Effect and Cause

But the mysterious relationship between grace and works in Christian faith implies that authentic worship is both effect and cause, both chicken and egg. Worship fosters the attitudes and convictions that enable us to worship. It is not the automatic product of a technique or a game plan, but it is also not immune to the adverse effects of poor leadership and bad planning.

—Daniel Frankforter, Stones for Bread, 13

Choosing Songs

Only someone with a deep background in the Scriptures and pastoral theology can make discerning decisions about songs, prayers, and rhythms of grace in the life of the church.  But because many churches make the gathering simply about music and preaching, the pastoral side of worship planning gets ignored. Songs are chosen because they’re musically compelling and inspiring, with little concern about the breadth of our expressions and the way we’re building up people’s spirituality through song.  Music comes first—theology second.

—Mike Cosper, Rhythms of Grace, 174

Job Description for Pastoral Musicians

• Frame songs as acts of joyful, life-giving resistance to idolatry. Teach us that songs are an antidote to exploitation and depersonalization.

• Learn to study the Scripture texts in, around, and under the songs you love.

• Do not become so attached to subversion for its own sake that you fail to recognize genuine, covenantal, Christ-shaped forms of subversion. Cultivate the radical theological imagination needed for that discernment.

• Teach us by example what it means to sing as gift and gifting—each song a gift, each singing of a song a gift, each song a witness to gift and giving, each singer a gift in the giving.

• Devote attention to songs that convey the weightiness and hope of hesed, God’s tenacious, covenantal solidarity and loving-kindness.

• Rescue chestnuts from the dustbin of sentimentality. Resist kitsch.

• Pay attention to context—the unique context of each Scripture text, the unique context in which each song was born, the unique context in which it will be sung today.

• Choose not only songs that express what a community already experiences but also songs that will stretch a community toward ever deeper obedience to God, ever more vivid ways of imagining God’s covenantal love and fidelity.

—John Witvliet, “Foreword,” in Walter A. Brueggemann, A Glad Obedience: Why and What We Sing (Kindle Locations 76-95)

The Stewardship of Worship Leading (2)

As worship leaders . . . we also have the holy task of being stewards of God’s Word. Our choices of Scripture and themes for worship represent a degree of control over people’s spiritual diets, over how they feed on the bread of life.

—John Witvliet, Worship Seeking Understanding, 282