Sunday after Sunday, we tend to do the same thing, don’t we? Monday morning we know another Sunday’s coming and we must prepare, and using the same model is the path of least resistance. I hope in this recurring article that I can give you some ideas that I’ve tried, and have seen others try. Always changing, refreshing what we do. The late Robert Webber, theologian and expert on biblical and “ancient-future” worship, was constantly saying ‘semper reformada’ – always reforming.Imagine the scene with me if you will. The congregation is sitting where they always sit, looking where they always look. The choir is, as always, in the loft. The praise team is, as always, off a little stage right of the podium. Everything is as it always is. The music has been upbeat to this point, then there is a silence that takes over the room, and then a sole voice starts a song, BUT NOT ON THE PLATFORM. Instead, from right within the congregation, toward the back, there stands a singer, singing a well-known song to the congregation. One-by-one, other singers stand and join in, until the entire congregation sings the song, then slowly without losing a beat, the worship leader resumes his normal position on the platform and continues to lead worship.
This can be a very moving concept, as it decentralizes the worship leadership visually as well as does what actors call “breaking down the fourth wall” it allows the spectators (which in worship they should never be) to be part of the performance – not to mention that it gives a great feeling of spontaneity to the service.
Isn’t that what worship leading is all about?
To make this happen in your worship service, there are a couple of things I would suggest:
1) The soloist must be a strong singer, with a good sense of pitch. You can’t use a terribly self-conscious person for this, as there is a chance that no one will sing along – the congregation may simply think it’s a performance. In fact the song before should foreshadow the key of the new song.
2) Have the singer toward the back, otherwise the congregation will see the back of her head, and hear reflected sound, which will not be effective in worship leading.
3) Make sure the song is familiar.
4) If the facility is small enough, go this process unmiked.
5) Let this be a total surprise. You can put the name of the song in the bulletin, but no more information, and please, don’t announce that this is coming. Let it flow naturally.
6) Put a couple of “ringers” in the congregation as well. Have some folks scattered throughout the congregation to join in on the song. The first time I did this, I didn’t consider this and the soloist performed the song all by herself.
7) Practice this, until it is really comfortable for everyone.
Extravagance in worship is not cost-prohibitive. It is simply taking the time to think things through, and being aware of the potential of everything around you.
JOHN FRANCIS / MBC Worship Specialist