Conversation and information about music and liturgy from a confessional Lutheran perspective.

Monday, November 13, 2017

An Easy Way to Boost Congregational Singing

This little trick is so simple that anyone can do it - unless they are in a congregation so small that they don't use microphones. Because, yes, this has to do with microphones. When it is the congregation's turn to confess their sins, confess the Creed, or say the Lord's Prayer, turn off the mic. It is arguably the easiest way to help a congregation find its voice, and yet so many places don't do this.

For pastors who don't have someone at the sound board who can do this for them - though I'd think someone can and should be found to do this - the alternative is for the pastor not to say those parts. Just like the pastor does not say the responses "Thanks be to God" or "Praise to You, O Christ" after the readings.

What? Pastor you say you DO say those parts? Well, stop it. As Bob Newhart famously said, "Just stop it!" Seriously, there may be an awkward pause at first and you should explain to the folks why you are doing this, but let them take ownership of their parts in the liturgy.

This is Step One to "Helping Your Congregation Find Its Voice." More to come. Stay tuned . . .

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Making Sure Our Boast Is in the Lord

"When people take pride in the business, they focus more on customer needs and innovation." - Mike Salvino, former CEO of Accenture, the world's largest management consulting firm.
There are obvious applications for program staff in a church, but I want to focus on how this connects to a huge problem in many churches, and illustrate how it manifests itself in the Church's song.

Scripture teaches repeatedly that our boast should only be in the Lord (1 Cor. 1:31; Gal. 6:14; Ps. 34:2; Jer. 9:24). Our pride is found in Christ alone. I believe that when people take pride/boast in Jesus, they will focus more on telling the Good News about Him and meeting their neighbors' need.
Where, then, is this "huge problem" I see?
It lies in two directions--Sasse's ditches on the sides of the road, if you will. On one hand, we have two generations of new hymnals chock full of excellent hymns and canticles that in many cases have nonetheless been forced onto congregations rather than being convincingly introduced. As wonderful as much of this new music is, few will tell their neighbor "come to my church and hear the organ blast songs that few of us know but are really doctrinally pure and liturgically orthodox!"
On the other hand, despite the promises of church growth gurus and numerous evangelism workshops, the Church's experiment with worship "styles" and adoption of rock bands and radio music over the past 20 years does not lead to boasting in the Lord either. As sincere as their missional intentions may be, few congregants are motivated to invite their friends to "come and hear our garage band blast songs that some of us know and sort-of sing along with on the easier parts. The songs don't say much, either, but we do them anyway because we're trying to get folks to come."
Ironically, whether one runs off the road to the left or to the right, one is driven by the same motivation: to do things right. The devil's use of our good intentions come to mind. I don't have all the answers, but I do know they lie in keeping things centered on Christ. In my own ministry area, I can say this: if you are picking music for "missional" reasons, step back and pick hymns that your people know and love and *can sing* that are about God and His love for us in Christ Jesus. If you are picking music for "confessional/orthodox" reasons, do the same.
A good test is to take away the "wall of sound," whether it is your praise band (missional) or your organ (confessional) and listen to the people sing. Their singing will reveal to you whether they are boasting in the Lord or not. There may be need to re-center in other ways (preaching, Sunday School, church programs, etc.), but in the area of cantoral ministry, congregations need to cultivate the common songs which bind them together and move them to invite others to join in the song. Sure, there is room for each generation to add new songs to the garden, but few take pride in their church because they are singing songs they think they should be doing rather than the songs their faith wants to sing. (Ps. 40:3)