“Halal Praise Devotional”

The Sunday Sample, Episode 20

Here’s a Hebrew word to inspire your worship team: HALAL. But what does it mean….?

Praise the Lord. Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of his faithful people. Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; let the people of Zion be glad in their King. Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with timbrel and harp.” (Psalms 149:1–3 NIV11)

halal: Praise (347x) to praise; give thanks; cheer, extol; Pu to be praised, be worthy of praise, be of renown;  to make one’s boast in (the name of God); “Hallelujah” is a compound of the second person plural imperative and the personal name of God: hallelu-yah, praise Yah(weh); boast; exult; praise.

God’s great dance floor

Let me know what you think by leaving a comment.

God bless, Malcolm

“Yadah Praise Devotional”

The Sunday Sample, Episode 19

Here’s a Hebrew word to inspire your worship team: YADAH. But what does it mean….?

yadah: To express praise, give thanks, extol, make a public confession, make an admission; to praise is to speak of the excellence of someone or something; to give thanks, has a focus on the gratitude of the speaker.

“May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine on us— so that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.
May the peoples yadah you, God; may all the peoples yadah you.
May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples with equity and guide the nations of the earth.
May the peoples yadah you, God; may all the peoples yadah you.”
(Psalms 67:1–5 NIV11)

“They tried to end my life in a pit and threw stones at me;” (Lamentations 3:53 NIV11)

Leave a comment.

God bless, Malcolm

Episode 17, Sunday Sample, “Freshen up an old song”

Reflections on corporate worship

Is your congregation switching off when you lead an oldy-but-a-goody? Here’s one way to freshen up a song we want to keep. It’s all here in today’s Sunday Sample.

Here’s the file mentioned in the recording; New Jerusalem Vocal Parts

Please leave a comment or a question.

God bless, Malcolm

Episode 16, Sunday Sample, 17 December 2017 – “Sing A New Song”

Reflections on Corporate Worship

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Locations: Watford and Bracknell

Special Occasion: Watford ‘Pop-Up’ Nativity Service, and the Bracknell Carol Service

The children had a whale of a time taking part in the Nativity in Watford and the song in Bracknell. Special thanks to Michelle who rehearsed the children for the latter, and to Joe and his team who got the children ready for their performance in Watford. It was noticeable that the young people came to church with greater enthusiasm than usual. And that they were more engaged in the services than normal. Another good reminder to me that we must do all we can to help the children to see this as ‘their’ church, and not their parents’ church.

Question to you: What are you doing, as a leader of worship, to convince the children that they belong in your congregation? Indeed, that it is theirs

The nativity in Watford was recorded. I’ll add the link when it’s been uploaded. Likewise the service in Bracknell.

Speakers

There was no sermon in Watford nor Bracknell because of the service formats.  However, both services contained communion talks. I contribute the outline of mine in Watford below.


  • Question to the children: What was Jesus laid in?

  • MANGER: An animal-feeding trough (Heb. ebus) or stall (Gk. phaétneä) in a stable.

  • Troughs were free-standing stone boxes placed against stable walls or boxes made by hollowing out rocks protruding into the stable area.

    • At Megiddo archaeologists found limestone troughs, measuring 91 cm. (3 ft.) long, 46 cm. (1.5 ft.) wide, and 61 cm. (2 ft.) deep, quite ample for an infant. – PICTURE ON SCREEN

  • Manger – French word for eating

    • Place animals out of

    • Dirty and disgusting – PICTURE OF MODERN ANIMAL FEEDING TROUGH ON SCREEN

  • Jesus not too proud to be associated with animals and dirt

    • Jesus so humble

    • He was laid where animals ate

  • Now we ‘feed’ on him

  • “Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”” (John 6:57–58)

  • Communion meal reminds us of this. Let’s pray and eat…


Music Worship

The carols went off well in both services. We lost our guitarist in Watford due to illness (get well soon, Charl). But we adapted and survived! The Bracknell carol service was our best in the three years I’ve been involved. Why might that be? Here’s what I’ve come up with.

  1. Patience pays off. We sang “Ding Dong”. It’s hard for a congregation to pull that off. The first time we did it three years ago it was greeted with almost disbelief. i.e. “We can’t sing that!” Three years later we sound pretty good, and even those for whom it’s too much give it their best shot with joyful abandon. Three years of patience has brought it’s reward.
  2. Expanded talent pool. Three years ago it was the narrow band of usual suspects involved. This year Don played guitar, Rachel played flute, Fabian played keyboard, some teenagers sang, Marianne and others performed a spoken word piece, the Wakefields performed a duet – all people who were not involved three years ago. Surface the talent you have. Find ways to use it.
  3. Variety is the spice of carol services. Reading and carols were pretty much all we had three years ago. This year: carols, readings, spoken word, teenagers singing, children’s’ performance, a duet, an original song, one song accompanied by guitar, some by guitar and bass, some by keyboard, and some a cappella. It’s worth the effort to create as much variety as you can.
  4. Sing a new song. I wrote a song for the occasion. I don’t consider myself a good song writer. And I find it very hard to do. But I have been known to complain about the lack of new songs, so I’m a hypocrite if I don’t give it a go! The recording will go on line soon, and you can tell me what you think (holds breath…). Could you write a song? At least try. Please!

Other Thoughts

Last week I said we’d do the following:

  1. Watford: It’s our “pop-up” Nativity service. I’m going to do a communion with a difference. Done!
  2. Bracknell: It’s the carol service. The best thing I can do is to be calm! That’s my prayer.  Done!

Sunday we’ll do the following:

  1. Watford: It’s our carol service. My main aim is to be at peace, just like last week in Bracknell!
  2. Bracknell: No services until the New Year. This week I’ll outline the music plans for the January services for Bracknell and Lower Earley.

Please comment on what you’re doing with your services. What are you trying that’s working? What is God teaching you?

Share reflections with us so we can grow and please God.

You can leave a comment below.

God bless,

Malcolm

Episode 15, Sunday Sample, 10 December 2017

Reflections on Corporate Worship

 

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Locations: Watford and Lower Earley – in theory

Special Occasion: Lower Earley Carol Service

Heavy snowfall meant I never made it to my second service. Traffic ground to a standstill between Watford and the M4. The Carol service in Lower Earley went ahead without me.

I was bringing the laptop, and all printed materials. Luckily I was able to stop and send the order of service and song sheets via WhatsApp. The worship team accessed the song lyrics via their phones and iPads. The PPt was emailed over.

I was so impressed with the attitude of the worship team. No complaining, just a desire to make the service the best it could be, and make sure God was glorified. The lesson of the day for me was how grateful I am that the service did not depend on me. Others were willing and able to step in.

Question to you if you are the worship team leader: Could you miss church and be confident the worship would be God-honouring and encouraging?

We must plan for redundancy.

The service in Lower Earley was videoed. Some of the singing and the nativity play are below…..

Speakers

The snow also frustrated many from attending our service in Watford. Around half made it to the venue, and we were blessed to have some extras who live near us but were not able to travel to their normal places of worship. The snow brought us blessings as well as challenges! 

We adopted a more informal format as a result of the conditions.  The sermon on Luke 24 was conducted more as a discussion than a ‘lesson’. Small group work surfaced interesting insights as to the experiences of the people encountering the risen Jesus. Our theme was, “Jesus Turns Confusion to Joy”.

Here’s my summary to the session, as well as two years of preaching through Luke:


  • We end Luke’s gospel with the disciples worshipping Jesus.
  • He has taken them from curiosity to confusion and, finally, to clarity.
  • They started out thinking he was a military Messiah, and ended up discovering he was a suffering Messiah.
  • At the beginning they wondered what was in it for them, but at the end they realised the message was for the world.
  • They thought Jesus was a King come to establish Israel’s dominance over the nations, but found out he was establishing a bridgehead of the kingdom of heaven.
  • Luke’s gospel is full of shocks, surprises and revelations.
  • At the conclusion to this two years in Luke, what has helped you the most?
  • Take some time to review your thoughts and write down a summary of the main things you learned.

Music Worship

I’m a traditionalist when it comes to carols and their harmonies. However, I must admit liking this version below. I don’t know who put it together, but I suspect it may have been Tidu Mankoo. It’ll be messy if done with the tradional harmonies. But if the congegation sing the tune in unison, then this works very well. We did this version in Watford on Sunday.

GOD REST YE MERRY GENTLEMEN Dm

Other Thoughts

Last week I said we’d do the following:

  1. Watford: Deliver an interactive sermon on Luke 24, and do it all in 30 minutes or less. Done
  2. Lower Earley: We’re singing carols. Some are long with many verses. Create variety in the carols so that they don’t drag. – I was not there!

Sunday we’ll do the following:

  1. Watford: It’s our “pop-up” Nativity service. I’m going to do a communion with a difference.
  2. Bracknell: It’s the carol service. The best thing I can do is to be calm! That’s my prayer.

Please comment on what you’re doing with your services. What are you trying that’s working? What is God teaching you?

Share reflections with us so we can grow and please God.

You can leave a comment below.

God bless,

Malcolm

Episode 13, Sunday Sample, 26 November 2017

Reflections on Corporate Worship

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Locations: Watford and Lower Earley

Special Occasion: “How to help a grieving friend” event in Watford

I was involved in services in Watford and Lower Earley this last Sunday. As you can see in the picture above, the Watford children enjoyed their class on tree-climbing like Zacchaeus!

Here is the outline of the devotional I shared with the worship teams in both locations.


The Power of Silence to Prepare

 Last week we focussed on: not ‘what’, but ‘why’ we are leading worship

 Today we will prepare ourselves for ‘who’ we are worshipping: God

Silence with God helps prepare us for work of substance – leading others in worship

Moses & David must have experienced much silence in the fields with their sheep. Jesus (eg Lk 5.16) deliberately chose quiet places to pray. Helped prepare them.

 Robin Daniels (in his book, ‘The Virgin Eye’), “If we do not keep attuning to silence, we lose gravitas, we become lightweight.”

Silence is praise and prepares us for praise: “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.” (Psalms 62:1 NRSV)

 We will spend one minute of silent reflection on this phrase – “For God alone”

Then I will pray for us all

Let’s be silent together before our God …..


The minute of silence seemed to be appreciated by the teams. We gathered our thoughts and consciously placed them on God. Why not try it where you are and let me know how it goes?

Speakers

Our Watford service was different in that a large chunk of the sermon was spent in small groups. We discussed our experiences of loss and what it was that people said and did that we found helpful, and not so helpful. The results were profound. Some tears were shed, and the mood was sombre at the end. I guess there’s no way around that. The feelings evoked are powerful and not to be ignored.

Music Worship

As mentioned last week, I tried a revised song-sandwich in Lower Earley. The first three verses of “Soon and very soon” were followed by “Shine, Jesus, Shine” and concluded with the final two verses of “Soon and very”. All in G. It worked better than the previous week in Watford. However, another lesson was learned. Because we sang the first three verse of “Soon” slowly, it dragged after the first verse. We’d have done better to sing only one or two verses of “Soon” before going into “Shine” and then back to “Soon” at the faster speed. More helpful lessons learned!

Other Thoughts

Last week I said we’d do the following:

  1. Have a devotional for all the service participants that includes one minute of silence – “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.” Psalm 62.1, (NRSV) Done.
  2. Have a second bash a the S&S song-sandwich in Lower Earley. Done.

Next Sunday we’ll do the following:

  1. Watford: Teach the song, “Lord, you hear the cry”
  2. Both locations: Create enough time for a meaningful devotional for all the speakers and musicians

Please comment on what you’re doing with your services. What are you trying that’s working? What is God teaching you?

Share reflections with us so we can grow and please God.

You can leave a comment below.

God bless,

Malcolm

Corporate Worship Matters, Episode 5: “Teach on the Trends”

Trends Part 3

Previously

  1. Find the trends
  2. Test the Trends

Teach on the Trends

The final step is to teach the congregation. Why should we speak to the congregation about which ‘trends’ we consider to be acceptable?

  1. Because otherwise members may be inclined to practice whatever worship trend suits them without considering the filters above.
  2. They may also cast negative spiritual judgment on others who act differently.
  3. Not only that, but they could become resentful if their preferences are not included in worship. It may be that they are not included for good reason, but a lack of explanation can be harmful.

Confusion is not conducive to God-honouring worship (1 Cor 14.26-33 – more on that in a forthcoming article). Uncertainty is a form of confusion. A member who sits in a service wondering why we have instruments (or no instruments), or why we have someone centre-stage leading worship (or not) is a member who is finding it hard to set their heart and mind on Christ.

Let’s be worship leaders who are aware of trends, but not with the goal of being trendy!  Instead, our aim is to know the trends, apply appropriate filters and teach clearly so that members and visitors alike have their best chance to hear the Spirit’s voice.

What are your thoughts on the significance of teaching about trends to the congregation? Leave a comment below so that we can all learn from one another.

Malcolm Cox

Sunday Sample 12 November 2017

Reflections on Corporate Worship

Locations: Watford and Lower Earley

Special Occasion: none

I was involved in services in Watford and Lower Earley this last Sunday. Both had their own special and unique characteristics.

I preached in Watford – with a difference. In one of his letters Paul tells Timothy: “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.” (1 Timothy 4:13 NIV11)

There is more than one way to apply this, but what we did this Sunday in Watford is an interpretation of Paul’s instruction. I printed out the text of the crucifixion account from Luke’s Gospel. Then assigned different people or groups of people to read the parts of characters in the story. On Sunday I asked everybody to stand, and then we read the account for the crucifixion together. It was especially gratifying to see everybody take part wholeheartedly, including one of our teenagers.

After this, we broke into small discussion groups to consider the experience of the crucifixion from the perspectives of the different people involved.  10 minutes later we had sharing about what the groups discovered, and I wrapped up with Romans 5:7, and we took communion.

As usual, the groups came up with very interesting insights. Although it was not a typical sermon, I believe this format helped all of us find a personal connection with the crucifixion of Jesus.

Jonty preached in Lower Early, taking on the tricky subject of humility and pride. What a courageous man! You did a super job, Jonty, preaching with honesty and conviction, but without hubris. Thank you.

Music Worship

The singing in both services was encouraging. In Watford we overcame my mistake of forgetting to print enough song sheets and a ‘pink’ projector! Something wrong with the socket, I think.

In Lower Earley we sang a ‘new’ song for us, “Days of Elijah” – Rynhardt led it very effectively.

We sang “Above all” in both services and it was interesting that both congregations struggled with it to some extent. I love that song, but it’s tricky for the church to sing it well. There’s something about the rhythm of the melody that confuses us. I’m not sure what to do about it. Any ideas?

Other Thoughts

Next Sunday we’ll do the following:

  1. Have song sheets for everyone in Watford.
  2. Start the service in Bracknell with a 5-minute countdown video. Here is the draft version:

Please comment on what you’re doing locally with your services. What are you trying that’s working? What is God teaching you?

Share reflections with us so we can grow and please God.

You can leave a comment below.

God bless,

Malcolm

Corporate Worship Matters: Trends Part 2: “Test the Trends”

“..everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.” 1 Corinthians 14.40 (NIV11)

Last time we talked about surfacing the worship music trends around us. Have you done your congregational survey yet? If not, why not make your own version of the survey I posted previously and see what you get back. It might be very illuminating!
Fidget spinners are the latest trendy toy for children (and a few adults!) where I live. Manufacturers and marketers will find a new way to part parents with their money when this trend has run its course.
Many worship trends are neutral. They are neither good nor bad in themselves, only more or less helpful. If we know our local trends, how do we assess if they are good or bad? Whether they should be opposed or embraced? Are they already influencing your congregation? To examine any trend apply these three filters and ask three questions:
  1. Doctrine filter. “Does it offend any Biblical principle or command?”
  2. Distraction filter. “Does it distract people from God?”
  3. Direction filter. “Does it direct people to God?”
In my own part of the world, I have observed a number of trends in churches around me. Some have been introduced to our congregations in whole or part. These include:
  1. Having no ‘main’ song leader, but a group of singers and a band
  2. ‘shushing’ a congregation before starting singing
  3. Emphasising one style over against others – i.e. all hymns / all gospel songs / all chorus songs
Are these practices good or bad? It’s going to depend. It will depend on whether they pass the three filters above, and whether they help people connect with God’s presenceWhat do we do when “it depends”? Three steps should clarify whether to adopt a trend or not.
  1. Pray for insight and that you would not be swayed by your own preferences. We are servants of God and our congregation, not our own preferences.
  2. Discuss the trend with the worship team.
  3. Discuss the trend with the church leadership team.
After this, it’s my guess you will come to a consensus. It’s unlikely any particular trend will lead people astray spiritually. But we shouldn’t adopt something just because it is ‘trendy’. Everything needs to be examined carefully first in case it distracts worshippers from their focus on God.
 
I’m not offering a definitive position on any particular trend but proposing that worship trends must be assessed in our local context.
What are your thoughts on this process? Please leave a comment below. 
Malcolm Cox
 
November 2017