Last month, prior to having the joy of participating in the Getty Sing! conference in Nashville, I chatted with Sol Fenne at a lunch sponsored by 20Schemes. Sol is a church planter, musician and songwriter who has a passion to see the gospel transform lives in the poorest housing projects of Scotland.
One of Sol’s passions is to discover how the gospel enthusiasm and musical excellence from the Sing! Conference could be applied in the contexts of Scotland’s poorest schemes, or housing projects. So he sent me a follow-up email asking if I’d be willing to write a blog post addressing this question:
How we can encourage our 8-chord guitarists facing 10-20 musically impartial believers to strive on in tough circumstances where there is little to no encouragement and new believers who come from zero congregational singing cultures?
A Common Problem
You don’t have to live in one of Scotland’s schemes to identify with the issue that question raises. The majority of churches aren’t working with a stable of professional musicians leading a congregation of enthusiastic, engaged worshipers. We’re trying to get by with:
• Unskilled musicians and/or leaders
• Attendees that check their emotions and ability to move their bodies at the door
• A soundboard that’s limping along on its last legs
• A tight budget that never seems to include equipment
• Musicians that can’t figure out the chords on the album
And on it goes.
Some Ideas to Implement
We regularly find ourselves leading under less than ideal conditions. How should we respond? Here are a few thoughts.
How to Lead Worship With Limited Resources
Recognize that the gospel, not music, is the power of God (Rom. 1:16).
When our musicians, instruments, lighting and technology aren’t impressive, we can wonder why people would come to our church. They come because we have something the world doesn’t: the amazing news that Jesus Christ died in the place of lost, rebellious sinners to reconcile them to God. Music, no matter how great it is, can’t raise a dead soul to life. The gospel can and does. Your church may never come close musically to what the church down the street does or what people listen to on their iPhones. That’s OK. Faithfully preach, sing and explain the gospel and you’ll see lives changed.
Trust in God’s Word more than your own words (1 Thess. 2:13).
Trusting in God’s Word more than our own means featuring and treasuring the content and meaning of Scripture in our songs, prayers, sermons, visuals, sacraments and conversations. I say featuring and treasuring because we’re not simply providing information. We’re proclaiming life-giving, faith-imparting, direction-changing, mind-transforming truth. People should be able to see how much we love the word of God and the God of the Word, with or without music.
Pray for and expect God’s Spirit to work in people’s hearts for the glory of Jesus (1 Cor. 2:12; 1 Cor. 12:4-7).
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that God’s Spirit prefers working in a church of 5,000 or 500 more than in a church of 50. Where Christians gather to sing, pray, hear God’s Word and celebrate the gospel, God’s Spirit is there to do what only he can do. Bring conviction. Comfort the grieving. Give hope to the hopeless. Satisfy the spiritually hungry. And he loves to work through ordinary, dependent people like you and me.
Teach your people the purpose of congregational singing (Col. 3:16-17; Eph. 5:18-20).
People often base their understanding of why we sing more from their own past experiences than from the Bible. We have the joy of teaching them what God says about singing.