This is a guest post from one of my favorite worship leaders and songwriters, Jonathan Thomas. He's helping me out while I take the week to work on a couple other writing projects, including finishing my new ebook, Good Fight. You can get a FREE copy of the book by signing up for email updates from my blog. Sign up by clicking here. or click on the picture of the book cover in the side bar.
How Does the Congregation Communicate with God During Music?
One of the main goals of worship music is communication with God. When the music is Holy Spirit led and God focused, opportunities for communication with God can happen. Some have described the worship leader’s job as “bringing the congregation into the presence of God” or “into His throne room.” However, this is not the job of the worship leader, it is the job of Christ Himself .
As Paul tells Timothy in 1 Timothy 2:5, we are not the mediators between man and God, Christ is. Therefore, creating opportunities for communication with God is not about worship leaders bringing the congregation to the throne of God, but sharing Christ’s love, through music, so that the Spirit, through Christ, can bring them to the throne of God. That being said, worship leaders must learn how to make the worship music time an opportunity for this kind of communication to happen. Here is an illustration that may help:
NOTE: The Holy Spirit filled environment also covers the worship leader and worship band and their communication to God follows the same pattern, this illustration is designed to show specifically the role of the music in the congregation’s communication with God.
Though ultimately the Holy Spirit creates the right worship environment, there are a few musical concepts that if practiced will help produce a better environment for the Holy Spirit to work and for communication with God.
Creating Space: Less is more
I had a music teacher who told our band once, “I am not interested in how much you are playing, but in how much you’re not playing.” One very simple tool can help radically change many worship bands: less is more! Many worship leaders do not practice much authority over their band members, allowing them to play as much as they want as long as they hit the right notes and are on beat. Therefore, people lose a sense of unity and concentrate on what they are playing individually and not what they are playing collectively. If the drummer plays constantly with as many fills as possible, the keyboards don’t let one beat go by without a note, and the guitarists strum and pick with no style or change. This creates one chaotic sounding band! This chaos disrupts the Holy Spirit filled environment making it more difficult for people to receive God’s communication back to the congregation:
Here are some ways to help with the less is more concept:
Space for creativity and spontaneity
Why is space so important? Have you noticed that if the same surprise is done over and over, it ceases to be interesting? If all the musicians are all playing as much as they can at the same time, there is no space for something interesting to happen because everything that could be interesting is already happening, and happening a lot! Creating space by playing less gives musicians room to be creative. I've included some illustrations to help.
Let’s say all the parts of a band (the drums, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass, and keyboard) are all placed inside of a box. If each instrument is being played as much as possible, there is no space left in the box:
However, if all of the instruments were to play less, paying close attention to what other musicians are playing as well, there would be more space for something interesting to happen:
Now with all of that space, if the electric guitarist wanted to do a guitar solo, it would sound interesting because it’s not drowned out by everything else, it takes advantage of the space in the box, while the other instruments stay back, making the guitar solo more distinct, thus making the song more interesting:
If these concepts are used, communication with God during worship music is enhanced by the fact that it is easier for the congregation to receive communication back from God:
The ideal worship music setting: The worship leader (and band) plays genuine, heart-felt, well-played worship music to the congregation where the Holy Spirit has created a worship environment where God can work in people’s lives. People praise God and pray to Him. That communication goes to Jesus who sends it to God, the Father, who then can more easily send communication back to the congregation through Jesus.