Creativity in Worship

Throughout Lovelite’s existence there has been one nagging question in our minds: how do we balance the desire to write artistically, that is, to write what is inside of us, with the desire to make music that is accessible, singable and congregational? How do we allow our own musical influences to inspire us without subsequently loosing the attention half of the people in the room? It has taken years for us to understand our place and we are still learning, but here are some encouraging things that we feel the Lord has shown us along the way…

Above all, glorify Jesus. (1 Corinthians 6:20)

We must always, always, ALWAYS make worship our first priority. That can look different from one setting to the next. Sometimes a more artistic and creative worship set is exactly what a congregation needs; God speaks powerfully through art. One of my all time favorite worship experiences was when our good friends The Ember Days played a 5 minute song that had absolutely no lyrics – not a single note was sung, but the music was so powerful and moving that people were still raising their hands in worship, singing their own melodies, praying their own prayers and allowing God to speak to their hearts. Other times, the best ministry happens when the entire congregation is able to sing with one voice; this usually happens with simple melodies and lyrics that enable the people to sing in unity. As the worship leader, it is important to be discerning on what will best bring people to a place of worship in each circumstance. This is not to say that you are manipulating a situation, but that you are serving the needs of the congregation, whatever they may be.

Come to serve and not to be served. (Matthew 20:28)

Andrew and I both struggle with the typical “sensitive artist” mentality. We want to play what we want to play and have it sound a certain way. We yearn for self expression. However, God has been faithful to place us in situations where we’ve had to put our own desires aside and serve the people that He so graciously placed before us. This has looked different in each situation, but never once has it made us lose our overall sense of creativity. God makes every worship leader and musician with a different gift and ability so that His church will be edified; the tragedy is when we use those gifts for self indulgence and leave His bride behind.

Know your audience.

Many Christian musicians have noted something happening in recent years: worship is changing. For many young people, gone are the days of standard Sunday morning praise choruses. They want to be pulled into worship through thought provoking lyrics supported by scripture, all the while feeling the vibration of loud guitars and a big kick drum under their feet. This is the audience that can’t wait to hear a new style of music, THIS is the audience that will be ministered to the most by creativity and the audacity of trying something new.

So how about the other side of it? The majority of the church still loves simple, beautiful anthems. They love memorable phrases and melodies that they can sing along with easily and that will stay with them throughout the day. Some can often feel ostracized by a worship leader who strays off of the melody while the guitar player goes into a giant lead; and even though the band thinks it’s awesome, that doesn’t mean the people always do. This is why it is so vital for us to know who we are leading and maybe even writing for. This is also why it’s important for us to make sure that God has called us to the place we’re at. In our personal experience as a band, we have always tried to contextualize. We build our song set list around the type of church service or event we’re at. We save the long instrumental breakdowns for more immersive, artistically driven worship services.

Don’t Keep Doing What’s Not Inside of You.

As important as it is to contextualize and connect with the congregation, it is also important that you do what God has created you to do. If you have a gift and a passion for a certain type of music, make sure you nurture and grow it. The way we have done this is to pursue events where we can best use the creativity and musicality that God has put inside of us, while being in front of a congregation that will connect with it. Paul said it best when he wrote to Timothy, “Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of hands,” (2 Timothy 1:6).

“Be the best you you can be!” -Tony Patoto, former manager of Delirious

Anyone can make a statement like that and it would not mean as much, but Tony Patoto said it. He started working with the band, Delirious, when they were just a small group from somewhere in Southern England, and helped turn them into one of the most successful worship bands in the world. He insists that they broke all the rules when it came to artistic limitation, and instead they “followed the pillar of fire” in front of them. (Exodus 13:21-22) Personally, when I heard that, I felt a burden lift. God has created all of us uniquely, each with our own story, which has given us our own special message. May we never allow the enemy to creep in and tell us that we are not allowed to share it because it is too different.

The Bottom Line

So do we keep it simple so that the congregation can sing along, or do we let loose and rock out with our creativity and gifts for Jesus whether people are connecting or not?

So far in our ministry, we’ve concluded that we must love the Lord AND love the people when we worship. We do this by serving the moment rather then ourselves. As we’ve done this, God has faithfully opened doors that allow us to grow in and share our art, while at the same time edifying the body of Christ. It’s a delicate balance, but we are slowly finding it.

Thanks for Reading,