I have been a worship leader for about a decade. Seven years ago, my wife and I moved to Grand Rapids, MI. Inccidently, this has been the place I have done most of my worship leading. More frequent and with God teaching me a lot. One thing I have struggled with is the mysterious region that is West Michigan. Many transplants (like my wife and I) speak of it. When you first experience it, it is like you are in some weird, parallel universe. (If you ARE a west michigander reading this, it is not my intention to offend :) ) What I have found is that this stems from a strong Dutch and CRC / RCA foundation here. I grew up in the non-denominational / charismatic world. There are many things I distanced myself from from within this branch of the church over the years (and now many things I have come back too), but one thing I am thankful that I always carried with me from that upbringing was a depth, an intimacy, a meditating in worship and in the presence of God. I also feel like this is where my gifting in worship leading is. Herein lies my struggle of the last 7 years. If I were to ask about worship to most west michiganders, they would respond, "oh yeah, you mean the song part of the service?" Being here many years, I now understand that this is just how it is here. It's how people were raised. Also, I am not one to force people into a certain "way" to worship. My struggle is that I have experienced (and again feel led to lead others into) a deeper place of worship. Most people here look at me like I have two heads and resist any type of change. I long to go and lead the church in West michigan into a deeper place of worship. I would love to hear any opinions, suggestions, and encouragements.
I've been to Grand Rapids - nice place. It was in the winter and I visited some good friends up there. There was so much snow and weather on the day I had to fly out that all the large planes were grounded. But the little Bombardier I was in took off without a hitch. Only the small planes were getting out of town. Everyone else had to stay in hotels that night.
It doesn't surprise me that they respond this way to worship and worship services in general. I can see where it's a bit disconcerting and I would struggle with it too - it's like they don't take it seriously, yes? But I wouldn't be too hard on them, how they react externally and how they love God doesn't have to be outward to be deep.
Greg - Thank you. I really appreciate that perspective. It gives me something to meditate on. I often pray, "God, you know the hearts and I know You will do what You need and want to do and I don't need to see it" I know it is God that works and I can only serve. One of my worship leader mentors once said that they stopped trying to "make" people worship a long time ago and made their focus creating an atmosphere where God can be worshiped and glorified. I also often pray, "Lord get me out of the way." :) I would be willing to bet there isn't a one of us worship leaders that doesn't deal with pride now and again. I just think it's part of our make up on some level. I think only those of us that have come to terms with this will understand and be able to laugh about it. haha. The reverence thing really resonated with me when I read it. It also fills me with hope because I have this nagging sense that we have lost reverence and awe of God in the American church. Maybe this is some of my struggle too overall. I feel like sometimes as I look around, we have lost our love for God and I want to see us get that back. So, you perspective of reverence really helped me get a different perspctive. Thanks. Your brother in Christ.
Hey Justin, I just found a post called, "Motivating the Church to Worship God," by Bob Kauflin. The website is www.worshipmatters.com. In it he talks about interjecting some thoughts between phrases or before beginning a song which can help the people focus on the words they are singing. These thoughts can be spoken or sung. I think this could help, but I also think it should not be done so often that it becomes a distraction and not a worship tool. For instance, in Darlene Zschech's song, "Shout To The Lord," there's a break after the line, "All of my days I want to praise the wonders of your mighty love." What is she saying there? You can say or sing some words like, "Thank you Jesus for your love, or Thank you for taking away my sin with your love." Doing this will take some practice and some slight planning, just enough to where it is natural and not mechanical.
I have decided to put some of that into practice. A lot of times I have thoughts of praise during the songs but don't speak them out. I am going to begin speaking them out more often. As worship leaders, we lead by example as well as singing and playing the music. We also can't push the congregation too far too quickly, but if they trully want to worship, than some of their inhabitions will slowly fall away.
This goes along with the idea of flow. I like to read scripture or introduce a song by pointing out something important about it - but I never use more than 15 or twenty seconds and never on every song.
I'm surprised at how much difference it makes to just introduce a song and it's general spiritual concept and encourage people to think about that while they sing.
And I know it's popular to interject phrases during a song, but it's not my style. I know a lot of people do it, but I find it distracting personally.
Thank you Marsha. I do bring some of that into my worship leading. I find that it can be helpful or can lead to a prayer I feel like the Lord is putting on my heart. Sometimes it allows you to dig a little deeper into the meaning of the words you're singing. It can get so easy to just sing the words, especially with worship songs, because a lot of times they are so very familiar.
Good luck as you also move forward in this direction.
LOL!!! Western Lower MI is quite a place, is it not?
Have you been to the Lake to watch the sunset? It is amazing. (if not, plan an evening of it next summer!)
I grew up in a small town south of Benton Harbor (Buchanan) and I agree that part of the state is unique. Even non-Calvinist denominations have felt the influence. The Assembly of God of Michigan has a "German District" that covers that area.
I do not know if you are familiar with PRMI, (Presbyterian Reformed Ministries Int'l) but they are a charismatic Reformed group and quite active in Lower Michigan. Having led worship for a few of their seminars (including one in the greater Holland area), I understand your question completely. I had the advantage of a weekend of teaching so brief instruction in "entering in" to worship was not out of place at all and helpful. Most of the youth got it but the older folk struggled a bit. They were not opposed but were so used to something else that changing gears felt unnatural.
I know PRMI has held a few seminars in your area, and "Friendship Chapel" of Calvin College in GR had a Dunamis 1 this last September. You might want to contact them to find out who was their worship leaders and talk to them. I believe a Gary Wybenga was the overall coordinator (he lives in Muskegon). You can get ahold of him thru PRMI.org. Tell Gary I sent you.
Edited to add:
Oh yeah - you might want also to get ahold of University Reformed in East Lansing MI. Pat Quinn was worship leader there for years and has just recently retired from their staff (I think he is still in the area) and he was one of my guitar heros when I was in college there. It was a great honor to lead worship in his home congregation with a PRMI "Spirit Alive" seminar about 15 years ago. He would also be a great resource for you.