How do you put together a worship set? Are you thematic? If the pastor is preaching on the blood of Christ, does every song and video have to mention the blood? Do you choose songs based on a continuity of keys, tempos, or feels? Are you trying to avoid having to adjust your capo (wag of the finger)? Are you entirely modern and refuse to do anything older than 5 years?
As I’ve put together hundreds of worship sets, and observed hundreds of others, I’ve noticed a trend. Effective worship elements tend to fall into one of three categories: Ancient, Global, and Local. I try to apply this filter to every worship set I program.
Ancient – These are songs and elements that give us a meaningful connection to the past. When I sing “A Mighty Fortress” I feel I’m linking arms with the reformers. Baptism becomes more meaningful when you think of the millions who have obeyed the Lord over the centuries. Please don’t confuse “Ancient” with “Traditional”. The vast majority of “Traditional” churches in my experience were modern at one time and have since refused to do the hard work of staying current. This is not what I mean by Ancient. These songs and elements, while old, can be effectively used in an artistic, and modern way. Ancient elements tend to be more cerebral, mystical, and thought provoking. They give a sense of stability and timelessness.
Global – Major influences in worship have world-wide impact. For example, “Our God” and “How Great is Our God” are #1 and #2 on CCLI. They are sung all over the world – in multiple languages, with choirs and orchestras, bands, large and small, every week. But these are relatively new songs. “How Great Thou Art” (originally written in Swedish – “O Store Gud”) and “Amazing Grace” are also recognizable everywhere. Global elements are popular regardless of age. This can apply to secular influences as well. For instance, a video featuring an iPhone, or the President will have instant universal appeal, because of widespread familiarity. Global elements feel progressive, usually modern, and give a sense of being interconnected.
Local – Local culture stands in stark contrast to Global culture. Styles and songs stick out more in comparison. In Cayman where I live, any song immediately becomes locally relevant when put to a reggae, or calypso beat. I’ve also served in Kentucky where banjos and fiddles add a really cool (and appreciated) flavor. It is crucial that worship leaders understand and respect local expressions. However I would caution you not to overly rely on them simply to keep the peace – that’s a recipe for “traditionalism”. By nature local elements feel intimate and nostalgic.
Utilizing the Ancient, Global, and Local grid can help you put together meaningful worship experiences. Take inventory – perhaps you’re emphasizing one at the expense of another. Try incorporating some of each every Sunday.
Question – Which do you (or your church) tend to emphasize? Ancient, Global, or Local? Why?