gail song bantum

blog on identity, leadership, discipleship

Archive for the category “worship”

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.

the burning bush -a life of being and pursuing

the burning bush

by artist He Qi

so often in our lives when we face difficult situations or trials, we look and seek after signs of some sort -signs that tell us that someone knows us, signs that someone hears our cry and actually cares. we wait for that definitive voice from on high or a strike of lightening, etc…. kind of like an “in-your-face-can’t-deny-the-truth” moment. a burning bush moment.

in the old testament, in exodus 3, we are given a story of a man named moses and a mysterious burning bush through which god speaks and makes god’s self known to him. it is a bush that is raging with fire but never consumed, it is alluring to the one who comes upon it yet is too great to take full on, it offers words of hope but a hope that is marked with a call to action. a bush that, upon it’s presence, acknowledges that the battles we face are not ours alone but that god is and will continue to be with us.

though we say and we know that christ has come and has sent the spirit of god to each of us, to dwell within us, we find ourselves still looking around for that bush. waiting for a sign, looking and hoping in things external when god in god’s love has come to dwell within us through the holy spirit. the same spirit that ignited a bush is the same spirit that abides in us. in this way,  i like to think that our lives are like flaming bushes, which burn but are not consumed. the very god that is in us purges the death on our branches in order that we may bring forth new life. as we are continually made new, we manifest and speak forth a light and a hope to those who encounter us. and in such lives of givenness, we are not found depleted but renewed.

the burning bush is a call to faith, a call to hear and a call to action. believe that god actually hears your cry as he heard the cries of the israelites in captivity. silence the clammering noises of fear and uncertainty and rather choose to hear the voice of hope and love as god is continually speaking to us and through us. know that a life of faith is never a life of comfort or a stagnant reality but a call to put feet to that which we claim as just and right, feet to that which we believe love is. faith is active and always in pursuit of the other. it is in our pursuit of the other that god promises to be with us as he was with moses and the people of israel. god does not call us to something just to abandon us later but calls us in order that god’s faithfulness may be witnessed more fully.

friends, i pray that we do not remain satisfied in our own well-being but the flame of the holy spirit would forever ignite a passion and a fervant desire for those around us.

“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.

i need you

so, in a previous blog on desperation and worship, i narrated a posture of worship that emerges out of a sense of need or dependence on god – desperation. this sense of need, i believe, arises out of difficult moments and aspects of our stories and life experiences.

however, in a recent conversation with a friend, i was confronted with the reality that some folks may not have a seemingly desperate life situation from which to draw upon and so how would this notion of desperate worship relate to such people? here is what i think:

what a blessing it is for those to have had the opportunity to move through life thus far relatively smoothly -peace in the home, financial security, solid relationships, both familial and friend-wise. yes, we all endure forms of dysfunction but for some, life has progressed fairly uneventfully and with relative ease.

the important thing is that i don’t think desperation should be thought of as necessarily arising out of a kind of nothingness, absence, loss, darkness, etc. but rather an addition of sorts? while i strongly believe that no one should feel guilty for such a life, perhaps the way we all can truly tap into this notion of desperation that i so often speak of is to bind ourselves to the cross so to speak. if it is not our own cross, then it should be the cross of another. this is the nature of the christian life… of community. if it is not our own pain from which we can draw then we are called to bind ourselves to another’s pain, another’s story. this is the story we find in mark 2 of the paralytic man whose friends carried his limp body, through the roof of a house, to the healing presence of christ. his pain became their pain. his hope became their hope. his healing became their healing.

in the same way, i want to encourage you to allow another’s story to become woven into your story. we ought to become bound to one another so much that we cannot tell our story apart from another. this is the beautiful story of the church. be desperate for god! god is the reason why we live, move, and have our being. we ALL are in need of god and each other and i pray that we would not be afraid to live into this reality. may the beautiful cries of desperate worship arise as incense to the one who dwells among, redeems, heals, restores and offers new life. xx

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.

since when was worship a competition?


having had the privilege of worshipping with so many different folks over the years -traditional/contemporary, liturgical/charismatic and so forth- the one thing i hear most often (usually as an intellectual critique) is the idea that the hymns written and sung in more contemporary contexts are too “me” focused and not communal, too much jesus language lacking trinitarian inclusiveness and the lyrics are trite and too repetitive. OUCH!!

now let me start by saying, yes, i know that there are some sorry excuses for songs out there in EVERY genre. as many poorly written p&w (praise &worship) songs that there are, we cannot deny that over half of those hymns in the hymnals are unknown and unsung for a reason….

i believe our worship must engage the whole of our being not merely the space between the brain and the lips. is the “me” not important in my worship of the one who created my being? i think even the most famous hymn writers of the past saw the need for our own vulnerability and confession toward god -“then sings my soul, my saviour god to thee,” “be thou my vision, o lord of my heart,” “great is thy faithfulness, lord unto me.” i believe that the me centered-ness has less to do with who i think i am but it is who i know god to be. it is a recognition that i am in need of this god that i worship. like guests we welcome into our home for the first time, the conversation usually remains surface-y and factual. however, as relationships grow and flourish it is only through intimacy that we learn to love….conversations move beyond the weather and what i think to how i feel about this or that -my fears, joys, hopes, and needs. this is what i LOVE about the psalms and david’s intimate relationship with god told through hymns and songs -these are prayers evident of relationship!

great leaders, artists, musicians, spouses, parents and friends know that repetition is not only the key to memory, increased communication and productivity but carries incredible weight in any relationship. i know for me, as one who grew up in a family where the words “i love you” were never spoken, i love, need, and thrive every time those words are uttered to me. repetition is good. i know when i was leading a large team of musicians and artists, it was imperative that i repeated the vision, expectations and encouragements over and over again for cohesiveness and morale. repetition is good. in this way, my words and songs of worship and adoration, repetitive as it may be, carries such weight. this repetition is not from an insufficient vocabulary or lack of intellectual fervor but it is that i find the words to hold prophetic and profound meaning, even in the simplest of phrases. no, it may not ring with the proclamation of what i believe doctrinally such as when we sing the creeds but my song is the story of redemption, thanksgiving and transformation.

too jesus centered…. perhaps? however, when we speak of one, are we not implying the relationship within the triune godhead? according to john, for to know christ, is to also know the father who sent him. the son, as the giver of the spirit to the hearts of god’s people, enables our participation within the triune life of god. in other words, the spirit allows within us the ability to know god and see the good that has been freely given to us from god. so, as we profess god in the person of christ, the spirit then shines a light or mediates knowledge of our own humanity. it is this recognition that brings forth raw and desperate worship, calling on the name of jesus, while the spirit participates in our uttering.

let us not rush too quickly in silencing the diverse voices of worship. god dwells in the praises of god’s people, whether arising from the great hymns of the early church or the fresh songs of the now. it is not only about what we do but about the relationship between what we do and the transformation that flows out of it. may our worship, our lives, be as incense -pleasing and acceptable to god.

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….

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