August 23, 2006

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7 Worship Leading Principles from Bono Dr. Steven Taylor is the founding pastor of Graceway Baptist Church in Ellerslie, New Zealand. He has a PhD on the Emerging Church and a Masters in Theology in communicating the cross in a postmodern world. Steve recently did a course at Fuller Seminary entitled “Communicating the Biblical Text in a PostModern Culture” in July. He argues that to communicate the biblical text for today’s context requires one to “incarnate, indwell, our culture.” Taylor goes on to use the phrase “DJing” with respect to the community. A record DJ learns the historical stories (old records) and uses them authentically in contemporary culture and integrates them into the community's stories. There is too much to summarize here, but do look for his book “The Out of Bounds Church: Learning to Create a Community of Faith in a Culture of Change” from Zondervan. Taylor cites Bono of U2 as a person who effectively DJs today. According to Taylor, Bono is in fact a worship leader for over 40,000 people; Bono recontextualizes the biblical text and leads concert goers into a time of community worship and prayer. Taylor plays the “Vertigo ‘05” DVD and shows us how Bono is leading worship. This intrigued me to the point that Dr. Taylor and I discussed this further after the workshop. The following is from Steve’s article “7 Things I learnt from Bono about Worship Leading.” 1. Connect uniquely. In the Vertigo DVD, Bono speaks about Chicago and his memories of Chicago. He makes a unique connection with context, day, and time. 2. Engage through familiarity. Bono includes songs that resonate with previous experiences and previous encounters. 3. Use repetition to call forth prayer. Bono uses the repetitive “Hallelujah.” It is easy to sing. The simple repetition enables the audience to sing with the band. 4. Secure a 5th (visual) band member. U2 now has a 5th member of the band to add a visual layer to the experience. A wise worship leader will look to add not just singers or musicians, but a “visual” person to their team. 5. Create hope by drawing the best from the past. Bono tells the audience in the Vertigo DVD, “We as a band are looking to the future. We’re taking the best of the past and moving forward with hope.” 6. Plan participation. Bono can draw one boy from the audience to sing to, one woman from the audience to dance with. He uses repetition to call forth prayer and encourage congregational singing. 7. Invoke passionate practices. Bono invites the audience to hall out their cell phones and to text “Make Poverty History campaign.” A worship leader turns singing into action. He turns entertainment into justice.
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One More on Singing with Children A guest minister who came to preach at our church told me that, during the “children's time”, he planned to sing one of his own songs with the children. So, he brought his guitar and taught them a song whose chorus went something like this: Bugs, bugs, bugs, bugs, Bugs, bugs, bugs, bugs. I forget what the song was about: it may have had something to do with Noah and the Ark, but the kids sang willingly enough, and trooped off to Sunday School. But it made me both wince and wonder. I winced because the guest minister pitched the song far too low for their voices, choosing a comfortable key for the guitar (C major) that had them straining to sing an F below middle C. Therefore, if you are a guitar player, start with the children's range before you choose the key, rather than the other way round. Typically children's lowest note is the G below middle C (the open third string on the guitar). Make sure the song uses that note very little; middle C is much better as a low note. For practical purposes, children's high note is somewhere between C an octave above (first string, 8th fret), and E a third above that. Of course, children can sing higher, but I am here writing about congregational singing, not practiced choral (or solo) singing. I wondered at how eager children are to learn and to be challenged, and how little that song offered them in the way of musical nourishment. Surprisingly, the songs that children latch onto and make their own, are often very different from what we might expect as a “children's” song. Anyone who has worked on the editorial committee for a hymn collection knows how elusive are the qualities that make a good children's song or hymn. Rather than looking at the “genre” of the song, I wonder if it might be better to ask some of these questions: how would a 3-year old hear this song? A 6 hear old, a 10-year old? How many “doors” does it offer a child to enter by: concrete imagery? possibilities for motion and actions? sensory details? repeatable sections or phrases? Will it allow a conversation, a question and answer, a call and response between children, the leader and the choir or praise band? (Stuart Townend's “Who Paints the Skies?” is a song that allows this kind of worship conversation to happen. “All creatures of our God and King” - or any hymn that has a repeating “Alleluia” could serve as a wonderful kind of dialogue, if the congregation sang all the words, including “Oh, Praise Him” and the children sing the “Alleluia.” I should say that I haven't done this yet; when I do, I'll let you know how it went, and what pitfalls to avoid. I will probably teach the final “Alleluia” with its 3-beat penultimate note first! I will continue to share lessons learned and insights gleaned from the front (and back) pews...

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