. I like to know when one member of my team is stretched very thin at work, so I can scale back on their time commitment at church. Avoiding burnout at all costs is so important for musicians and artists. Dry seasons will be very evident in what they create, and excellence will be affected!
The last thing I would mention would be the importance of discipleship. It is so easy for a worship team to get caught up in the musical aspect of what we do. If, as leaders, we don’t constantly attach the music to the heart of worship, it will begin to become evident in corporate worship settings. Sometimes, I share a Scripture before we pray during our practice times. I try to remind them what a gift it is to be musicians and singers in the house of the Lord. We’ve studied how David set up worship in the tabernacle. We’ve done the worship study, Praise More Powerful, together. We’ve taken time to walk amongst the chairs in our worship center just to pray over each person who will be sitting there on Sunday.
The vision of leading people into God’s presence with thanksgiving and entering His courts with praise must be before us at all times. It’s what makes us strive to play better, to spend extra time preparing, to put up with each other when it’s not fun, and to even press forward when the congregation doesn’t seem to go with us (yes…..it does happen!). What fuels our quest for excellence must be that we must decrease, and He must increase. When He is high and lifted up, His glory shines in ways that draw us to be in awe. Our worship goes deeper, as a result. Then, we are excited to walk out the doors of the church and ask others to join us in the experience of growing closer to the Lord of Lords and King of Kings. The Kingdom of God advances with His worship leaders on the front lines! Lord, let it be!
Chase Valley Church, Huntsville, AL
You may contact Chris via email: cknox at chasevalleychurch dot org.