Law of the First Date

My latest book, Worship Theory, had a working title, The Laws of Worship.  As I considered what I was writing, the perspective I was writing from, and the fact that I have to admit that I don’t know everything, I ended up changing the title and cutting some of the content.  Some of that content were “laws” I try to follow and encourage others in when leading worship.

One of these laws can be entitled, The Law of the Dynamic, and it states “A worship service should employ and be a mixture of the different levels of music.”

In this case, though, I have a not-so-tactful version.  That is, The Law of the First Date, “Don’t give everything you’ve got the first time out.”

If you’ve listened to orchestrations, classical pieces, cantatas, operas, etc., you probably noticed a rise and fall in the music.  There are climaxes, and there are quiet interludes.  There’s a punch of the brass section and timpanis, and there are the soothing melodies of the strings and wind instruments.  Each piece has its theme, and it rises and falls as it communicates that theme.

I have noticed that many of us who lead worship go straight for the climactic, we put all of our energy into a song right from the start.  Now, with faster, upbeat, get up and go songs, this is certainly necessary.  But when you start heading for the more intimate, personal, heartfelt songs, consider building gradually, waiting until you get through once or twice or to a specific point to “bring it home.”

A great example of this is dynamic, this quiet building to a climax, can be found in Hillsong recording of Shout to the Lord.  The first time through the verse and chorus, Darlene Zschech quietly builds until the second time through you start to feel the song growing.  Then, as she gets to the chorus the second time, the full orchestra is involved, climaxing in a key change that helps to build the song even more.

Now, I’m not saying that we should do every song just like Darlene does Shout to the Lord.  However, I would be amiss to not suggest that we consider dynamics, a range of musical “emphasis”, so to speak, from the quiet to a medium, to a strong, forceful almost, musical expression of the theme in the song.

I think one of the reasons we run into a problem in this area is because many of the worship leaders in churches today have little to no musical background.  Maybe the church is smaller, or maybe the worship leader is the only decent vocalist or musician in the church.  But we have to remember that there are basics to music and performance that, when incorporated into our worship, serve to enhance and deepen the experience.


3 thoughts on “Law of the First Date”

  1. Sounds like it will be an interesting read. It’s always struck me as kind of weird that practically all churches classify “praise” as fast, loud songs and “worship” as slow, soft ones. They play three fast songs and then three slow songs. It seems the opposite of what you are saying. Worship to me is like climbing a mountain. You build until reaching the peak.

  2. I’m enjoying these thoughts – stimulating !

    First date – in row eight
    Married forty years – the row right behind them.

    There’s one of the challenges of leading a congregation, such variety and divergence in experience, level of passion and steadiness of commitment.

    What a wonderful opportunity!
    What a remarkable challenge!
    Prayer simply HAS to be at the heart of it.

    I wrote some about it today (Look for “Who Are These People?”) if you stop by.

    Keep writing & thinking… this is good stuff!


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