Archive for the ‘Worship Music’ Category

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Worship in A Multi-ethnic Church Part 2: How To Develop A Multi-ethnic Worship Team

Saturday, October 25, 2008

In our previous blog, Worship In A Multi-ethnic Church: The Heart of Worship, I stated that Worship must be a lifestyle that draw us into the presence of God. The Worship Leader is faced with the challenge of somehow blending the ethnic and generational preferences in the  style of worship music. My conclusion was that it is impossible to satisfy everyone’s preferences. I offered three options to address this issue.
In this blog I want to address the matter of how to develop a multi-ethnic worship team. I interviewed Pastor Gregory Hooper, Director of Worship Arts at Sunrise Church for his insights on this topic.

ART:  When you joined the staff of Sunrise Church what was Pastor Jay’s charge to you as the Director of Worship Arts?
GREGORY: First of all he wanted me to be sensitive to the multi-ethnic ministry of Sunrise.
ART: Did he give you any idea on how that sensitivity was to be expressed?
GREGORY: Oh yes, he said that because we all have cultural bias I needed to think outside of my own cultural bias and be intentional in incorporating diversity in two key areas; musical styles and the people on the platform.
ART: How does a worship leader overcome cultural bias?
GREGORY: As a worship leader you may not think you have a cultural bias. I certainly didn’t.  Yet I had to learn to challenge myself when it came to selecting music.  I may say, “I just like this.”   “It makes me feel good.”  But then I ask myself,  “Wait a minute how is this going to affect the worship and how is this going to support our vision for a multi-ethnic ministry?”
ART: That would be a challenge because we all have a tendency to lean not only toward our strengths, giftedness and skill sets but also toward our preferences in music style(s).
GREGORY: Yes, exactly and our preferences are influenced by how we were raised and what we were exposed to.
ART: What was your church background growing up?
GREGORY: My parents and grandparents attended Black churches and that is what I was exposed to.  Later as an adult, I chose to attend churches that were more White, like Grace Community Church in Panorama City where Dr. John MacArthur is the pastor. That’s where my wife grew up.  It seems like my church affiliation was either all Black or all White. When I was exposed to the great ethnic diversity of Times Square Church I knew that was the kind of ministry where I wanted to be.
ART:  Artistically and musically, what are some of the challenges that you face as the Director of Worship Arts of a multi-ethnic church?
GREGORY: People come to church with their own preferences. They want to hear a certain kind of music and songs.  That’s a challenge every worship leader faces and it is no different here.  The issue that makes it hard here is that we are trying to bring many different kinds of people together. We strategically try to break up the different styles of music and do different things within the context of the worship service and music. That helps me to put together the worship service because we have a strategic goal.
ART: What is the goal.
GREGORY: Our mission statement for the Worship Arts Ministry is “to create an atmosphere that invites people of all ethnicities to worship the living God, to cultivate spiritual growth and development in all of our members and to celebrate Jesus’ life transforming power through creative arts.” I keep those goals in mind as I am choosing music, so that whoever visits our church, with a certain cultural bias will find something in our services that will draw them to the Lord.
ART: This may sound silly but do you have some kind of a formula where you include so many riffs of Latin beats, rock, or gospel? You keep using the term strategic. So what are the components that you consciously include in the creation of a worship service?
GREGORY:  In a good worship service, I try to reflect the musical preferences of the main ethnic groups in our church.  It’s quite possible that you may have a Black person who loves rock music or a White who loves gospel music, so you can’t stereotype.  But again people come from different backgrounds so I try to incorporate the various styles rock, gospel, and something that has a Latin beat or Spanish lyrics in it.
ART:  It seems like a lot of work.  Why do you go to so much effort?
GREGORY: One thing I have learned from Pastor Jay is that reflecting the different styles of music communicates respect to the various ethnic groups in our congregation. In essence, we are showing them that their culture is worthy of being a part of God’s worship. So that’s what I try to do.
ART: Do you have any other criteria in the selection of songs for your worship services?
GREGORY: I try to keep a biblical focus.  When I choose a song it’s not just the style, but what the lyrics say. Do they reflect solid biblical theology and do they exalt Christ?
ART: The percentage growth among African-Americans and Hispanics in the four years that you have been here has been dramatic. I can’t help but think that your persona, stage presence, energy and music even your own delivery in song had a lot to do in attracting a number of African-Americans and Hispanics.
GREGORY: Pastor Jay told me when I first started that he wanted to create a balance between himself the White pastor who would speak for fifty minutes and someone else from a different ethnicity leading the worship that could attract the growing African American and Hispanics in Rialto. I think we have done that in some ways.
ART: Let’s get to the technical side.  Obviously, to do certain styles of music, you have to have musicians that can play that style of music.  How then can a church that wants to make the transition from a mono-cultural (one musical style) to a multi-cultural worship service (diverse musical styles) pull it off?
GREGORY: Your musicians need to understand the basics. An “A chord” is an “A chord” a “C chord” is a “C chord” and that transcends style. I look for people who have some basic knowledge of music. Beyond that, you must have people who are open to growing. By that I mean they are open to learning to play new styles of music. To me a good musician is someone who is open to playing different styles. Every musician has a musical preference, but at Sunrise, we don’t have the luxury of saying, “this is my style and this is all I play.”
ART: I imagine the same principle applies to vocalist and the choir.
GREGORY:  Absolutely I’ve had people that don’t want to try new styles. They feel it is too intimidating and that they can’t do it.  But the vocalist who have stuck feel that they have grown and their lives are more enriched because they have been open to trying new things. It’s been a blessing for our ministry.
ART: How does this learning curve impact the interpretation of the various musical styles?
GREGORY: It does affect the authenticity of the style. Sometimes it’s just “not White enough or Black enough”.  If it’s not the music of their heart (cultural preference) they struggle pulling it off.  What we are trying to create is a Kingdom sound.  So when someone comes to our service there might be a little piece, something that draws them into worshipping God.
ART:  How do you deal with the bias of some who feel that their musical preference is the most suitable style for worship?
GREGORY: My first priority is to keep things biblical. In the worship of God, everybody thinks that their style is more holy. There are certain things that transcend styles. There are instructions that God gives us in the Psalms.  I love the fact that in the Scriptures the music did not get passed down. I heard this said once that there is no such thing as Christian music only Christian words. In the multi-ethnic church, there is no one style that is more Godly. It’s all a matter of preference. At Sunrise, we want to exalt Christ in whatever we do and incorporate these various styles to communicate respect and attract people from all of these different backgrounds to see that we are incorporating their culture into what we do.  In the end, I want the believers that come to our church to grow in their capacity to worship God and their understanding of worship.
ART: What do people like about the worship arts.
GREGORY: People appreciate our attempt to incorporate different styles and our commitment to quality.  That’s another thing that Pastor Jay told me,  “People will be more accepting of something that is a little different if it is done well.”  If you do something from another culture and it is done poorly you will have a harder time with people. Secondly, people love the enthusiasm and the energy that we bring. They say it inspires them to worship. That’s an important component of any worship. I mean who wants dead worship?
ART:  Lets take the Flip side, what are some of the most common criticisms?
GREGORY: The most common criticism we get is that the music is too loud. I believe that sometimes that speaks to a style issue. In a musical style where the drums are playing more and you hear the base more, it vibrates a frequency that people aren’t used to feeling. They verbalize it as being too loud. And sometimes it is just too loud.
ART:  What recommendations can you give to a worship leader who is wanting to transition to a more multi-ethnic worship style?
GREGORY: Check your own heart.  Make sure you have the right understanding of worship.  Be a worshipper first. In terms of practical steps if you are not there don’t do it all at once. Take baby steps. Don’t try to change everything and everyone. Getting people excited about worshipping God is the first priority, regardless of the style. If people are excited about worshiping God they may be more open to other styles of music and incorporating other cultures because it’s all about God isn’t it?
ART:  When you talk about incorporating other styles, it does not have to be a complete song. I remember when you were singing a song you came to a pause, and Charles the pianist, pounded out this Black gospel progression of chords.  It made me lift my head up, and say “Wooowww what was that?” I wanted more but that little riff was all I got. It was like a teaser.  It was enough to grab your attention. Whether it’s a Latin rhythm or a rock beat, that’s all you got.
Anything else?  You have mentioned; Take it slow, Check your heart, and Be a worshipper
GREGORY: Yes. Be the best musician you can be.  By doing that you will open yourself up to different styles of music.  Be a student for the rest of your life.
ART:  How does one do that?
GREGORY: The first thing is listening. What are you listening to?  Are you only listening to one style of music? You need to open up because you’re only as good as what you listen to and what you put in.  That’s my philosophy as a musician. What happens as you listen to different musical styles and they get into you is that it starts becoming a part of who you are and it starts coming out in your music. If you just listen to one style, that is all you are going to play.  It starts with listening. Then of course there are the mechanics.  If you need to get lessons, get lessons.  If you want to know more about a particular style and you know someone or you can find someone that plays that style jam with them and try to glean what you can.

That’s our opinion, I welcome yours.

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Miles McPherson: The Challenge of Worship

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Miles shares about one of the biggest challenges to multi-ethnic ministry…Worship styles.

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Worship In A Multi-ethnic Church: Part 1 The Heart of Worship

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Question: How do you navigate personal preference and kingdom purpose in worship style?

Kingdom purpose in worship style is to be expressed in song. The New testament records that Jesus and His disciples following the last supper “sung a hymn” Mt 26:30; Mk 14:26; Paul and Silas during their imprisonment worshipped God by “praying and singing hymns to God” as the other prisoners listened Acts 16:25; Paul’s desire for the Romans is that God give them “a spirit of unity” as they follow Christ and that unity was to be expressed as they “sing hymns” Rom 15:7-9; To the Ephesians Paul writes “ speaking to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord” Eph 5:19.

It is clear from these verses that believers are to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. The source of these expressions of worship is our heart and the motivation behind this heartfelt worship to God is our gratitude for all that he has done for us. Genuine worship is expressed with other believers as evidence of unity, at times in the presence of non-believers, in the midst of our trials, from a heart that is overflowing with faith, trust, thanks giving, and contentment.

Worship should not be an act we reserve for Sunday services but a lifestyle. My wife, Debbie, shared with me the words she penned following a devotional Bible study on worship, Matt Redmond’s book The Unquenchable Worshipper: Coming Back to the Heart of Worship is what led her into this study. She writes.

Worship.

It’s a lifestyle.

It’s how we live each moment

of every day –captivated

by the awareness of

God’s presence.

It’s making choices to bring Him

pleasure and honor.
It’s refusing to allow the struggles

in life to consume us,

but rather to seek contentment

in every situation.

It’s kneeling before a holy God

to praise Him,

For it is only there

that we forget ourselves

and find rest

in His loving arms.

Deborah Lee Lucero 1-21-05

Our purpose in kingdom worship is to draw people into the presence of God through corporate prayer, singing, and the teaching of God’s Word.

As we consider creating a multi-ethnic worship service the focus should not be on instruments, genres, relevancy or contextualization. To do so would be to fall into the trap of pragmatism. These factors are important but not to the exclusion of Biblical worship, instead they should enhance Biblical worship. They should be used to help believers sincerely express their praise, adoration, confession, and thanksgiving to God.

The challenge for a church that has age diversity is that it must deal with those musical styles and genres that are influenced by generational preferences. Add to this the issue of ethnic diversity and we must also deal with musical styles and genres influenced by cultural preferences as well as generational preferences among the individual ethnic groups.

The reality is that all of us have musical preferences influenced by our ethnicity, age, family, and even our church culture. Therefore it is an impossibility to satisfy every ones personal preferences.

How then is it possible to create a worship service for a multi-ethnic congregation whose individual preferences are as diverse as their ethnicities and generations? There are basically three options that I have personally observed. If you know of any others please submit them as a comment.

  1. Keep the worship style of the church and encourage everyone that joins your church to accept your style of worship. This is the assimilationist approach. While it won’t attract a large amount of diversity some members of other ethnicities will attend and join the church. Interviews I conducted among these minorities revealed that they are usually of the same socio-economic, educational and employment status as the church members and they are willing to sacrifice their personal preference in worship style for something else that the church offers, in every case it has been expository Bible teaching.
  2. Find the most common musical genre preferences of your congregation and rotate those styles of worship on a weekly basis. Churches that begin to experience some diversity and desire to reach a larger segment of their ethnically diverse community will recognize the need to offer other genres of worship music. The initial shift has been to move from traditional hymns to contemporary worship music (generational issue). The next phase was to include other genres such as Rock, Gospel, Jazz, Latin Rhythms, etc (cultural issue).
  3. Blend the various genres into your worship service every week. The intent is to offer a little bit of everything on a weekly basis. This option has it’s own challenges which we will discuss in an interview with Gregory Hooper, Pastor of Worship Arts, Sunrise Church, Rialto, CA. in Part 2: Develop A Multi-ethnic Worship Team.

Sunrise Church operates under the third option. Our Senior Pastor Jay Pankratz, in dealing with the issue of personal preference, tells us, and I am paraphrasing, “You have all week to listen to your favorite Christian artist in your favorite style of music. On Sunday don’t expect to hear what you like all the time. Instead, learn to appreciate different musical styles and remember that worship is not about you it’s about God.”

Navigating personal preference and kingdom purpose in worship style can be challenging. The music we use for worship is to help people express a genuine worship of God. As Pastors we need to teach our people to stop thinking about what helps them to worship and start thinking and praying about what musical styles helps others to worship.

That’s my opinion I welcome yours.