Monday, July 18, 2011

Acoustic Worship

I attend a church that has an incredible praise band.  We have a song leader who could easily be a recording artist.  One of the guitarists has played behind some big names, and could be working full-time in Nashville.  There is a young drummer who is absolutely amazing- in fact, on the weeks he plays you simply can't take your eyes off of him.  Every single Sunday the band rocks the house with some amazing music.   And you know what?  I'm a little tired of it.

I miss the intimacy of acoustic worship.  Some of you may remember the days when contemporary worship music was led by one guy/gal with an acoustic guitar. This particular style (in my opinion) puts the emphasis on the singing of the gathered crowd rather than on the praise team.  An acoustic guitar and a solo voice cannot (and should not!) drown out the voices of the congregation.  As someone who led many such songs over many years, I can tell you that there is nothing quite like standing in front of a people gathered to worship and hearing them sing their hearts out.  You can feel their passion for Jesus.  You can hear their hearts cry out.  

I love rockin' out in church.  But I do miss singing the classic praise choruses and older songs that simply don't go well with electric guitars and drums.  I miss singing song like Majesty, Thy WordSing Alleluia To the LORD, Seek Ye First and Sanctuary with the strum of a single guitar.  I loved doing things like singing Amazing Grace to the tune of the Eagles' Peaceful Easy Feeling or being Spirit-led to lead a song that no one else knew was coming.  And in the deepest depths of my old heart, I even occasionally miss singing classic hymns (Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee, It Is Well With My Soul) with the piano and organ.  Most of us listen to a wide variety of music in our lives.  Praising God through music should take many forms as well...

So what about you?  What are your favorite songs to sing in worship?  What style do you prefer?  I'd love to hear from you.  The acoustic guitar pictured above is mine.  It's all tuned up and ready to go.  Let's sing praise to the LORD!!!

Because of Jesus,


  1. Anonymous7/18/2011

    Our praise team has started singing the Crowder song "How He loves" and quite frankly I have to take a few deep breaths before we sing it on stage otherwise I end up a blubbering mess with mascara running down my face ala Alice Cooper. I don't think people are ready to be "welcomed to my nightmare" at church.

    Regardless I love the song. So simple, but so true.

    Then I also love the old stuff, Sanctury, Sing Hallelujah, As the Deer, and all that stuff. We don't sing them in church but I find myself singing them when I'm home alone, kinda like a vocal equivalent of a "woobie".

    -Jen K.

  2. Good point. we have to change the pace from time to time!

  3. Our church doesn't have a 5 piece drum set which kinda limits it sometimes. They are still really able to just rock out with God but even when the praise/worship team does they always make sure to dial it back and play some simple acoustic stuff. I EXALT THEE, IT IS WELL, TAKE MY LIFE, LORD I NEED YOU for example. I really appreciate the ability of our worship team to balance the sound and tone.

  4. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, my friends! Worship is about so much more than music, yet it is music that often sets the tone. Balance is indeed a key.

  5. Great Blog Carl! As a Worship Leader I try to stay current with what God is doing and I believe Worship music is a big way to see what God is up to. If Worship songs are God-inspired (and they should be) then they should be a tell tale sign of what the Holy SPirit is doing and I believe that as new songs emerge we are getting a new taste of who God is. I like hte old stuff but I also think that the old songs were for what God was doing then, just as Im sure some of todays worship songs will one day be seen as "old". No that the older stuff isnt important, I love alot of it- I exalt thee never gets old- but I think keeping current with what God is doing. If you look at the 90's most of the songs coming out in worship were about the river, joy, and war-Big themes. From around 2004-Present the songs are alot about deep intimacy with God, taking you into the deep inner courts to the Heart of God. Dont get me wrong, I love some of the old songs, but personally I see God doing a new thing in Worship Music every 10 years or so. The music changed and the words change and its all God inspired by what God is doing in that time. Again, just my personal opinion. :) Our band is amazingly talented and I love playing with them, giving all of us an opportunity to worship God with the gifts He has given us and using them to minister not just to God but to the Church. Ok, thats all. Just wrote a blog on your blog :)

  6. And a great blog it was, Sierra! :) Thanks so much for your thoughts. I totally agree that God is constantly doing new things in worship. We just have to remember that sometimes that "new thing" is an old thing! Blessings to you!

  7. Also see this:

    on my thoughts about Music, Bands, and Worship

  8. I grew up in a UMC parish that was moderate both in theology and liturgy. Though the church had a pipe organ, it never really felt "high church." We sang Blessed Assurance a lot, but rarely sang Anglican hymns like Praise, My Soul the King of Heaven. You might call it "high Baptist."

    While the trend seems to be toward more conservative theology and more contemporary worship, I swung pretty radically in the opposite direction on both fronts until I more or less dropped off altogether. After attending services in Marsh Chapel at Boston University School of Theology (liberal UM seminary) in my early 20s, I have since preferred a more formal liturgy and English hymns (For All the Saints, All Creatures of Our God and King, Abide with Me, Thine Be the Glory, I'll Praise My Make while I've Breath, etc) along with a sprinkling of the old mainline American hymns like God of Grace and God of Glory, Lift High the Cross, and Hope of the World.

    Having attended a lot of Baptist churches in college and later being involved in contemporary worship, I guess I'm skeptical of the "emotionalism" in those styles and, in some instances, the simple and extremely repetitive nature of the lyrics. We used to sing a song called "I Could Sing of Your Love Forever." Sometimes, after repeating that line dozens of times, I thought we were actually going to. Anyway, I guess the emotionalism works for some people and perhaps it never did with me because I never really "felt" anything to begin with. And once you get to that point, it really is just a matter of aesthetics. I just find the Anglican hymns led by a choir with organ accompaniment to be objectively more beautiful, timeless, and almost without exception, more "correct" theologically.

    But this is a good discussion. Even after three decades that have spanned every inch of both the theological and liturgical spectra within UM life, sacred music is the thing that makes me feel most connected and probably what I miss most. I still listen to it all the time.


  9. Thank you, J. There is indeed great beauty and tremendous theology in many of the older hymns. My friends in the band Lost And Found, when asked if the knew any praise songs, would always answer yes- they had a book of nearly 600 of them called a "hymnal" that perhaps some of the more contemporary churches should explore! I appreciate you bringing some balance to the discussion, my old friend.

  10. Our worship leader recently shared this article with everyone on leadership at my church.

  11. We had acoustic worship yesterday 2 guitars and one vocalist. I love it. I'm a keyboard player and vocalist and my husband is a drummer - but it's nice to have a break once in a while and just go mellow :)

  12. Yes Cindy, variety is good. That was really my point, although others have made this a much deeper (and wonderful) discussion.


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