Jun 15

How Did We Get Here?…June 18th

Driving down the street with your mind on that meeting; your spouse’s doctor appointment and the ‘conversation’ you had with the kids earlier, did you notice the stop drivingsign? Of course I did, I stopped didn’t I…didn’t I? After leaving the house you drove those familiar streets to your next stop, but have you ever ask yourself, “What did I pass, how did I get here?”  

This Sunday morning we’re not talking about driving, but we are going to look at what we have done (what happened while I was raising my family) to get where we are today. And since its Father’s Day, we’ll look at a father whose son challenged him at every corner. With or without challenges, you have grown up in a family that brought you to this day, so maybe we should ask the question…“How Did We Get Here?”

“…I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also.”  I Corinthians 14:15

Sunday morning, June 18, 2017

The following songs are found in the hymnal, Songs of Faith & Praise.

“Let Every Heart Rejoice and Sing” – 8

We’ll open our worship with a song encouraging ALL to rejoice and sing. “…Ye aged men and children bring to God your sacrifice…” Together we will lift up our hearts as a sacrifice of praise!

“Wonderful Words of Life” – 543

Dads (Grandads), as you raise your family insure that you are singing to your children about a God who created them and loves them? Sing so that your children would say, “Sing them over again to me, wonderful words of life…” If you want your family to head toward heaven, point them toward God. You can do that by singing to them about the wonderful words of life.

“There is a Redeemer” – 287

The next two songs will usher us toward the Lord’s Supper. The prayer we’ll sing is simple, “Thank you, O my Father for giving us Your son.” Tell your children and your grandchildren about the gift God has given us through His Son! Without it, our families will be in distress wondering ‘how did we get here?’

“It Is Well with My Soul” – 490Old rugged cross

The second verse of this song before the Lord’s supper we’ll focus on a call to remember Christ sacrifice, “My sin! O the bless of this glorious thought, my sin, not in part, but the whole is nailed to HIS cross and I bear it no more…Praise the Lord!” Maybe this could be a song before the Lord’s Supper.

“Remind Me Dear Lord” – 606

“Nothing good have I done to deserve God’s own Son, I’m not worthy of the scars in His hands. Yet He chose the road to Calvary to die in my stead, why He loved me, I can’t understand.” Sometime we need the curtain of our memory rolled back so we can remember where we came from…we need that if we are ever going to know how we got where we are!

“Faith of Our Fathers” – 754

Before our lesson we’ll sing about the faith of our forefathers. We stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. If we fail to see what our fathers have done to bring us this far we miss the value of our legacy. Not to mention we’ll never know…you got it…how we got here!

“How Deep the Father’s Love” – no book

An invitation song that might not be ‘typical,’ but one that clearly reminds us (if we’re thinking about the words) that we were once a wretch, but now we are His treasure. That it was my voice that was heard among the scoffers and my sin that held Him to the cross. And perhaps most importantly, I have NO answer as to why I should gain from the reward of His death and resurrection. If we fail to examine this, our destination might not be the end result we all are hoping for. We might wonder not how did I get here…but why did I do that?

“Oh, To Be Like Thee” – 429

You want to have certainty of where you’re going? What to have confidence in knowing you’re directing your family toward heaven? Then consider this song, “Oh to be like Thee, blessed Redeemer! This is my constant LONGING AND PRAYER…” If our constant longing is to be with our God, and if we are leading our families in that direction, and if we obey God’s instructions to join Him in heaven…we’ll know how we got there!

Jun 01

How Can I Know There Is a God? … June 4th

There is a question that has been asked for generations, from young and old, ‘How do you know? You say this is the way it goes, but howquestion mark do you know?’ Some will tell you that the answer to the question is this…but how do they know? Even the jury needs to know for sure before coming down with a verdict. As a Christian, you have been told that there is a God. Still some may ask, “How do you know?”

The Christian stands tall on faith that what the Bible says is true. God is alive and Jesus loves me because…‘the Bible tells me so!’ But is there anything concrete I can share with my unbelieving friends? Can I give them something outside of God’s inspired word that confirms my belief that God is real? This coming Sunday morning at Faith Village church of Christ in Wichita Falls, come join us as we look at the question… “How Can I Know There Is a God?”

“…I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also.”  I Corinthians 14:15

Sunday morning, June 4, 2017

The following songs are found in the hymnal, Songs of Faith & Praise.

“All the Way My Savior Leads Me” – no book

Where are you going in life? Is there an ‘end game’ to your daily activities? As God’s children we know that He directs our path (Proverbs 3:6) and we follow Him by faith. Thus we sing, “All the way my Savior leads me, O the fullness of His love. Perfect rest to me is promised in my Father’s house above.” Maybe we should all ask ourselves, who is leading me and were exactly am I going?

following Christ“Step By Step” – 15

Following our opening song, “Jesus lead me all the way,” we reaffirm that we will follow Him, step by step. But not just follow Him. We will seek Him in the morning and we will learn to walk in His ways…all the way He leads us.

“Redeemed” – 458

When you know that there is a God and you are His child, it’s easy, and sweet, to sing this next song. “I’m redeemed! By love divine, Glory, glory, Christ is mine, Christ is mine.” When we believe, obey and follow God we will have a ‘sweet song’ (verse 1) and experience great joy (verse 2)!

“O Listen to the Wondrous Story” – 496

Though perhaps not known as a ‘song before the Lord’s supper,’ the chorus supports our claim that we can have assurance and know there is a God. With a short Q&A, we ask, “Who saved us from eternal loss?” Answer, “Who (else) but God’s Son upon the cross?” Question, “Why, what did He do?” Answer, “He died for you!” Question, “Where is He now?” Answer, this is good… “Believe it thou (you), in heaven interceding!” (Read Romans 8:34, “Christ Jesus is He who died, yes rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.”)

“I Believe in the One They Call Jesus” – 356

How can we say we know for sure that God is real? Perhaps we follow the words from Romans 4:18 as Abraham’s faith was being discussed, “In hope against hope he believed…” That’s why, within this one song, we sing the word ‘believe’ eight times, in verse one alone. And before it’s all said and done, we’ll sing that we believe in Jesus, in His power, His authority, His life and His death a total of 22 times. So then you must decide if you’ll sing the last line of the chorus, “And I believe that He’s the answer for me.”

“Our God, He Is Alive” – 23

Written less than 50 years ago, this spiritual song has become one of the most popular hymns within churches of Christ. And perhaps there is no song more fitting as we consider our lesson today than the song with this title, Our God, He Is Alive! But look closely at verse three. Often skipped over and misunderstood by many, this verse reminds us that God is not only in control, He is in charge. He holds in His hand the secret of life, and though men may search for the answer, they will never find it. Why, because only God understands!

“I Know Whom I Have Believed” – 524

We have lots of questions in life. Even with this invitation song we find 5 questions we might ask. From God’s grace and His love, how the Holy Spirit ‘moves,’ what my future holds and when Christ will return. But even with these ‘queries,’ we sing with confidence…“I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him (my life in Christ) against that day.” (See II Timothy 1:12, “…for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him UNTIL that day.”…I believe that!)

“Blue Skies and Rainbows” – no book

Some say this is a campfire song…maybe, but notice the last two verses and how they support our message today. “Green grass and flowers all blooming in spring time…are works of the Master I live for each day…” and, “Tall mountains, green valleys, the beauty that surrounds me, all of this makes me aware of the One who made it all.” Look around you and you’ll see God’s hand. Then you’ll sing, “I know that Jesus is well and alive today!”

May 25

FOCUS!

Do you have trouble focusing? By definition, focus is more than just seeing something clearly. It can also mean, getting your mind wrapped around what needs to be done. And if we’re honest, that can sometimes be a difficult task.

Sometimes I wonder why it is so hard for me to focus. But the truth is, circumstances affect my thoughts. The ‘obstacles’ that affect my focus may be external or they may be internal. Externally, we might lose our focus when a truck (or even a bird) is heard outside the window, or cookiesthe wafting smell of fresh, homemade cookies baking in the kitchen. Even the shadow of a dark cloud covering over the sun can cause my focus to turn toward the skies. Perhaps ‘focus’ is a fragile thing to be swayed by such small factors. Unfortunately our focus is so splinted in life, that we find ourselves focused on so many things that we miss what’s most important. Work, sports, entertainment, even ‘self’ seems to be our focus today. Take a look at your iPhone, how many ‘selfies’ do you have in your photos? You see, we are good at focusing on our self and too often miss the ‘big picture’ (no pun intended.) And since focusing is a Biblical idea, let me ask you to ‘focus’ on and consider the Hebrew writer’s admonitions…

Hebrews 12:1-3 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

We must determine that our focus in life will be on Jesus Christ, the ‘Author and Perfecter’ of our fix your eyesfaith. And we must be willing to FIX our focus on Him! When we do that, all the other worldly sensations will cease to ‘allure me’ or compete for my attention. The sounds outside the window, the aromas that entice and the sights that distract can be more easily ignored. Ken Young penned a song (psalm) that takes these words, almost verbatim, and gives us an idea of how we keep our focus on Him.

“Surrounded by those who have traveled this road, we throw off the heavy and hindering load. The sin that entangles (distracts us), we lay it aside and run with our EYES ON THE ONE CRUCIFIED.” Consider Him, who endured such opposition from sinful men. Consider Him, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

There are those who believe the person who is ‘unfocused’ needs to be medicated. Of course they do…have you not read Luke 5:27-32, Jesus IS the great physician. But seriously, the only medication you need if you’re having trouble focusing, is to fix your eyes on Christ. Not the world, not the ‘ladder of success,’ and certainly not your own accomplishments. Throw off the entanglements of the world, and run towards the Savior with your eyes ‘focused’ on Him! We know that in life, you have to run with your ‘eyes on the prize,’ but too often our eyes are on the wrong prize. So what will be your focus…the world or the Christ.

May 11

What’s in YOUR Heart?

This article, in part, is borrowed from an anonymous source.

guard your heartProverbs 4:23 “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” Now compare this to the words of our Lord and Savior in Luke chapter 6, verse 45;  “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good…”

Consider the following:

If your heart is filled with love, joy, peace,patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Sound familiar? See Galatians 5:22 & 23), then your actions will prove it. People will say of such a person that they are ‘beautiful on the inside.’ This kind of ‘beauty’ becomes visible on your countenance. (In other words, “If you’re happy and you know it, then your face will surely show it.”)

Remember what Christ said in Luke chapter 6, verse 45;  “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good…” Now take a look at the rest of His sentence; “…and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.”

Therefore the opposite must be true. If your heart is filled with jealousy, Happy-Grumpyunhappiness, greed, hatred and anger, it will be heard in your voice (language), seen in your actions and ultimately expressed on your face. Even Disney knew how to show us the difference  between ‘Happy’ and ‘Grumpy.’ The actions of the grouch (in December, the Grinch) will lead toward him to becoming a most unlikable person. (Side note: both Grumpy and the Grinch changed their hearts!)

Therefore…guard your heart! Focus on the things in life that are pure and good. Paul gives us a very clear picture of how we should be thinking as he wrote Philippians 4:8, “…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely (lovable or gracious), whatever is of good repute (reputation), if there be any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell (think) on these things.”

My encouragement to you, make every effort in your day to see the good things in life. And if you’re battling to do that, “Ask the Savior to help you, comfort strengthen and keep you. He is willing to aid you. He will carry you through.” (Yield Not to Temptation; Horatio Palmer, 1868)

Apr 28

Salvation Belongs Our God

One of my favorite things about psalms, hymns and spiritual songs is finding scripture woven within the songs we sing. The 23rd Psalm, “The Lord’s My Shepherd,” Lamentations 3, “The Steadfast Love of the Lord” as well Psalm 121, “Unto the Hills” are songs we sing that quote almost verbatim the text. Recently I have been introduced to several ‘newer’ songs that come straight from God’s word, revelation 7but for the next few minutes consider the words of John as he records a vision from Revelation chapter 7.

The vision John wrote about in Revelation chapter 7 is a look into the throne room of God. How did the saints who stood before God’s throne react to being in the presence of the Almighty? Read what he saw, then listen to the song. “…I looked and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’ And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, ‘Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.” (NAS)

The second verse doesn’t come from the book of Revelation, it comes from the redeemed as we continue to sing. “And we the redeemed shall be strong in purpose and in unity, declaring aloud… PRAISE AND GLORY, WISDOM AND THANKS, HONOR AND POWER AND STRENGTH belong to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

Apr 13

A Song Leader’s Guide…Pt. 3

GuideBookSince February we have been following a series of three lessons that focus on the responsibilities of the song leader, otherwise known as the Song Leader’s Guide. This last of three articles will be centered around the Three “P’s” of song leading; Proactive, Practice and Plan. Though this article may over lap with the first point (being prepared), I hope you’ll find the “Three P’s of song leading” to be more focused on how you approach and lead the Lord’s church in singing. Just remember we should work as though you’re working for God… Colossians 3:23 Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.

And finally, a basic guideline for all song leaders is to follow the “three P’s” of song leading. Be Proactive, be willing to Practice and be able to Plan. This approach will teach the congregation that singing is not just something we do, but rather the proactivevalue in singing hymns. Being ‘Proactive’ means you work on getting to know the song book better. Whether you use a book or project songs, review them and determine which songs you personally know and which ones you don’t. Go over each song (in the book or on the screen) and know what you’re doing well before Sunday morning. If you project songs, do not to rely on the church secretary to build the slide deck for you. Take the time to learn this procedure and know what’s on the screen behind you.

Though we addressed ‘Practicing’ earlier, here we should be more focused on practicing with the congregation as a whole. This is best done in a class setting on Sunday evening before services or on Wednesday nights. Some might want to limit this class to one quarter per year, or once a month but you will be better served to keep this as an ongoing class. Make singing something that is more than just 8 songs on Sunday morning, 6 on Sunday night and 1 or 2 songs on Wednesday. Fifteen or sixteen songs of praise per week seem to limit the Hebrew writer’s thoughts. Hebrews 13:15, “Through Him then, let us CONTINUALLY (emphasis added) offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.” So let us use some class time to learn new songs (practice) as well as Congregational Singing2singing old familiar ones (praise). You can even shake it up on occasion by splitting the group up into four parts and learn/practice harmony. But remember to practice by yourself so you know how to better lead and teach the congregation.

And as you ‘Plan’ out an approach to teaching the congregation the value of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19), be sure you are familiar with and know the value of the songs we sing. Some of our songs date back hundreds of years and have a rich history we can learn from. Others are closely aligned with scripture and shed a new light on an old hymn. Some of our newer, ‘contemporary’ songs have a magnificent message that we’ll never know if we don’t broaden our repertoire. But as you plan, always check the integrity of the songs we sing (new or old) with scriptural accuracy. We strive to avoid heresy in our preaching, and so we must also be aware that it can creep into our singing as well. When we are attentive to planning out the song service, we are more apt to avoid any accidental error. Be proactive, practice and plan so that you can be the best song leader God is calling you to be.

We know that Sunday morning will come on the first day of each week and we might be the one called on to lead the congregation in song. When do we start selecting our songs? What songs will we select? Will we (Do we) prepare ourselves before we meet together for worship? These and many more questions are ours to Cover pictureanswer long before Sunday morning comes around. Just remember that we are leading the family of God in praise to Him. For some, this will be the first and only time during the week that they bow before God’s throne to worship. Will they see Him or will they be distracted by us? My prayer is that as song leaders in the Lord’s church, we will take on the mantra of I Cor. 14:15, “Church, come join us…we’re marching to Zion!”

Mar 30

How to Deepen/Strengthen Your Faith

Have you ever had the feeling that you’re not as spiritual as you’d like to be? Perhaps you’ve just felt like your walk with Christ wasn’t as good as it once was. Some may have even found themselves going through a time when they just didn’t care. As a Christian when you know that you could be more devoted, but your heart struggles with being close to God…what do Gods Wordyou do? If we are true to ourselves, each of us has had times when our ‘love for Christ’ has grown cold or weak. Is there something we can do, some where we could turn? Scripture should always be our first approach, followed by (and accompanied with) prayer. But personally, when Satan poisons my heart with lies and interferes with my walk, I tend to turn to the psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. “In Christ Alone” (Keith Getty, 2007), “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” (Helen Lemmel, 1922), “Day by Day” (Caroline Berg, 1865) and “I Need Thee Every Hour” (Annie Hawks, 1872) are just a few of my ‘go to psalms’ in times of distress. But today let me encourage you to follow the thought of a song written in 1837 by John R. Wreford…

“When my love to Christ grows weak, (exactly what we’re talking about here) when for DEEPER faith I seek, then in thought (in your ‘mind’s eye’) I go to thee, (read, Matthew 26:36-46, Mark 14:32-42 & Luke 22:39-46) Garden of Gethsemane!

Jesus praying

There (in the garden) I walk amid the shades, while the lingering twilight fades, (it’s evening and the sun is going down) see that suffering, friendless One (can you see Him, in ‘your mind’s eye?’) weeping, praying there alone. (But what if I’ve fallen so far that even the sight of a man suffering and struggling doesn’t bother me? (Then read on…)

When my love for MAN grows weak, when for STRONGER faith I seek, (what can I do, where should I go ‘in my mind’s eye?’) Hill of Calvary! (go to the cross if you have trouble caring about mankind…that’s where Christ went! To the cross…) I go to the scenes of fear and woe. (Again, read the text, Matthew 27:33-54)

There (at the cross) behold His agony, suffered on the bitter tree; (look at the scripture, Mark 15:22-39 or Luke 23:33-47) see His anguish, see His faith (if you haven’t read the above passages, you’ll never over come the struggle of a wavering faith)…love triumphant still in death. (Now, what are you going to do?)

Then to life I turn again (away from the poetic imagery in your mind to real time), learning all the worth of pain (His death was for YOU), learning all the might that lies (a lesson we must all learn) in a full self-sacrifice. (where you give your life over to God. Remember, it’s not about  you!)”

The answer, if you’re struggling in your walk with Christ, if you want to be have a more spiritual tone in your life…if you want to care again… stop living for yourself. We can be more devoted and closer to God, but we need to ‘learn the might that lies in a FULL self-sacrifice.’ He sacrificed Himself for you and me. Can you, will you, do that for others? When we do, we’ll deepen and strengthen our faith in God.

Mar 16

A Song Leaders Guide…Pt. 2

As we continue to look at The Song Leader’s Guide, you’ll remember previously we talked about “Being Prepared.” Though we can never underestimate the importance of working with the preacher and coordinating the song service, the second point is of equal value. In today’s Humble leadershiparticle we’ll look at the next recommendation for song leaders. We must know and practice humility. Without a humble spirit, our song leading becomes nothing more than a stage for your assumed presentation. Not a good thing!

Not only should we be prepared…a good song leader will demonstrate humility before, during and after the worship services. Before worship services begin, walk down the aisle of the auditorium and visit with the members. Knowing them by name is an important connection you can make before you step up to lead. If you are too busy picking songs, or if you aren’t willing to visit with the members, you’ll never be able to properly lead them. A humble heart will see others as valuable, and be willing to invest time in them.

During the song service, demonstrate humility. Have a countenance of joy when the song calls for it, but avoid excessive facial expressions that draw undue attention to you. A smile will tell the congregation you believe in the message of the song. At all times, avoid a look of distress or frustration. If you mess up on a series of notes, or if you sing the wrong words, don’t let the congregation know it has ‘rattled you.’ Your brothers and sisters may not even know you made a mistake, but either way it won’t shake you because, “this is not about you.” When you lead a melancholy song, strive to focus the congregation on the seriousness of the song’s message. Remember, you can communicate the meaning of a song simply by the expression you have on your face.

And, humility must also be exhibited after the worship services. At times you may receive accolades regarding your ‘work’ following the worship. A common response by many song leaders is a simple ‘thank you.’ And to God be the glorythough there is nothing wrong with this reply, perhaps a better response would be ‘to God be the glory.’ However, if someone acknowledges my song leading, I prefer the phrase, ‘the congregation was in good voice.’ It is always best to turn the focus away from yourself, and towards our God and His church. Just remember that a humble heart cannot be seen in words, but in actions. Give praise to God and uplift His church or you run the risk of leaving the congregation feeling like spectators rather than participants.

Next month (April) we’ll conclude this three part series of a Song Leader’s Guide to Worship.

Mar 02

The Prayer of the Children

choraleIn January, the Freed-Hardeman Chorale toured North Texas during their Winter Tour. I was blessed to hear them sing most every night of the 12 day tour, and one of my favorite songs they sang was written by Kurt Bestor. In 2005, he shared the background for the song and how it was born from his frustration over the horrendous civil war and ethnic cleansing that was taking place in the former country of Yugoslavia. Having lived in this war-torn country during the 70’s, he grew up loving the people with whom he lived and served. The following is a portion of his explanation behind “Prayer of the Children…”

“When Yugoslavian President Josip Broz Tito died, different political factions jockeyed for position and the inevitable happened – civil war. Suddenly my friends were pitted against each other. Serbian brother wouldn’t talk to Croatian sister-in-law. Bosnian mother disowned Serbian son-in-law and so it went. Meanwhile, all I could do was stay glued to the TV back in the US and sink deeper in a sense of hopelessness.

Finally, one night I began channeling these deep feelings into a wordless melody. Then little by little I added words….Can you hear….? Can you feel……? I started prayer of the childrenwith these feelings – sensations that the children struggling to live in this difficult time might be feeling. Serbian, Croatian, and Bosnian children all felt the same feelings of confusion and sadness and it was for them that I was writing this song.

I took a long night to finish the song and I sang it for my wife and family, but that was about it. I put it away for awhile never thinking to sing it publicly. Then one night, as I struggled to fill a 2-hour concert, I decided to sing “Prayer of the Children.”  I’m not sure, but I think it was 1994. The song had an immediate reaction on those in attendance and I was surprised at the almost hushed sound as I sang.”

The interpretation (signing) is being done by my daughter, Emili Bruce. She is a junior, Arts & Humanities Major at Freed-Hardeman University.

Can you hear the prayer of the children?
On bended knee, in the shadow of an unknown room
Empty eyes with no more tears to cry
Turning heavenward toward the light

Crying Jesus*, help me
To see the morning light-of one more day
But if I should die before I wake,
I pray my soul to take

Can you feel the hearts of the children?
Aching for home, for something of their very own
Reaching hands, with nothing to hold on to,
But hope for a better day a better day

Crying Jesus*, help me
To feel the love again in my own land
But if unknown roads lead away from home,
Give me loving arms, away from harm

Can you hear the voice of the children?
Softly pleading for silence in a shattered world?
Angry guns preach a gospel full of hate,
Blood of the innocent on their hands

Crying Jesus*, help me
To feel the sun again upon my face,
For when darkness clears I know you’re near,
Bringing peace again

Dali cujete sve djecje molitive?
(Croatian translation: ‘Can you hear all the children’s prayers?’)
Can you hear the prayer of the children?

 

Feb 16

A Song Leader’s Guide…Pt. 1

Over the years some of my brothers and sisters in Christ have asked me, “How do you do it? How do you know what notes to sing, when you’re song leaderdirecting the songs, how do you know how to move your arms, how can you sing in front of so many people?” First of all, I’m no expert. As a matter of fact my 40 years of singing in the Lord’s church and leading singing is my only call to fame. So with this experience I want to share with you a few guidelines that will hopefully help you as you direct/lead singing in the Lord’s church. This is the first of a three part series that will look into ways we can better lead God’s family in worship and song.

Consider first of all…

It is a beautiful Sunday morning in the small, country church where our brothers and sisters in the Lord’s church have gathered for worship. The preacher has prepared a message from God’s word, and the song leader has selected the songs the congregation will be singing today. One is a ‘hired’ employee who has focused himself all week for this morning’s assembly. The other has spent only a few short minutes pulling together some of his favorites. If the truth be known, this scenario happens every Sunday morning somewhere within the brotherhood. Song leaders often find themselves sitting on the front row, searching through the song book for a good invitation song. This Sunday morning, somewhere a song leader will only take a few minutes to determine what songs will be sung in praise to God. The sermon might be focused on the ‘Man of Sorrows,’ (Isaiah 53:3), but the topic of the song service is ‘the Great Commission.’ (Matthew 28:19) Some points of emphasis within the sermon maybe lost to worth-while songs that fail to support the message of the morning. It is important to remember that coordinating the songs with the sermon will take some planning.

Isaac Watts wrote a familiar spiritual song more than 300 years ago that should be an MarchingtoZioninspiration to every song leader. When we realize that we are all “Marching to Zion,” the song leader can understand more clearly the first few words of this song. “Come, WE that love the Lord, and let OUR joys be known!” As the song leader, you are asking the congregation to join you in worship, “Come, we….” Know that you are not just leading the congregation; you are joining the congregation in praise to God. So what should the song leader do as he considers his task of leading the Lord’s church in singing? Many times we fail to put our best effort into song leading and a mediocre song service is produced. How much time is given to selecting your songs for Sunday? Are the songs selected appropriate in tempo and fit the message…or will this service be as predictable as ‘the last time he lead singing?’ Gentleman, we have to ask ourselves how much time and energy will we be giving to prepare ourselves for worshiping with the Lord’s church.

Consider this first of three points as you ready yourself for the next time you are asked to lead singing. Whether you are the only song leader within your congregation, or if you are in a rotation, the following bullet points will give you some guidance in preparing to lead the Lord’s church in song.

First of all, you must be prepared both mentally and physically for the task of song leading. It preparedmay take some work, but contact your preacher and get his sermon topic, scripture references and key ideas early in the week (maybe even on Monday morning.) Don’t be overly aggressive, but let him know you can’t put the time into the song selection until you know the basis of Sunday’s message. By this, he will know you care about the worship and it may help spur him on as well. In the meantime, review your song book and make a list of 1) the songs you know, 2) songs you want to teach the congregation and 3) songs you don’t know. Be familiar with your song book and enrich your repertoire of songs! This can’t be over emphasized. The more songs you know*, the more growth you can provide to the congregation in song. During the week prepare your voice for Sunday. Avoid stressing your vocal cords but sing songs of praise daily. Turn off the radio in the car and sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs as you drive down the road. Your preparation doesn’t start on Sunday morning, though you should be singing (and listening to) A Cappella songs as you’re getting ready for Sunday morning worship. Your first step in making worship the best it can be on Sunday is to start by preparing, and practicing, on Monday.

*To ‘know a song’ means you 1) have committed to memory the words, 2) can maintain the tempo, 3) recognized/read the notes and 4) understand the message. This will take practice!

Next month (March) we’ll look at the second point toward the song leader’s guide to worship…

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