Worship Wednesdays - How to Sing 2000 Years Worth of Music on One Sunday Morning

This past week, I greeted our congregation by saying, "Today, we'll take you through the ages with our music. We'll sing one song that's so old we don't even know the author, and one that we finished just a few days ago."

Over the course of the hour, we sang words directly from Scripture, hymns from Victorian worship, praise choruses made popular by worship bands, and as promised, we debuted our brand new song, "Turn This Water Into Wine."

In choosing songs from different times periods, we reflect the voices of worshipers throughout the centuries. We're also able to connect with the various generations represented in our pews.

But how do we sing such a variety of material without sounding disjointed?
Here are a few techniques we like to use...

#1. It's All Worship!

This is the key to it all! If you think of your set list as a disjointed collection of songs, that's exactly what it'll feel like to your congregation. Remember that each song is an act of worship that not only reflects its time of creation, but is also a voice for worshipers today.

#2. What is your "Worship Voice"?

How does your congregation engage in worship? Are they strong singers, or do they need encouragement? Do they like jump-up-and-down praise, or do they prefer a meditative tone? Combine their worship style with your personal musical skills to create a signature sound for your church. Use feeling, groove, and tempo to create a worship environment where all songs can find a home.

#3. Shake Up Your Instrumentation

One of the fun ways to enliven songs from different ages is to shake up the instrumentation. Why not ask the worship band to jazz up that ancient hymn, while the pipe organ adds some majesty to a contemporary praise chorus? If you only lead with a solo instrument - piano, organ, or guitar - try bringing in a guest musician with a 'colour' instrument like saxophone, violin, or some percussion.

#4. Train Your Congregation to Listen

I remember seeing Bishop T.D. Jakes in an interview about worship music. He said that his church deliberately uses a variety of songs for worship because "we don't know when the Holy Spirit is going to show up, and we don't want to miss it when He does!" Encourage your congregation to seek God's presence in songs of all generations.

#5. Create New Music for Ancient Words

A few years ago, Gerald and I started writing our own settings for the psalms. We now have over 20 psalms that we're able to use in congregational worship. Let's face it, if we've been singing the same words our whole lives, we sometimes start to tune out the message. In singing these traditional words to new tunes, we refresh the message for lifelong Christians, and introduce ancient worship to new believers.

These are just a few thoughts on how to blend the ancient and the modern in your worship. 
Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section!

Worship Wednesdays is a weekly series to encourage and equip worship leaders and songwriters. Bookmark this page & visit us every Wednesday!

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