One of my Favorite songs. I dig this version.
The Band’s Website can be found here.
One of my Favorite songs. I dig this version.
The Band’s Website can be found here.
I love hearing the stories behind the songs we sing as a church.
All Creatures of Our God and King is one of the better known songs in the western church, but I hadn’t realized how ancient and how recent it was.
The song is based on the “Canticle of the Son” by St. Francis of Assisi. It’s the work we get the lines “brother son and sister moon” from which are well known from the 1970’s movie and the inspiration for the title of an album by the band mewithoutyou.
The Canticle was written in Francis’ later life as a reflection on Psalm 145. The story goes that while on his death bed Francis had friends dictate addition words reflecting on his coming death and faith in Christ. Which are reflected in the third verse we sing at Calvary:Arlington: “And thou most kind and gentle death, waiting to hush our latest breath… thou leadest home the child of God, and Christ our Lord the way hath trod”
The modern English version is a translation and paraphrase of the Canticle by William Draper. He translated the text in 1910 for a children’s festival in England and the version was published in 1919.
I love that God inspired men through His Spirit and by His word to write word and music to express what God has done in their lives. God’s work inspired the anicent Jewish songwriters to pen Psalm 145. He cause Francis to write before his death in 1224 what became the Canticle of the Son, and for a man in 20th Century England to bring new music and a fresh lyrical perspective.
In the story of this song I see God’s inspiration and work in the lives of people across all generations. I see the timelessness of God’s work in humanity. I see in William Draper the need to update songs and expressions for a new generation, but also to reflect in the power of what Jesus did in and through a previous generation.
Most of all I love the 3rd verse of the song. I love the idea of Praising God even with our final breath.
“And thou most kind and gentle death. Waiting to hush our latest breath. Oh praise Him, alleluia.
Thou leadest home the child of God, and Christ our Lord the way hath trod! Oh praise Him!”
“I will extol You, my God, O King,
And I will bless your name forever and ever.
Each day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever.” — Psalm 145:1-2
Every church is geared towards someone, either intentionally or unintentionally. The Music of the Church is often the biggest indicator of a church’s primary demographic. Is the music of your church contemporary? You are geared towards a 40 year old Soccer Mom. Does your church music sound like a Gaither Homecoming? Then you’re probably geared towards the 60 and over crowd. Does your church hand out ear plugs? Then you probably don’t know who Bill Gaither is and you’re demographic is the young and the restless. Some churches are very intentional about this. Some churches have no idea why they are doing what they are doing, its just the way its always been done.
I prefer to be intentional about things and the music and expression of the church is no exception. Who are we geared towards? Why are we geared towards them? How can we achieve this goal?
Often this can be answered by who shows up. Things like your church’s median age, marrieds or singles, kids or no kids. You can also be aware of the area you live in: Urban, Suburban, Rural, etc.
This is something that will probably be set by the Pastors, elders, and leadership of your church. Some churches focus on the unsaved. Some churches focus on who they have now. Some churches focus on the youth, while other churches give great deference to the older members.
Being aware of this as a worship leader will help you in song selection, arrangements, band selection, etc.
If you know who your church is geared to, and you know why, then you have to ask HOW. How do I serve the people God has given us and connect with the people we feel called to reach?
For me, my church has a wide demographic. A fairly even balance of old and young, married and single, and kids a plenty. We want to be geared towards everyone. The vision I’ve taken from my pastor is that we want to minister to everyone. We want to respect and honor the older saints and we want to reach the next generation.
As a worship leader, this can be a bit of tight rope, you can’t make everyone happy so what do you do? The answer I came up with was a ratio and a rotation.
The Ratio: If there are 4 Sundays in a month, 2 are as middle of the road as possible. 1 skews older, and 1 skews younger. This way we minister to the most people and groups of people possible. Middle of the Road will change over time, but currently I would define it as worship leaders like Chris Tomlin, Brett Williams, Brenton Brown and bands like Jars of Clay, Phil Wickham and the music you would hear on your secular top 40 station. Older Tends to lean towards the old Maranatha praise songs, hymns, and a gentler sound with a little bit of Bill Gaither thrown in. Younger would be worship bands like John Mark MacMillan, the worship bands out of Mars Hill Church, the Reality Churches, Sojourn Church Network, and Calvary Fellowship in Seattle, and the music you would hear on your local rock or indie rock station (KEXP in Seattle for me). In addition, the #1 style of music in North Snohomish County (according to radio station ratings) is country music so I try to have 1 Sunday a month lean a bit country/folk (this can fall under Older, Middle, or Younger depending on arrangement) because country music is a very natural expression for the people in this area. In more Urban or Suburban areas the style of expression might well be different but the concept is the same.
The Rotation: I lead 70% of the time, but we have other worship leaders who lead 1-2 Sunday’s a month, plus they often co-lead with me on my Sunday’s. I have a certain style that connects with certain people, these other leaders have different styles that better connect with a different group of people. Variety is the spice of life and when you are trying to serve as wide a demographic as we are, it’s not just important, it’s essential.
The point is that one group isn’t served to the exclusion of another group. We don’t ignore our youth and we don’t put the old people out on the Iceberg. Here’s how a month of Sunday’s might work at Calvary:Arlington
Week-1 (Middle Ground Set, pop/rock. CCM, Modern Hymns)
Week-2 (Older, Country set:Leaning on the Everlasting Arms, He touched Me, Glory, glory, etc)
Week-3 (Middle Ground. Other worship leader. CCM. Chris Tomlin, Phil Wickham, etc)
Week-4 (Younger. Modern Hymns, pop/rock. a little more overdrive on the guitar)
Week-1 (Younger. Folky, Modern Hymns. Channeling bands like Head and the Heart, Noah and the Whale and Damien Jurado)
Week-2 (Middle Ground. CCM, pop/rock)
Week-3 (Older, other worship leader. Maranatha Praise songs. Traditonally arranged Hymns)
Week-4 (Middle Ground. Other leader co-leading with me. Acoustic CCM songs.)’
Week-5 (Fifth Sunday Month, something different, lead by myself with no band, keep it simple and straight forward)
That’s how I do it. How do you identify who you are gearing towards and how to best serve them?
Some thoughts I’d had recently on why I pick the songs I pick when I lead worship.
The bible speaks in many places about Singing a New Song to the Lord.
I admit that I don’t like doing new songs. It just easier to go with the songs everyone knows or the songs other band leaders have introduced. But last year I was convicted of my laziness and our need to be constantly reloading our song lists and expressions of worship. So new songs have to happen.
Music has a way of calling people to the Lord or back to the Lord as the case may be. If someone is sneaking into the back row for the 1st time in years than these will be the songs they know. These will be the songs they connected with their relationship to God. So i’m very intentional about having some other tunes in a set list.
REALLY OLD SONGS:
Hymns. Some people love them. Some people hate them. I don’t make a distinction between hymns and choruses other than one has more words than the other. Some Hymns are really good and I pick those and some aren’t and I leave those alone.
Hymns do come in really handy for a few reasons. Older saints tend to connect well with them. They also tend to be a little more open to new styles and expressions of music in worship when it’s done with songs they grew up with because at least the words or tune is familiar. Younger Christians are gravitating to the hymns because they often express the reality of our lives in Christ better than the songs on Christian radio do and the seem to lend themselves well to modern expressions of music.
So I go with what works.
Like many in my generation I find little connection with “Christian music”. The music seems to have little connection with my faith, Christian life or preference in music. That’s fine, it’s not geared towards me anyway. But there are people in the church who love that music, they connect to it in a way that I don’t. I want to serve them so sometimes I do songs I don’t care for because it’ll serve the larger community and that is a good thing.
In a church with as large as demographic cross section as the one I serve at variety is the key.
I try to be intentional about the songs I pick. I try to be intentional about our “sound” (folk, pop, rock, country, etc) so that a broad range of tastes are covered.
No one type of sound, style or song should have a monopoly.
Jesus should have the only monopoly when it comes to music in the church.