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September 10, 2008

Comments

Austin

So, if a song says the same thing as another song, but says it better than its "current-repertoire-counterpart," what treatment should it receive under the "contribution" prong of the DLSMC test? Also, say a song has been a staple for a long time--to what extent does ignoring a new song in lieu of an oldy insulate congregants to its message, however positive?

Jim Fleming

Austin,
All other things (DLSM) being equal, I would probably weigh the learning curve (a con) against the value of "says it better" (a pro). If it says something "a lot better," I would probably go for it.

To your second question, the "L" and "M" factors imply that songs have a "life expectancy." Over time, what was once new and musically or lyrically interesting can become boring. A song should be lovingly "laid to rest" BEFORE it reaches that stage. A FEW of our current songs MIGHT become "classics," an enduring part of the church's living hymnal (like Amazing Grace). Most won't - so we do God's people no true service when we BORE them with praise that is past its prime.

One other qualification: Sometimes the musicians have become bored with a song (because of their increased exposure to it) just when the congregation is coming to like it. It is critical for the worship leader to learn how to read his people and make decisions about a song that reflect his focus on serving them.

Austin

You know, when I evaluate the worship service, I really look for only one thing:

Did those leading the congregation 1) point them towards Christ 3) with intentionality?

I think that question addresses the requirements you mention, but keeps from inverting the "requirements" with the "guideposts."

For example--lead people toward Christ--that is a non-negotiable component of every worship service. Obviously, that fundamental task can't be accomplished if we fail to weed out doctrinally incorrect songs.

But, the DLSMC test appears to in effect "balance" doctrine against four other things. Putting singability and doctrinal integrity on an equal footing (as the DLSMC test appears to do) leads, in my view, to a situation where you say, "this song sounds really cool. The words are iffy, but it's really cool." I can remember a Memphis-area worship leader leading a song that was at a minimum doctrinally flawed for women, but near homo-erotic for men to sing. As you might imagine, my participation during that song was low. My point? That worship leader thinks singability should compete on an equal footing with doctrine. It shouldn't.

But once you've moved beyond faithfully presenting truth, the second requirement really goes to "how to maximize people's RESPONSE to truth?" That's where I think the LSMC in the test should fit in this analysis.

When a worship leader has a high intentionality, he does things for a reason: to maximize the congregation's corporate response to God. So, I look at the remaining requirements as good guideposts to evaluating "what will help the sheep respond best?"

But, I'm making the view that, none of those parts of the test is essential. What is essential is that a worship leader do what he does to maximize congregant's response to God. Now, do I think that CONSIDERING those factors is a requirement? YES--because how can he do whatever he does intentionally if he hasn't considered them? But, do I think they all have to be MET if the leader is exercising his leadership and intentionally challenging the body in one or more of those dimensions? NO.

Anyway, I think those criteria are certainly overlooked by many professional worship leaders to the detriment of their congregants. And, they are VERY helpful to forecast and maximize congregational involvement. But, I also think that leadership and intentionality are the bedrock requirements--the methodology doesn't mean anything without those pre-requisites.

Jim Fleming

Let me clarify how I recommend the DLSMC test be used. Think of them as a sequence of five "pass/fail" tests: Only those songs that pass all five tests are worth the effort to make them part of the congregation's staple of songs. A song that has fuzzy doctrine but passes the other four tests with flying colors get's a failing grade. Ditch it!

Think of DLSMC as a way to stock a cupboard with some good ingredients, in this case, great psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs for corporate worship. DLSMC is a way to read labels and make sure that only the good stuff goes in your cupboard.

Your other comments seem to speak to a slightly different question - how to prepare a meal. In preparation for a time of corporate worship, the leader must reach into his cupboard, assemble the right set of ingredients, mix them, and then serve them to his people. A successful meal is one that draws men to Christ, I don't disagree.

Corporate worship is not just corporate singing. There are many other forms for corporate worship, including corporate prayer, corporate silence, public reading of scripture, mutual ministry, communion, and attending to God's Word. There is value in special music and testimonies, too. As a worship leader prepares his meal, his art is expressed in the skillful and purposeful use of the right combination of these elements to draw people to Christ.

My suggestion is this: We have come to rely on corporate singing as a primary and prominent form for our corporate worship. Here's where the DLSMC cupboard contents fit. When a worship leader chooses a song for such times, it ought to be one which has successfully passed all five DLSMC tests.

I agree that if that's all that a worship leader does, just keep a steady flow of DLSMC approved songs in front of his congregation, the "corporate worship" of his people is going to be pretty one-dimensional. Singing DLSMC music is not the ultimate goal.

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