gail song bantum

blog on identity, leadership, discipleship

Archive for the category “music”

multi-ethnic worship: 3 issues facing worship leaders

so often, pastors and worship leaders find it very difficult to capture and speak to the many challenges that arise within our respective congregations, especially when it comes to meeting musical and/or worship styles across multi-ethnic lines. whether you’re in a church that hopes and longs to be more diverse in this area or already in the thick of it trying to wade through the many voices, concerns and requests, we must all be mindful of our own need for transformation.

i recently wrote a very brief article for unity in christ magazine on the topic, “3 issues worship leaders face in multi-ethnic congregations.”  it’s part of a 5 voice forum on this particular topic and for me, I have found that the three foremost issues many worship leaders/pastors are confronted with are the notions of preference, purity and participation.

you can read the full article here.

what are 3 issues you think are challenging for worship leaders as they/you prayerfully and faithfully lead their/your congregations within a multi-ethnic context?


multi-ethnic worship: YOUR thoughts

so, i’ve been asked to write an article due out in july on the top 3 issues that worship leaders of multi-ethnic worship face on a macro and micro level. as i have my thoughts pretty set on this topic, primarily from years of experience in both homogenous congregations and in communities who are faithfully trying to live into racial reconciliation, i think it would be nice to hear from YOU as well.

i am no fool to think that my experiences alone or my interest/study/research on this topic makes me an authority by any means. however, i am thrilled to have the opportunity to share my thoughts on it and will post it here once the publication is out at the end of july.

in the meantime, whether you’re a pastor, worship leader, former worship leader, have an innate sense of what your worship leader is dealing with, whatever…i’d LOVE to hear your thoughts/experiences/insights on what YOUR top 3 issues for worship leaders of multi-ethnic worship are.

“up close” with darlene zschech

i am continually grateful to those worship leaders who have and continue to pave the way for others and who inspire us to live faithfully into such a calling. i have decided to dedicate some of my blogs as a tribute to those whom i admire dearly and to those who have been mentors, through written interviews that i have done with each worship leader.

so, it is only appropriate that i begin my “up close” tribute with the one and only pst. darlene zschech from hillsong church in australia. on many levels, she has been my mentor. she has not only pioneered and paved the way for female worship leaders around the globe but the team she has led at hillsong church has gone on to equip churches worldwide with worship songs for over a decade….a mother, grandmother, wife, friend, pastor, songwriter, worship leader, mentor, advocate, justice fighter, are just a few of the reasons why i love her. what an inspiration she has been and continues to be.

“up close” with darlene zschech

GSB- What is the name of the ministry/ies that you work with?

DZI am an ambassador for Compassion, helping to release children from poverty in Jesus’ name.  Mark and I also started Hope Rwanda several years ago so we could do more to help the people of Rwanda who are rebuilding their lives after the genocide of 1994. I also had the great honour of writing and recording with some great worship leaders for the CompassionArt project.

GSB- When and how did you know that you were called to ministry?

DZ- At the tender age of fifteen, I committed my life to the Saviour of the world, Jesus Christ.  Since that moment, His plan for my life has continued to unfold as I have learnt daily that Jesus is both my Lord, and also my best friend.

GSB- What is “worship” to you?

DZ- Simply this.. WORTH SHIP…

To give all glory and honour to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords…for He alone is worthy of all honour and praise.

It is inclusive, not exclusive, it is not for the gifted, but for every man, woman and child, every nation, tribe and tongue. It will come from the very poor to the very rich , and will cover every style imaginable.. but as long as it is brought in Spirit and in Truth… This is worship..

GSB- How long have you been a worship leader?

DZ- My passion for worship really started to develop from the moment that I got saved, at fifteen.  Once I got saved and really met Jesus, my whole understanding of why music was even there, started to change, and I’ve been on that journey, discovering freedom and integrity in worship, for many years now.  I didn’t want to be a worship leader.  I love being in the background arranging, recording and producing.  But one Sunday Pastor Brian Houston was leading worship and he just walked off and left me in the middle of the service.  At the time I had no confidence when it came to leading worship.  …  One thing I do know, is that through worship, and through learning how to love my God with a whole heart, through that process, the walls of my heart have softened, and I just want to worship my God in spirit and in truth…

GSB- Who were/are your worship leader role models?

DZ- I LOVE Chris Tomlin.. and I believe he writes the best songs for the greater church.. so theologically rich, and so easy to sing. I LOVE Martin Smith.. the prophetic voice he brings to any song, I love Matt Maher.. aahh, I could listen to him teach on worship every day. And his songs are so so pure.. there is something in him that makes me want to be more like Jesus. And  I love all of our own guys and gals… with my whole heart.

GSB- What genre of music influenced you most growing up? Today?

DZ- When I was a young Christian, it was Michael W, 2nd Chapter of Acts, Keith Green….then I became addicted to any female singer.. ( I LOVE Alicia Keys)… and now I love SO many different styles of music.. Coldplay, John Legend, Orchestral music, of course u2…. Natasha Bedingfield… Kari Jobe, The Passion guys…. I am just getting started…

chasing after you

from the often hype and high-energy gospel artist tye tribbett, this particular song is refreshingly subdued and prayerful and still carries within it that passionate something i love about tye’s interpretations and musicality.

it is a song that declares an incredible hope and faith in an active pursuit of the one who has and continues to pursue us. i will go and i’ll be chasing after you are the two main lyrical lines that capture the essence of this song. both are active and suggest a doing on our end. as much as we tend to seek and long for the receiving aspect of our relationship with god, i wonder if we are reminded in this song about god’s desire for us to chase after toward the one who has already chased after us.

though we can never equitably love god in the way god loves us, and though we are often inadequate in our pursuit of god, i am grateful that this god continues to chase me down and refuses to let go! at points in this song, i hear the words as if it were my own prayer and at other points, i hear it as if it is being spoken over me.

as you hear this song may it be your prayer and know that you are loved by a god who never abandons or forsakes but rather, chases after us in hopes that our lives would be turned toward and in pursuit of the one whom we declare to be the lover of our souls.

jazz teaches us about community


in his recent article entitled tension gives it groove, ross kane offers a profound connection between jazz music and its capacity to articulate the christian life in community.

we all know that real relationships encounter ups and downs and conflicts abound when living life together. so how do we negotiate such a life in community? kane writes,

Despite the church’s expressed commitment to creating a peaceable community through reconciliation, in daily life we often sidestep tension and conflict… Often Christians see conflict and tension as problems to be forgotten or hastily avoided.

For the jazz musician, however, without the tension there is no groove. The sense of movement in a jazz solo depends upon the building up of harmonic tension followed by release. In jazz, the idea is not to reduce the tension or eliminate it, but rather to negotiate it and let the tension and resolution work together to create something beautiful.

what a great analogy! tension can be a beautiful thing. if we could only imagine our lives, our interactions and our offerings of vulnerability as something not to be feared but rather as a collaboration of sorts – each one hearing, adding, receiving, and filling out the interpretation of the other. this is the call of christian community.

my life is not my own

just thought i’d share a song with you that has been on my top playlist, especially over the past few months. for me, times of transition and uprooting are always hard and i am constantly reminded that nothing in this world is ours to own -whether it’s the accomplishments, the battles, and yes, even the very air we breathe….it all belongs to god.

so, whatever your desert, trial, fear or pain is that you’re going through right now, as you hear this song, may you be reminded that god has not forsaken you. be encouraged and strengthened in your faith this day.

what does india.arie have to do with worship?

i was really struck by this sade song recently that india.arie remixed on her new album. it’s a song of solidarity remembering women who are suffering throughout various parts of africa. the tag line goes “and it hurts like brand new shoes”…..i don’t know about you but this analogy stuck with me for awhile…. maybe because i wear a lot of heels?? and being flat-footed, my feet have sacrificed plenty for the sake of the call!

shoe analogies have historically carried significance whether marking time or breadth, i.e. “if s/he walked a mile in my shoes…” ” to stand in so and so’s shoes” etc. so, given this analogy, i wonder if it’s an excellent way of describing the tension that exists between pain and hope, new and old, reality and promise. the pain felt when wearing brand new shoes holds within it both the reality of the now (pain) and the hope of the shoe eventually becoming that favorite “go to” pair when worn long enough. all in all, it’s kind of a bittersweet reality, much like what we encounter in our everyday lives.

as the song continues, it breaks into a repetitive chorus of “hallelujah’s.”… really? this is a lament song…. at least it makes the listener think it is up until this point. hallelujah in lament? praise in the midst of pain? that’s just beautiful. that’s…..WORSHIP! that’s like jesus’ prayer in gethsemane before his crucifixion – “not my will but yours”…knowing that our present circumstances don’t have the last word…BUT GOD!

friends, be encouraged as you hear this song of praise….lament praise. may you walk in the shoes of the one who has already “broken in” the inflexibilities of this life and has gone before, who has already turned your sorrow to joy! walk in those shoes.

desperation and worship

do you ever feel like your worship is so much more intense when you find yourself in a desperate situation or circumstance in life? or, on the flip side, if you don’t think you’ve ever been that desperate in life (perhaps, you’ve led a pretty comfortable life?) do you ever look at other folks who worship so intensely and wonder why or how they can let themselves go like that?

i often think about this connection between our experienced or felt “need” for god and how it often relates to our expressions in worship, both individually and corporately. i remember growing up as a young child, remembering the congregation at my church (a lower middle- class immigrant church) just wailing away in corporate prayer….i mean, just wailing and beseeching god as if their lives depended upon every word and tear! frightened me at the time but thinking back, these folks were DESPERATE! as well, many of the african-american churches that i have been apart of have rung with similar timbres of such desperation. both of these experiences seem to be under-girded with a kind of worship in the midst of struggles –identity, social, economic, etc..

there is something really raw about this that i find myself constantly grasping after. what does it mean to “depend” on god if we know ourselves to be self-sufficient? would we approach someone differently if we were asking them for food and shelter because we’ve lost our job and have been evicted from our home as opposed to asking the same person to help raise funds for our child’s girl scout troop by buying some cookies? of course.

in this way, how do we approach god? is god someone who merely adds depth or meaning to our lives or do we know god as our sustainance, our very breath, the one in whom we find our identity or personhood? in our corporate worship, is there space to allow for such worship? so many people around us are struggling, suffering, desperate for god and sadly, many struggle quietly and alone. do our churches allow for these moments of desperate encounters with god?

would love to hear your thoughts and/or experiences on this….

the heritage mass choir – authentic or assimilated?

ok….over the past month or so, i have been forwarded TONS of youtube videos of this particular all korean choir- the heritage mass choir- singing what we know as african-american contemporary gospel music (mostly, folks were geeked about what they discovered as well as curious what i thought of the group). while there has been incredible interest in the heritage mass choir, i have found the interest itself to be rather fascinating….here’s why:

the heritage mass choir is undoubtedly talented and passionate, but while some may find there adaptation of african-american style gospel unusual, in many ways, this seems to be a natural point of connection between the worship life of korean and african-american christians despite each groups relative ignorance of the other. growing up in pentecostal korean churches and later worshipping in african-american churches, i have always been struck by the deep and almost desperate moments of worship, yearning, and exaltation in both places.

the heritage mass choir expresses something that is not “foreign” to them but has found a timbre that perhaps expresses their own particular worship life, but in a slightly different key.

in many ways, i wonder if the fascination with these worshippers reveals our own limitations — perhaps, the ways we have been more determined by our cultures than our faith to see the deep congruities of hope and yearning among the various brothers and sisters in christ. this is not to say we all should fundamentally worship the same way… don’t get me wrong. but the fact that there has, for so long, been a deep distrust, if not animosity between koreans (and korean-americans) and african-americans while there has also been such an easy assimilation or trust of asians in general (and koreans included) as “quasi” white folk, suggests that perhaps we are ordering our lives together according to desires, hopes, and ideas that are not bound to a certain cultural similarity, but a cultural myth.

what is ironic is that it could be those who deem themselves so culturally different, that are in fact bound by an expression of worship, a history of pain and alienation that is shared and found in such an unusual moment in the heritage mass choir.

if we do not take the moment to think about why we think this group is so wonderful, we risk passing them by too quickly and consequently losing an opportunity god may be presenting us to become truly new people.

pentecostal music: through the trope of suffering, immediacy and hope

much of the pentecostal/charismatic experience can be theologically read through their music. as the music has slowly evolved into and under a more generic umbrella of “contemporary worship” i want to suggest a retrieval of its initially intended form. in other words, stripping away the marketing and business aspect of the now contemporary genre, pentecostal worship in its purest form holds a unique insight into the Spirit’s presence in and among its worshippers.

as with many african-american slave songs and spirituals, we witness the very tension between suffering and hope. their longing for escape by means of the “chariot” expresses an immanent hope of their own freedom and possibility sung through a swinging rhythmic pulse of promise. when we think about pentecostal services in a larger context, the music could be read as a confrontation of the worshipper with the immediacy of god’s presence. some may say that the music is incessant, repetitive, loud and simple. granted, it may be. however, perhaps we can interpret the incessant beating of the drums, the repetitive choruses, the loud musical swells, the climactic phrases and the simple refrains and chord structures as the very confrontation of the holy spirit’s expressive and all consuming presence. it does not allow room for critical thought, for an excuse that “it’s too hard” or “i don’t understand.” the beats of the drum lure the worshipper to a rhythm that draws out the beat of one’s soul to clap, to tap, to rock back and forth, to dance, to jump, etc. in other words, the way in which the music is played could be equated to the image of the spirit’s immanent presence as engulfing ones being to the point of “otherness.” in fact, isn’t this exactly what happened to the disciples when the spirit came upon them? there was no rationalizing about what was going to take place, who was going to speak how, or when. rather, the spirit came and all in the room were caught up.

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