At the Grand Lake of the Cherokees, Oklahoma Feast this year, we tried to provide a variety of music from a variety of sources, hoping to meet the needs of as many as possible for inspiring congregational singing. At the end of the feast, several in attendance requested that we do an article on a type of music we introduced that was unfamiliar to many in attendance. Although this type of music didn't appeal to everyone, a significant number of those at the feast expressed enthusiasm and a desire to become more familiar with it.
If you are looking for a new source of inspirational music for your services, perhaps you may find this material of use also.
Have you ever wondered how Paul and Silas were able to sing in prison in the middle of the night... without their hymnals?! (Acts 16:25) Many of us would be hard pressed to do that. Look around at the faces in a congregation during song services some time. It is common for almost every head to be buried in a hymnal, apparently "reading" songs, even though those songs may be ones sung hundreds of times before. We don't need a song book to sing along with popular music in our cars, but for some reason we have a hard time remembering the words to hymns. There are times in our lives when it might be very encouraging or comforting to be able to sing a hymn outside of a church setting, just as it was for Paul and Silas. If the need arose, would you be able?
Yet how many folks can remember the chorus to such standards as "How Great Thou Art", even though they have not sung it for many years? Almost everyone!
That is the principle to the style of congregational music known as "Praise and Worship Music" or "Praise and Worship Choruses". In the past 20 years or so, this style of congregational singing has been adopted by a wide variety of groups. Although not originating in the Sabbatarian community, many within that community have begun using this music in their services, including congregations of the Church of God Seventh Day, and independent Assembly of Yahweh groups (who simply substitute Yah for "God" and Yeshua for "Jesus" in the appropriate places).
Praise and Worship choruses are just what the name implies: short passages set to music, about the length of a standard hymn chorus. Many of them use words adapted directly from Scripture, so their doctrine is not a problem. They are set to a variety of styles of music, from lively and enthusiastic, to soft and gentle, to solemn and majestic. When they are sung, they are usually repeated two or three times over, setting the words and melody in the singers mind. Variety and interest can be maintained by arranging in medleys which have a natural flow, usually from the more lively at the beginning of a worship service to more serious at the end.
This flow has a specific purpose. When the congregation first comes together, the minds of most are still partly on the things of this world... getting to services on time, dealing with noisy children in the car, and wondering what to do after services. Thus one of the purposes of the song service is to refocus the minds and hearts of the individuals in the congregation toward the things of the Eternal, and thus prepare them to be open to the sharing and teaching of His word.
The first choruses are usually songs of "Thanksgiving". These begin the focus off the world by offering thanks for the blessings we have received. The next step is choruses of "Praise", offering praise not just for what has been done for us, but for the great works of the Almighty throughout time. The third step in the music is beyond what the Eternal has done, to His actual nature, expressed in choruses of "Worship". The concept of worship in the Bible is one of "acknowledging the relationship" between us and our Creator, acknowledging our utter dependence on him. The word "worship" in the King James New Testament is even translated at times from a term which denotes "licking", as when a dog licks his master’s hand.
Many folks who have begun singing these kinds of choruses have found that they begin to get down into their heart in a way that "wordy" hymns never seemed to be able to, and they find themselves "singing and making melody in their hearts" throughout their daily lives in a way that escaped them before.
If you think this type of music may be something you would like to look into, the first place to start is at a local Bible/book store that carries religious tapes and CDs. Almost all such stores carry this type of music now. Just ask where "Praise and Worship" recordings are located. There will usually be a large display of this music from a variety of recording companies. Most stores even have sample copies of the recordings and equipment that you may use to listen and select what you might like.
The major company that started this particular style of recording is called "Hosanna". Many of their recordings contain choruses in a somewhat "Messianic Jewish" style (which are usually in a minor key and a more rhythmic style than the average). The other primary company that produces such music is "Word, Inc." Their particular line of Praise and Worship tapes are called "Maranatha". Larger stores will probably have large displays for both of these companies.
If you find that this music will meet your needs, the printed music section of the same Bible/book store will probably also have song books with the words and music for a large collection of such choruses. One such book that we have found very helpful is the "Maranatha Music Praise Chorus Book" published by Word. Its current Third Edition includes over 300 of the most common of the Praise and Worship choruses. It is spiral bound for easy use at a keyboard, and includes words, music, and accompaniment chords to the choruses. A small companion volume is available with just the words. For those familiar with this type of music, you may be interested to note that this volume contains such standards as "El Shaddai", "Awesome God", "Thy Word is a Lamp Unto My Feet" and "Majesty".
Like any music, you will have to do some picking and choosing. A few songs will support the Trinity or other doctrines that you may not want to sing about. You can easily change the words to some, and easily skip over the others that you do not want. We hope this will help some of our readers in their worship services.
—Pam Dewey and Norm Edwards