SONG MACHINES IN MODERN CHURCH How is Worship More Than Just Songs?

Many worship leaders in the church today feel like song machines. Their chief role is to assemble and present a set of songs for the gathered church to (hopefully) sing.

Songs are certainly part of the job and one of the most important things we do, but is there more?
Scripture points to a whole life that worships the living God but that’s not a musically exclusive command! How could our short gathering each week better prepare our people for a life of worship? Here are a few thoughts:
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SCRIPTURE – Could we include scripture in our music times? Are people hearing different voices from the congregation participate? How can non-musicians bring substance to the liturgy? (I added this calendar to my iCal so I can use the common book of prayer readings https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/calendar.php)
PRAYER – Instead of the typical “transitional” prayers we usually improvise, what if we really planned and prepared something that proclaimed the character of God.
RESPONSE – Are we inviting people to participate in worship in other ways than singing? Perhaps leading a responsive reading or a moment of holy silence. In Holy Communion, we invite people to respond in a non-musical way. Praying the Lord’s Prayer in unison is a spoken way to be formed in worship.
FORMATION – As the lead worshipper, your role is more than songs. You are pastoring and discipling all the people on your team. Your words, manner, behaviors, and social media presence all speak and form.
What did I miss? What about gathered worship is beyond the songs?

My name is Mike O’Brien and I am passionate about teaching and mentoring worship leaders and teams. My calling is to use my experience as a producer, worship leader, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist to come alongside musicians, helping them more fully worship God with their instrument and lives. Find out more about how I can help your worship leaders and teams HERE.

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ELECTION YEAR WORSHIP LEADING

Every. Four. Years.
 
Conversations with good friends that I worship alongside in local church – I hear:
 
“I’m the ONLY conservative in our church and everyone probably hates me for what I believe, I don’t feel safe. Everyone else feels differently than me. I’m gonna hide out for a minute.”
 
12 minutes later I talk to someone else (from the same church):
 
“I’m the ONLY liberal in our church and everyone probably hates me for what I believe, I don’t feel safe. Everyone else feels differently than me. I’m gonna hide out for a minute.”
 
These conversations literally happen in every election cycle.

Are You a Song Leader or a Developer?

{SONG LEADERS and DEVELOPERS}

One of the most fruitful worship leaders I know is a 58-year-old mediocre singer who’s DEAF in one ear. He leads a racially diverse worship ministry of over 100 volunteers in a church of 2.5K.

Another worship leader I know is 65. He’s taken a very dated service to a well done, technologically savvy worship expression with one of the best social streams I’ve seen. He rarely leads a song but has developed DOZENS of young worship leaders in a church of 500.

I know worship directors that DON’T play guitar or piano, yet they lead the whole worship ministry from a soundboard or drum set. Churches of 3K+

_______________________

Most senior leaders think TOO SMALL when imagining their next worship leader. Their goals are typically someone young with exceptional stage presence, high anointing, and low cost.

It’s been my joy to help multiple churches find their next worship leader. Probably 100 phone calls in the past 5 years – helping pastors expand their idea of “I need a worship guy”.

What if I told you your next best worship leader would be a much better PASTOR than a PERFORMER.

What if I told you they might do things that build God’s kingdom in ways that don’t translate well to YouTube.

What if I told you they would need to be paid a significant living wage –  but in return might disciple 10 fold your other candidates.

I appreciate that each church has a unique journey and this advice might be something for 5 or 10 years down the road. This very well might be the time you need a solid chief musician on stage, but consider the idea that the right

PERSON may not fit the PERSONA (of a typical worship leader).

A not entirely unrealistic binary to conclude my point:

1. A+ stage savvy worship leader. Anointed, brave, bold, worker bee. Impressively, makes the weekend “happen”.  Prone to burnout or acquisition from a bigger ship.

2. C+ stage savvy worship leader that develops dozens of A’s, B’s, and C’s across all positions for years and decades.  Makes weekend “happen”, but it’s a little messier. Prone to irrelevance or church planting 😉

Helping your worship leaders and teams tell the story of God in worship. My name is Mike O’Brien and I am passionate about teaching and mentoring worship leaders and teams. My calling is to use my experience as a producer, worship leader, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist to come alongside musicians, helping them more fully worship God with their instrument and lives. Find out more about how I can help your worship leaders and teams HERE.

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What the Vineyard Can Learn from Liturgical Streams

Reclaiming historic worship elements for modern services

When I walked into a Vineyard church in 1994 my mind was blown. On a Friday night, the room was full of expectant people singing TO God. Coming from Presbyterian roots, the only time we gave this expression of exuberant praise was at summer camp! For the first time in my life, I learned of the power of the Holy Spirit through an extended, uninterrupted time of singing.

Fast-forward a couple decades and the “5 songs + sermon” model has become the standard “liturgy” of the modern church. Outside of our empowered ministry prayer times, you would be hard-pressed to see what makes a Vineyard Church distinct from many evangelical church models today.

I believe that as a movement, a time has come for us to pause and reconsider the way forward in worship, both musically and sacramentally. What did we fail to carry forward as a new movement (started in the late 1970’s) that can be reintroduced with care? Here are a few practical ways worship planners in the Vineyard can consider and implement elements of liturgical form in our services:

 

1. Eucharist (celebrated weekly)

Avoiding mindless, heartless repetition is a common reason many Vineyard pastors say they don’t want to lead their congregation to the table on a weekly basis, favoring to do it once a month or less. It begs the question why we sing, preach and offer prayers repetitively? Are these features any less special because we repeat them over and over? Are we increasing demand by planning scarcity?

A weekly invitation to feast on Christ is a beautiful picture of our Kingdom theology (God is here, now). In the meal, we are reminded that His active presence is with us; it is a vibrant and visceral picture that embodies all the senses while engaging everyone on the same level. Creatively and enthusiastically inviting our people to the meal more frequently might be the greatest discipleship plan we have.

  • Church planter, Luke Geraty recently submitted an excellent paper on Sacraments to the Society of Vineyard Scholars, check it out HERE.

Planning Silence in Worship {VIDEO}

Planning Silence

As we gather to worship consider adding a time of intentionally led silence. This practice is both historical and Biblical; silence could be one of the most “cutting edge” tools for modern worship in our sonically saturated culture. Check out the quick video below.

“Solitude and silence are not self-indulgent exercises for times when an overcrowded soul needs a little time to itself. Rather, they are concrete ways of opening to the presence of God beyond human effort and beyond the human constructs that cannot fully contain the Divine” –Ruth Haley Barton

My name is Mike O’Brien and I am passionate about teaching and mentoring worship leaders and teams. My calling is to use my experience as a producer, worship leader, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist to come alongside musicians, helping them more fully worship God with their instrument and lives. Contact me to talk about how we can raise the bar through virtual or on-site training for your worship ministry.

Mike O'Brien - Worship Team Training and Development