I enjoyed my weekend off last week, but I was glad to get up there and lead worship again! This was a busy day with a lot of moving parts. At Bethel, we try to manage our time on stage – making sure that the worship of God is evident in every element of our service. We don’t do a lot of “announcements” for that reason, but today we had a few things to mention and had to be strategic with our time. It’s amazing what a long announcement break can do to the focus and energy of a congregation.

Lately, I’ve been linking this over at the Sunday Setlist page at Worship Community. I don’t get a lot of time to go through all the other sets that are posted, but I’d encourage other worship leader to share the sets there. It’s a great way to find worship resources.

Here’s what we did…

Call To Worship
Like a lot of churches, we have quite a few ‘stragglers’ – folks who roll in at song #2 or even later. There’s a natural tendency to fill this top-of-service time with filler music until the crowd is situated, but at Bethel, we try not to do that. The way we look at it, we’ve got 52 Sundays every year and we’re going to make every minute count. Over the intro of our first song, I read this Call to Worship that I found on Sojourn Church’s weekly worship recap blog:

“The God who calls us to worship himself today is the God who revealed himself when he created the world, and he tells us that the he’s made himself most visible, most knowable, through Jesus Christ.
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

We’ve done this song A LOT. It’s still a great song, but I think it’s approaching that “I’m-tired-of-playing-this” vibe for the band. Okay…maybe not the band. But it’s definitely getting there for me. But it’s a good song for us to sing and I don’t think we’ve run it into the ground. YET. A few months ago, our guitarists, Ray, asked if he could write a new lead part rather than playing the Lincoln Brewster solo. (I love to hear Lincoln play, but some of those solos…yeesh.) Ray wrote a great solo part that he’s played consistently since that time and today I noticed how truly comfortable he was in the lead break. It was excellent.

As the last chord rang out, I read Isaiah 42:12-13:
“Let them give glory to the LORD, and declare his praise in the coastlands. The LORD goes out like a mighty man, like a man of war he stirs up his zeal; he cries out, he shouts aloud, he shows himself mighty against his foes.”

I then invited our people to join us in celebrating our victorious King!

We dig this old hymn. The piano riff was new for our keyboardist, Karen, but she did a good job. I love the syncopated intros and the way our band builds into the back half of each verse. I gotta’ brag on Ray again. There’s a guitar solo in this song that is crazy and reckless and warbling and awesome. As a player, Ray, typically plays in a more focused, precise style but he nailed this instrumental. The ending especially was nice and crazy!

Ross welcomed everybody with an announcement about our upcoming Bethel Institute and then moved into scripture. Like I mentioned, we don’t do a lot of announcements on Sunday morning, but this class is pretty important and Ross is great at making sure this sort of thing is delivered with a very clear spiritual emphasis. One of things I love most about Ross’ preaching is his ability to infuse every part of his time onstage with Gospel-centric, Christ exalting teaching. After talking through the upcoming event, Ross read from Romans 1:16-17 and then prayed for us.

I apologize. I just can’t stop doing this song. I think it’s one of the most enjoyable worship melodies I’ve heard in a long time and I think it’s such a strong lyric for us to sing. One advantage of playing it a lot is that the band has the groove down cold. It’s a long song, but the band does such a great job of managing the dynamics. Our organ player, Tim, really shines on this one and our vocalist, Sarah, did the coolest ad-lib on the ending. Maybe the most fun song of the day for me personally.

The past few weeks, Ross and I have been talking about communicating that your presence at church isn’t just for you…it’s for others. I was trying to think of a way to communicate this and landed on a story about my son, Jonah. The story got a laugh and I think the point was clearly communicated. (I hope!)

I may offend folks, but I’m just not nuts about this song. Primarily, I think it’s lyrically weak in some places. Secondly, I just don’t enjoy it musically. My friend and fill-in, Toby Baxley, did the song last week in my absence, so I figured I’d bring it back. I know that a lot of folks enjoy the tune, so I wanted to give it a shot. This was my first time to lead it, so I made a few lyrical changes to make it a bit more solid. If you don’t want to read a songwriting mini-rant, you can skip down to the next element of the service.

My problem (it’s not a huge one) is that the inclusion of “us” or more philosophically, “self”, feels incongruent with a song that is so otherwise dedicated to exalting God. I don’t know that it’s a dangerous thing to sing about us in a song like this, but pastorally, I wanted it to be evident that this song is for God and God alone. Here’s how we did that.

We changed the second verse. The song opens with a long first verse with two sections. For verse 2, the song uses only the back half of that long verse: “Into the darkness You shine / Out of the ashes we rise / There’s no one like You / None like You.” Instead, I used the first half: “Water You turned into wine / Opened the eyes of the blind / There’s no one like You / None like You.” It just felt weird to repeat a section that focuses on “us” rather than God.

The second thing I changed was the bridge: “And if our God is for us / Then who could ever stop us?” This line has always felt weird to me. It didn’t sit well with me, so we changed it to “And if our God is for us / The who could ever stop Him?” It’s hard to sing different lyrics to a song everybody knows, but I felt like it kept the song a bit more focused.

Communion Prayer
I talked a bit about communion and then read this from the Book of Prayer.
“We do not presume to come to this Your Altar, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in Your manifold and great mercies. Grant us, therefore, gracious Lord, so to commemorate in this breaking of bread the death of Your dear son, Jesus Christ, that we may feed our hearts by faith, and that we may evermore dwell in Him, and He in us. Amen.”

REMEMBRANCE (D) / Communion
This Matt Redman/ Matt Maher tune is really nice. I love the laid back feel of the tune. Our keyboardist Karen and guitarist Ray did the intro perfectly. During this time, our ushers are passing out the elements. They weren’t done by the time we got to our planned pause, so I went back to the top of the song and sang V1-PC-C again. When the ushers were back, I read I Corinthians 11:23-26:

“In the same night that he was betrayed, took bread; and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take, eat this is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ Likewise after supper he took the cup; and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink ye all of this; for this is my blood of the New Covenant, which is shed for you and for many, for the forgiveness of sins; do this as oft as ye shall drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.”

It was a good day. Even with all the pieces in place, I feel like the set came across okay. Another good day with the family of God!


One comment

  1. Melissa Baxley

    Interesting comments about “Our God”. While I can understand your concern, I think I have a different perspective on the song. I don’t see this song as being only about who God is, but rather about who He is, and who we are because of Him. The first verse presents the biblical Jesus and some miracles He performed during His earthly ministry. The second verse (or last half of the 1st verse, depending on how you look at it), then narrows in the perspective to who we are because of Him, making the Bible stories from ages ago personal to us. We live in darkness without His light, He brings beauty from the ashes of our lives. This would not be possible in our own power.

    The chorus obviously points our focus back to God, exalting Him above all others. The bridge, to me, is both personal and corporate. On a personal level, it reminds me that if I abide in Christ and He abides in me, I will “bear much fruit”, to His glory. That’s an important reminder for me, as someone who struggles with control issues and therefore fear of the uncontrollable in this world. Corporately, I see it as a reminder to the Body of Christ to stand strong in today’s godless world, because God is for us.

    Musically, well I guess that’s just personal preference. I think it’s singable, which is important. I actually always picture the nation of Israel rallying around the chorus and bridge. It is a bit of a “pep rally” song I guess, as the music builds from beginning to end. Usually songs that end on a 5 make me twitch, but I think it works here, urging you to continue into something else. It’s not really a stand-alone song to me.

    That’s just my take. I’m not sure that your changes actually strengthened the lyrics. In this case, I personally feel that the strength of the song is in connecting the “me” or “us” parts of the song directly to the miracles of Christ and God’s power. I think it’s important to remember that we don’t worship a God who is *only* powerful and sovereign, though He is. We worship a God who is all of that, *and* personal and loving. I think this song provides an opportunity to celebrate that fact and to view ourselves in right perspective to Him.

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