How To Create And Participate In A Praise And Worship Band: A Theory According to Jimmie

Madre has in recent history had an experience at my church during which she’ll tell you she enjoyed herself immensely. She’s not lying.  The message was really good that day, and someone had a Word for her about belonging.  Everyone wants to belong, right?  What Madre will politely fail to mention in her enthusiastic praise for my church is that she cannot abide the music.  I cannot fault her for that.  It’s an acquired taste.

Martie and I grew up in a Presbyterian church with also a side of Methodist because that is what Madre and Daddy-O chose for our formative spiritual years. Traditionally your Presbyterian and Methodist churches operate as Catholic-light so there is an order to everything.  Hymns are sung from the hymnal which offers songs in the standard 3-4 stanza form, with piano accompaniment, or in lucky churches, with a pipe organ.  I love a pipe organ.  These hymns are sung with gusto if you have a good pianist and a modestly large congregation, always nice for a good rendition of “Amazing Grace.”  Sometimes your pianist is just okay or your congregation is small, but in that case, you still bleat out two or three of the stanzas, getting louder on the last one because everyone knows that the last verse is the tear-jerker.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’ve first begun.

 

Man, I can barely type that one without getting teary.

It’s when you get into the Baptist-type religions (do not confuse with Church of Christ – there’s no musical accompaniment in Church of Christ churches) that you start seeing a move away from stanza hymns to more consistent emotional offerings, songs where someone with a set of pipes modeled after heavenly angels can really show their stuff. Everybody knows that the Baptists like to thrum your emotions, just tinkle on those feelings like a really good piano trill, and what a better way to do that than with music!  Get a bunch of very good solo artists on the stage and boy howdy, do you have a party!  I’ve never cried as much as in a Baptist church when the choir swells up after a truly gut-wrenching solo to sing “It is Well with My Soul.”  My voice reaches that fever pitch where only dogs can hear me at the end, and I have to go home after to take a nap, I’m so spiritually exhausted.  It’s fantastic!

In the last few years, I’ve found myself moving away from the Baptist church to a more Apostolic one and my emotions show it. You can’t find an Apostolic church without a really good praise and worship band, and that is partly because Apostolics like to get you in the feels before the service, during the service, and after the service.  If you don’t leave emotionally wrung out, totally spent, well, then you’ve got yourself a dud.  I’ve seen grown men cry, do cartwheels and literally run laps around the sanctuary.  My eyes are puffier than they ever have been and while you may chalk it up to age, I say it’s because I cry more often at church.  It’s not a good Sunday unless I’ve used four Kleenex.

I know what you are thinking. I know you are saying, “I bet Jimmie is super fun to go to a concert with, what with all her crying at the songs.  I bet Jimmie is a hoot after church song number three, a basket case after church song number four, and worthless by the end of the service.  I bet Jimmie never even hears the sermon, she’s so busy blowing her nose.”  You are wrong.  It’s not the music, it’s the Lord.  You think your Lord and Savior isn’t worth a few tears? Think again.

Truth is, I’m not a big fan of live music. I find concerts and the like to be the most exquisite form of torture.  I spend the entire evening wondering how long I have to stay and regretting the fact that I didn’t drive alone so I could plead ovary explosion and go home already.  I make very few exceptions for this general loathing, one of which is Martie’s live music and one of which is some Rockabilly guy I saw 10 years ago at 3rd and Lindsley.

I can be gracious and truthfully say that I do like the music at my church, and I do cry often instead of sing. Listen to “Forever” by Kari Jobe sometime and tell me that doesn’t get you in the gut.  Ultimately,  though, I find myself having a difficult time with the praise and worship bands employed at Apostolic, Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist and non-denominational churches everywhere (but not Church of Christ because that is forbidden.)  I love the Holy Spirit.  I believe people get caught up in it.  I believe that music is an excellent way to worship the Lord.  I believe music provides one of the easiest expressions to feel and convey love.  But I also believe that we all too often use praise and worship, aka live music, at the expense of solid teaching, solid following, pastoring, communicating and relating to people.  Plus it plucks at my very nerve endings, like someone is taking a razor blade to my sciatic nerve and making tiny little cuts over and over again until I want to scream or pass out, both of which would render the music unhearable to me.  In some cases I would consider it a relief.

I do realize that I sound cynical and jaded and that I belong firmly where I sit – in the minority with the other old ladies shaking my cane. That is fair.  So that you may see my point of view clearly, so that you don’t judge me too harshly, I offer you my theory on how to create and sustain and praise and worship band of your very own.

How To Create and Participate In A Praise And Worship Band

A Theory According to Jimmie

  • Get the right wardrobe. It’s either rock star jeans with shiny stuff on the butt or hipster jeans that are so tight your audience can tell you wear boxer briefs. No mom jeans! Unless mom jeans are making a comeback amongst the uber-hip crowd, then you can wear mom jeans. Shoes are not required because the music stage is holy ground and no one wants you to desecrate holy ground except in cases where shoes are part of the ensemble.
  • Employ as many band members as you can, mostly guitarists but definitely a drummer, a bassist, a lead guitar, a rhythm guitar, and a keyboardist.
  • Employ as many decent vocalists as you can, but only one or two really good ones. Stamina is more important than talent if you want the truth of it. Give them all a microphone if you can afford that many.
  • Set the stage lights to “mood” and paint the stage itself black. Other lights may be utilized to laser around the room but none of them may be bright white lights. Purple, blue, green, and aqua are recommended.
  • Pick a song and then sort of learn the words. The screen that displays the words for the congregation (no hymnals allowed!) will never match what you actually sing anyway, because everyone knows you are so full of the Spirit (or they will after you butcher the lyrics) that you couldn’t possibly follow a song as written, even if the Spirit gave you the lyrics Himself.
  • You must speak the words you are about to sing before you actually sing them. For example, you say with feeling “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,” and THEN you sing “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,” preferably with your eyes closed and all breathy, as if your emotions are overtaking you. They may be, I’m not saying they aren’t, but if you are not conveying emotion with your lungs, you are doing it wrong.
  • Speaking of breathing the words, it is also important to learn how to sigh the words so that it sounds as if you are going to burst into tears in short order, particularly during the refrain. If you can kind of start every word with an H, bonus points to you! “Huh-Mazing Gr-huh-race, Huh hhhsweet, the-huh huh-sound . . .” See how it sounds like you are crying?
  • Once you’ve made your point with your emotions (you’re so spuritul, yo), you can really being to wail. Wait until the refrain, though. Wait for the crescendo. When crescendo beginning is nigh, prepare to repeat the refrain a minimum of 15 times with each repetition becoming progressively louder. If you can manage it, the refrain can last for up to 40 repetitions without congregants actively looking for an opportunity to sit down. It’s important that no matter how many repetitions you make, you sing with gusto! Sing your heart out. This is the time to improvise and warble up and down the notes so that no one could ever hope to follow your lead, so that those who try give up in embarrassment and shame because the one time your microphone doesn’t drown them out will be the one time they ventured to match your enthusiasm and they did it alone not knowing the crescendo was over. They were trying to follow the words on the screen but the woman in the back whose job is to put the right words up there gave up a long time ago trying to keep up so that when they sheepishly look around to see who heard them butcher that line, they see that she’s filing her nails now.
  • After the crescendo repetitions have petered out, begin them anew but this time at a whisper so that you may properly convey your reverence and respect for the Lord. This! This is where you eke out tears if you can! Hands are up in the air unless you are holding an instrument and your body should be down on the floor unless, of course, being on the floor renders you unable to reach your instrument or be seen by the audience. From your prone position you may repeat this whispered refrain four times. No more, no less.
  • A pregnant pause in the singing completes song number one. Only three more to go!
  • Once you are musically spent, you offer up a pearl of wisdom gleaned either in your Bible reading the night before or during one of your crescendo repetitions. At this point, you may now turn the service over the pastor who may say, as in one unfortunate incident at a church I never visited again, “I like where the Spirit is leading us. Let’s just stay in this posture for the rest of the service, okay? Music team, continue for the remainder of our time.” (I then realize that the pastor didn’t prepare a message for the week because he was out at the downtown concert venues every night getting fed with the latest praise and worship bands. At that point I pack up my Bible and go home. I’ve got prayer to attend to.)

You can picture me, can’t you, over here with my feet firmly planted on my soap box, in my sturdy shoes with my knee highs rolled down around my ankles, leaning heavily on my cane. I know I picked Nashville.  I know I came voluntarily to Music City.  I know I picked my church, every church I’ve ever attended as an adult.  I know I’m in the minority.  I accept my status as a curmudgeon.  I’ll still invite you to the Lord, and to my church.  Y’all come any time.  I’ll bet you’ll love it.

One Stone

Amazing Grace

It Is Well With My Soul

Forever

 

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Michelle
    Mar 23, 2018 @ 16:40:07

    Love this!!! Hahaha it makes me want to go to church with you. But don’t judge me if I’m more entertained by you than the music until the sermon starts!! 😂😂

    Reply

  2. Susan Rhea
    Mar 23, 2018 @ 17:46:12

    Your Theory According to Jimmie explains exactly what I heard/saw in the “supposed” church music at One Stone. You hit the nail on the head, Girl! I do love you so!!!!

    Reply

  3. Martie
    Mar 28, 2018 @ 20:57:26

    Fantastic! I experienced something similar recently, and I TOTALLY get it now! My knees were tired from standing there so long. I did get a little teary-eyed though…

    Reply

  4. MARIA OSSO
    Apr 14, 2018 @ 19:45:08

    You had me chuckling, thoroughly enjoyed your article! I miss the old time hymns. I could listen to them as finitum. But the new worship music with their repetiveness drives me batty. Looking forward to your next blog! God bless!

    Reply

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