Worship: the State of the Union - part two

Posted by Admin on 26 September 2013

WAW: Do you ever feel conflicted working within the worship movement? How do you resolve photo shoots and all that?

ST: Photo shoots are a depressing thing! But I try not to get too hung up about any of it. There is a tension between the fact that something is useful to the church and therefore may yield you a financial return. You want to make sure that when you’re saying ‘I want to do this because it will bless the church worldwide’, not because I might get blessed financially!

As you try to express the whole range of the gospel - the wisdom of God - in your songs, it helps you to keep honest and true. I’ve just written a song about simple living, looking at the rich young man who came to Jesus to be told ‘sell all you’ve got’. The song concludes by asking God to teach us about living more simply, not always wanting more. And as I was writing that I was preaching to myself. You can’t write a song like that and think ‘I hope it makes millions’!

WAW: How do you know when it’s time to stop singing and act?

ST: You don’t stop. You sing and you act. Songs are a great reminder, they stay with you. When was the last time you sang a song about being generous with your money? I can’t remember, and I can't think of a song that helps us sing that way, but if you sing it on a Sunday, it’ll be with you when you open your wallet in the week.

WAW: I suppose that it’s easier to sing songs that touch the ‘God is here’ nerve, rather than the ‘God wants me to give things away’ one.

ST: It is difficult and I feel that pressure as a worship leader. Part of the expectation that we have built is that in some sense we have an encounter and experience of God. I feel the pressure: shall we sing a song that helps us feel warm, or one that helps us use our money better? People are more likely to come up at the end and say ‘that was a wonderful time of worship’ when they felt like they touched him, and I think we need to resist that pressure.

Our worship times need to deal with different subjects that don’t necessarily give us those feelings, but in which God is still active and honored. It’s part of the role of songs - not just to provide an experience - but to offer something that feeds, teaches equips us for life.

WAW: Should we be striving for one church where one expression of sung worship which fits everyone? Or do we have to accept that diversity requires us to worship in whatever way suits us?

ST: I’m very comfortable with there being a lot of diversity in music - and we’re not diverse musically at all. The ‘success’ of the industry can be its own worst enemy as it creates more of the same - it’s true of the mainstream music industry as well. But in terms of content I think that probably what we should all be trying to broaden out. So if we have very experiential songs we should be looking to broaden into the objective, and if we have plenty of objectivity we should be looking to broaden into the experiential.

None of us have got it right and we should all be searching for more - not be saying ‘we don’t do songs with lots of words about God because we just want to feel him’ - or ‘we don’t sing these words about loving the Lord, we stick to the truth’. I don’t think we should be homogenized into a single sound, or a single content, but I think that we should all the time be broadening the range of what we do.

I think it’s very hard to make statements about where the church is at, and I see lots of different streams. Some need more objectivity, some could benefit from a little subjectivity. I find myself in situations where people love these hymns, but they love them because it means they don’t have to sing all these fluffy things. Actually, they do need some of those fluffy things as part of our relationship with God is a dynamic, ongoing, loving relationship with him.

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