One of the many questions I receive as the Worship and Music Catalyst is how should one pick songs for congregational singing? It's a great question and almost always I give this quick and easy answer.
Pick songs that are familiar. People love to sing what they know. I often ask someone, how long does it take for the average person in your congregation to learn a song well enough to sing it "by heart". We all know when a song is so deep in our heart, that we almost don't have to think about it as we offer it in worship to the Lord.
I read a book one time that mentioned people have to hear a song "17" times before they actually know it well enough to communicate it. When I am planning worship, I often try to think of songs I know the congregation can sing to the Lord because it comes from the depth of their hearts. A song they know well.
It's exciting to attend a sporting event, and a popular song starts playing from over 30 years ago. People stand and instantly engage themselves because of familiarity. I think it should be the same in church. Make sure that the majority of your congregational songs are familiar to those who attend on a regular basis. Help new songs become familiar by repeating and teaching them over and over.
We love to sing what we know, so do all we can to help as a leader of worship.
It all started back in January of 2021. I was approached about taking the new position of Music and Worship Catalyst with the Georgia Baptist Mission Board. I wasn't sure what the Lord was doing in my life, so as I prayed, I asked the Lord for clear direction. I wanted the yes's to be yes, and the no's to be no. The more I prayed the more peace I had. I went to my friend and pastor, Dr. John Waters and he asked me to work through 5 things.
1. What does the Bible say about this?
2. What do my godly friends say about it?
3. What does common sense say about it?
4. Have I really prayed about it?
5. Do I have a peace in my heart about it?
After walking through these 5 things, I realized the Lord had another mission for me and my family. It's been almost 2 months on the job and I can say I know the Lord called me to this new position, but selling a house, finding a new one. Leaving our friends and trying to figure out Atlanta traffic have been challenges, but God is sure and He has a plan that we will continue to strive for. God is faithful in all He has ever called me to do, and I know He is with me now!
I know you know these are crazy days, but each of us must carry on and do the best we can do each and every day. I am reminded of something I learned about 20 years ago and even this week and month, it has helped me in the midst of all this uncertainty. It's what I call "live in the moment". I am one of those people that lives with the "what's next" thought in mind more than I should. I have been told that sometimes I can't enjoy the moment because I am headed to the next "thing".
When you live like that, and the next thing is uncertain, it can cause all types of anxiety and stress, so one healthy thing I have learned to do is to live "In the moment". I basically tell myself to enjoy the moment I am in right now. It can be a conversation I am having, or walking the greenway trail or perhaps sitting alone in the coffee shop, but whatever it is, be present in the moment. It's amazing how just allowing yourself the reality to enjoy that moment will help you move through the coming hours, days, months and years with such peace. I would love to tell you it must only happen once, but the truth is, it's sometimes multiple times a day for me. Try it this day. When you feel that stressful thought or pressure, just look at exactly where you are and enjoy what you are doing, no matter what it is. I tell myself, you can do this for 5 minutes and usually peace comes to me as I live in that moment.
31“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33Seek the Kingdom of God6:33 Some manuscripts do not include of God. above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
34“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
Then he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and spread the mud over the blind man’s eyes. 7He told him, “Go wash yourself in the pool of Siloam” (Siloam means “sent”). So the man went and washed and came back seeing!
John 9: 6-7
We all know the story of Jesus healing the blind man and for many years of my life, I would read it and say what a blessing that was to the man who was born blind. Like I do so many other times, I just read through or over something but today the story struck me differently.
I realized that I was just like that blind man one time and all of us are. If we know Jesus, there was time we didn’t and so we were blind to his grace and compassion. Maybe even today, some of us don't realize how blind we really were, or how blind many people we come into contact with each day are.
As I was reading this story like so many times, three things jumped off the page at me and I want to share them with you.
50 Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph. He was a member of the Jewish high council, 51 but he had not agreed with the decision and actions of the other religious leaders. He was from the town of Arimathea in Judea, and he was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come. 52 He went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. 53Then he took the body down from the cross and wrapped it in a long sheet of linen cloth and laid it in a new tomb that had been carved out of rock. 54This was done late on Friday afternoon, the day of preparation, as the Sabbath was about to begin.
I was reading this story of Joseph from Arimathea today as I have many times, but today something stood out to me. Why was Joseph concerned so much to go and bury Jesus body?
I think there are three things we can know about him that would prompt him to do something like this.
Don’t Give Up....
6And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
I needed to be reminded of this verse this week because in all the stress of COVID, I will admit, I have wanted to just throw my hands in the air and quit. It’s just like one moment you have something figured out, and something changes and then it’s back to the beginning of the process. I am planner by nature, although some people say I never look like I plan. I call that planned spontaneity. I like to think out in the future to plan and dream, but it’s like I have been in survival mode the past few weeks and months.
These days, I plan our worship services each week, but I have always been a month ahead, but not these days. I will admit, sometimes I just don’t know what to do.
It’s been in those times the past few days that the Lord has used this sense of unsettledness to remind me He is in control. This verse in Philippians came up in a devotion I am reading through and it was just what I needed. God has not forgotten me or you. He is in the midst of everything we are dealing with today, tomorrow and in the future to come. He is doing a work in us. He is making us more into him image and He will continue to do this until He returns.
So, I ask you, do you know God loves you more than can be explained and he is for you. He wants the best for each of us, but he will continue to guide us each day because He wants us to trust Him. I pray that today you will in your own way, ask the Lord to comfort you and lead you through these days.
Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvations, my fortress where I will not be shaken. My victory and honor come from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me. O my people, trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge.
I have been told how loud I can be my whole life. I love to laugh loud, sing loud, and enjoy life loud. My mouth has gotten me in more trouble than any other thing in my life. I can remember my Mimi, telling me, don’t play the piano quiet so loud, God can hear you just fine. I still struggle with this in my life, but I am learning to be quiet more. I have learned how to sometimes just listen. My back porch in the morning can be one of the quietest places I know, and I love to sit and watch the sun come up and hear the buzz of the hummingbirds.
It’s a good thing to sometimes just be quiet and listen.
God loves it when his children wait on him and in that waiting free themselves from all other distractions. It’s like playing hide and seek, and you go hide and you almost want to hold your breath because you want to be as quiet as possible. We need times just like that to enter God’s presence and allow him to be able to comfort us. God is the ultimate rock and sure foundation and as his word says, “Nothing can separate you from that.” You realize this when you quiet yourself.
I have been learning in these days of social distancing that these quiet times help me trust the Lord more. I think it’s because without all the noise in my life, I know he is near. When God is near, a few things happen. Your thoughts automatically begin to praise him, and he becomes a safe refuge for you. I need that safe place in my life many times and I am glad to find it.
So when was the last time, you just put down your phone, walked outside and listened? For me it has been something I have to make myself do, but I know I am better for it when I do. I come away with the sense that God is really in control and I can trust him!
“God is a singing God,” “In Zephaniah, 3:17, it says he rejoices over us with singing. Because we have a singing God, we are made in his image, so we are to be singing people.”
I think I have been singing almost all of my life. My mom tells the story of me standing on the large brick hearth of the fireplace every day with a hairbrush as my microphone and I would sing at the top of my lungs. I remember I loved to go to church and sit in the old wooden pews next to my family and sing. I have always been a fan of harmony and for some reason harmony notes came so easily for me. I remember one time, someone telling me, sing the right note, which meant, sing the melody, but for me, the challenge of singing harmony created such joy for me. I love to listen to people sing and hear all the differences in each person’s voice. It amazes me how God created us all in His image, but with so many differences down to the way our vocal cords make sounds.
In these days of social distancing, I have been making a few singing videos to post online in hopes to encourage people, but also because it’s a gift I have been given. I now have a personal YouTube channel, and a quick search of YouTube and Rhon Carter will find it very quickly. Singing is such a unique way to express yourself and God designed itthat way because as we read in scripture, we have a singing God!
Singing is unique because it uses a certain tone and frequency to unite us. Only in singing can a group of more than one be in total aural unity. The rhythm and the tone allow for complete musical unity. It’s a wonderful thing to hear people speak in unison but singing brings the voices together so much more beautifully.
Singing connects us because it brings out the whole self. It uses the physical, the mental and spiritual parts of a person and unites them to share in a wonderful way. It’s been said that when people sing the same note, that their physical vocal cords are vibrating at the same rate to create that certain note. It also ties us together in the same thought. When you add the melody, the harmony and the lyric, you get an amazing God created sound that was a special gift to each of us.
Let’s all continue to be unified in our singing because we serve a singing God.
Hold fast to the Lord your God.
As many of you know I enjoy boating and water sports. I used to love to ride a tube behind the boat, but as I have gotten older, the tube riding has come to a halt. I can’t hang on like I use to could. I remember riding the tube and holding on for dear life. I think the older I have gotten, the worse my grip has become, and as I hear, it’s going to get worse.
I was watching a movie the other night and the sailors were on a boat going through a storm and the captain kept yelling, “Hold Fast, don’t let go” as the men were holding on to the ropes for the sails. It was torcher watching those men hang on and the water and the wave battering them and all the people helping them. The storms of life can throw you around and beat you up, but we have a Savior that tells us to Hold Fast! Don’t’ give up, the more violent the storm, the more strength we need to give to holding on.
God uses all things in our life to make use rely on Him more. My pastor says that pressures in life will either make you better or bitter. I pray each day that I will be better.
In Joshua 23, Joshua was the man God had used the bring the Israelites into the Promised Land. After years of hardship, pain and faithful service, Joshua’s life was coming to an end. He was an old man and death was knocking on his door. He gathered the people together one last time to say goodbye, but in that moment, he said “Hold fast to the Lord your God.”
What does this mean? We need to stay focused on the task at hand. Do not get distracted. Follow the Lord, no matter the cost. It’s amazing how quick I can become distracted in life. The amazing thing is when I get distracted, and come back to the Lord, He is still there. He is waiting patiently for me right at the point I got distracted. He allows me to repent and return. He gives me complete forgiveness each time through the blood from the cross.
So, no matter where you are today, HOLD FAST, not matter what storms may be around you at this time.
Is applause appropriate for worship?
This week, I have been thinking about the differing opinions from people about worship. Worship is such a personal thing, but its context is different when we consider cooperate worship. It seems “applause” is one of top three things people often discuss with me. “Volume” is definitely at the top of the list, but I don’t have time to go there today.
Let’s think about applause. What is it?
Merriam-Webster says it is “approval publicly expressed” and I agree.
“Clap your hands, all you peoples; shout to God with sons of joy! God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the LORD amid the sounding trumpets. Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises.”
“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth burst into jubilant song with music; make music to the LORD with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn- shout for joy before the Lord, the King. Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy.”
So, how should we respond? I think a hearty “amen” or applause can accomplish the following:
Christians engage in singing to the Lord, (Colossians 3:16) and make melody to the Lord (Ephesians 5:19). I believe when we applaud, we can make the case that it is unto the Lord. We can clap when someone sings, we can clap when someone is baptized, we can clap when someone dedicates their children to the Lord, and we can clap for someone who joins the church.
We would all agree that we don’t want worship to become a performance, but I believe there are many biblical references of using our whole bodies: mind, heart, soul, head, hands, feet, voices and our lips to worship.
When we applaud, we are joining the body of Christ in the work of adoration, praise, and worship. Applauding is a response and testimony to the Spirits work in our lives.
I am the Worship Pastor at First Baptist Church, Statesboro Georgia.