Continuity in the service flow

[notice]Hugh Wetmore is a songwriter and student of worship trends. He invites you to join the worship conversation by commenting on his monthly column.[/notice]

Worship Leaders tend to have differing paradigms for ensuring a homogenous “flow” in the Worship Service.  Those with a “chord” orientation, such as guitars and keyboards, are most comfortable with a series of songs that are sung to the same key (preferably sharps). Some song-books have a helpful “key” index. Others prefer to categorise songs as “Praise” (faster tempo) and “Worship” (slower tempo), believing that the Service should begin with “Praise” and then move into “Worship”. Some song-books index their songs accordingly. Both these paradigms are MUSIC-centered. 

Considering the WORSHIP SERVICE as a whole, we realise that many of its components are not Musical. Praying can be in song, but it is more often in spoken words. A Testimony is more likely to be spoken in words. I haven’t yet heard the Announcements sung as a hymn! The Scripture is usually read. The actual Sermon is preached in words, without music.  So, considering the Worship Service as a whole, WORDS are the main medium of communication. 

Lyrics should preside
Because “Worship” is wider than its Musical component, the LYRICS should take precedence over the MUSIC. For that reason, two types of Index are most valuable to the Worship Leader:  the Topical Index, and the Scriptural Index. Both are provided in many Song-books.  

God has not given us much instruction about the Music, but He has told us to Sing His Word to one another, just as He has told us to Preach His Word to one another (Colossians 3:16 + 2 Timothy 4:2). When it comes to Songs – the union of words and music — the spotlight shines on God’s Word in the LYRICS.  In fact, the whole Worship Service should be moulded by the Word of God. Its many components must be sourced in His Word.  These include: Songs, Supplication, Scripture and Sermon. 

A wise Worship Leader plans the whole service around a Theme (or two) sourced from God’s Word. It is at this point that the pastor/preacher should be consulted, for he is a specialist in God’s WORD. God has impressed a certain Scripture, a Theme, on his heart. Knowing this can be most helpful to the Worship Leader in choosing the songs and planning the Service Flow. 

To understand the value of thematic flow in the Service, let’s imagine the opposite — A random sequence based on the key D (from the Key index in Songs of Fellowship): 

624 You are here and I behold Your beauty, Your glory fills this place.

629 You are the Vine, we are the branches, Keep us abiding in You.

637 Your mercy flows upon us like a river … Remember mercy … Revive Your church.

638 Your works, Lord, are awesome, Your power is great … You will reign forever.

Jumbled thoughts
Each song expresses a valid Truth that can be endorsed by God’s Word. But what is the thematic connection of the words sung? Our minds jump from considering God’s beautiful glory >> abiding in the Vine >> God’s mercy reviving the church >> God’s awesome, powerful works. The human mind does not readily embrace jumbled thoughts that rush into its attention span. Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 14:40 come to mind: “Everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way”. Applying this principle  to the Worship Service, there should be an ‘order’ in the flow that ‘fits’ all the components of the Service together in a way that will “build up the church” (v12). 

A current political buzz-word in South Africa is “social cohesion”. Blending the diverse colours of our rainbow nation, the diverse economic profiles and cultural backgrounds, into a unified harmony that will minimise conflict. Let’s transfer this concept into the Worship Service: blending the various components into a unified thematic flow that will minimise the mental and spiritual conflict which random concepts would generate in our minds and spirits. This goal of “thematic cohesion” is powerfully useful. 

Imagine the power of a unifying theme pulling our praises and prayers and preaching in one direction.  As when the gravitational pull of the sun and the moon draws the ocean’s waves into one huge, high Spring Tide. This gives new meaning to the concept of the “Flow of the Worship Service”.  It’s a Movement that embraces Sequence and Direction to accomplish a Purpose. Doesn’t that motivate you to align all your praying and planning to lead this kind of Worship Service? 

Let’s get excited about coordinating all the streams in our Worship Services to achieve a new and stronger Flow!  Next month’s Worship Column will explore the practicalities of achieving this. 

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