Lead Worship by Design

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Hi I’m David Bell. Welcome to part 1 of 6 on leading worship
for the 21st century. Let’s start by trying to get a bird’s eye
view of worship. There are over a billion Christians spread
across the world. They worship in hundreds of different languages
and dialects. Their customs and cultures are all different. And so also the spirituality, and their understandings
of God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Clearly, no one pattern of worship is universal. The art and craft of telling the Christian
story recognizes that and adapts to it. And the preacher and worship leader at any
given location or landing spot will wisely slot into the local terrain. But there are some elements of worship that
do appear in most lands and cultures. First there’s usually singing and music and
sometimes dancing to accompany worship. Then there are prayers and readings from the
Bible. The communion or eucharist or mass is celebrated. There are usually some teachings either in
sermons, or talks which may include different age groups. Sometimes gifts and experiences are shared,
and usually an offering is made for some aspects of Christian work. And some kind of blessing is made also when the
gathering has finished and a way is needed to round things off. Sometimes congregations want to wrap all this
up into one single Sunday worship event and repeat it every Sunday, week in and week out, and for century upon
century. And that’s both the glory of Christian worship
and the bane of it. Leading worship and preaching every week – to do it well but possibly failing to do it well – are the two sides of the one coin. As preachers and worship leaders we do need
to get a better grasp of how to do it well. The best place to begin that is with ourselves
as leaders. So you want to preach and lead worship? Well, congratulations, for this can be a sublime
and influential art and craft to become involved with. Let’s go straight to the first tip for new hands and old. Worship leaders and preachers are theologians,
even though they mightn’t initially recognise it. To lead worship is to give a theological lead
to the people who who gather. To preach is similarly about giving a theological
lead. Consider it this way. Christian worship is about a meeting or an
event with the aim of giving some time for God and
some time for others. These events are filled with sights, sounds
and sensations that are about God. The speech you use as a leader is about God. The images that are evoked are about God. The reflections, prayers and preaching are
designed, and I emphasize that word designed, to bring people to a greater God-awareness. Theology, which as you know literally means
‘God talk’ from the Greek – is how we reflect upon the data, the raw experience,
of the people of the community which gathers to worship. Hence, when you conduct worship you inevitably
think theologically. Unfortunately theology is usually thought
of as a subject for clergy or academic professionals taught in a theological college or university. This perception of theology as more of an
academic exercise than anything else means it’s viewed with suspicion, Sometimes it’s seen as being too difficult for almost
everyone in the congregation. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. John Wesley preached up a religious revival
across a nation, with the help of his lay preachers who were asked to become theological leaders, influencers of thought and opinion from small
congregations and group to large. Always he wanted and expected more of these
helpers who were his leaders. They had to be widely read. And that’s as
necessary today as it was then. Theology ranges over the whole spectrum of
human concerns which people bring to the act of worship, concerns from the theoretical to the practical,
from suffering to joy, from pain to pleasure. How these are reflected on in relation to
God is doing theology in worship. Hence, the worship leader needs to address
theological themes in worship, even if there is no sermon. He or she must begin to think like a theologian. At first this may seem a difficult task, especially if leading worship is new to you. But if you think of theology as practical, even a beginning worship leader can structure
the worship to help. All your Christian life you have been doing
theology. A few well-chosen words from life experience
will carry a lot of weight and have the potential to become memorable
to the hearer. A golden rule is less words not more. They can strike deep chords of response, and set the tone for all that occurs in the
worship event. A word on preaching from one of the great
church leaders ever, Martin Luther. “A preacher should have the skill to teach
the unlearned simply, roundly and plainly for teaching is of more importance than exhorting.” So your first task as a beginning worship
leader is to discern what theological theme do you want to present
and how will you teach it. The place to get your overarching theme is
the lectionary. The lectionary is the theme generator, the helicopter which can whisk you up to get
the overview for the occasion. Use the lectionary wisely. After that, once you have your theme, then the tasks of choosing music, prayers,
readings and so on will flow from it. But remember less words not more. Know your audience and know your theme and
pare it back so they can see what you want to teach, what you want to communicate.. You can find some handy resources in the about
section of the video. Join me next week when we look at prayers. And thanks very much for watching.


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