What will the worship ministry cost you?

I know a lot of people who have a genuine desire to be part of the worship ministry, and as a leader of a worship team, this excites and encourages me. When someone comes up to me and says they want to be part of the team, I usually spend a good while speaking to the person, to know them more if i don’t already, but mainly to get an idea of their motivation for wanting to be a part of this ministry. As I speak with many of these friends, I’ve come to realize one thing – being a part of the worship ministry is often perceived as only being a musician or singer who is part of a team on a Sunday morning. Although I think that this perception cannot be further from the truth, I do not blame people for harboring such a thought. As the church, we’ve sometimes glorified the stage to a rather unhealthy extent. We’ve been guilty of making it all and only about the musicianship, sound quality, lights, and stage decor. Let me clarify something here before there’s scope for you to misunderstand – I firmly believe that God is calling the church to a level of excellence that is far above the world’s standard. I encourage a pursuit of excellence. All I’m saying is that when achieving this excellence becomes the sole aim of a worship ministry, the fallout is what I mentioned earlier – we create an image that the worship ministry is only about your performance on a Sunday morning.

Here are some of my ideas about what it means to be part of the worship ministry. I believe the worship ministry comprises two very broad aspects: Lifestyle and Function. Allow me to expound.

We’ve all heard the phrase “Worship is a lifestyle”, but then what does this really mean? For me, it means that worship is your personality, it governs your choices and priorities, it is your natural response to any situation, and it makes its way into every facet of your life. It means that you are known as a worshiper, that there is an outward expression of worship in whatever you do. I hope this doesn’t sound overly spiritual. When I refer to an outward expression, I’m thinking about an attitude of thankfulness to God in everything, a diligence toward studying the word, and a passion to develop the skill necessary for your call. I don’t like putting such things down to proportion, but I’d say the lifestyle makes up 90% of this ministry.

The remainder makes up for your function in the ministry. I refer to function as the role you play in the music, tech, dance, arts, or media team at your church. It’s what you do on a Sunday morning to facilitate an encounter between your congregation and God.

The lifestyle is what empowers the function. Your lifestyle of studying the word and hearing from God will cause you to be an effective minister. Your lifestyle of practice for honing your skills will help take your ministry before kings. (Read Proverbs 22:29). The lifestyle ALWAYS comes before the function – not the other way around! Without the lifestyle, the function will quickly turn into a hollow performance.

With this background, let’s look at this – what will it actually cost you to take up the call of worship on your life? Considering both aspects of lifestyle and function, I’ve learned that this ministry will cost you your time, your money, your energy, your emotions, your sleep, your friends and relationships (the unhealthy ones), and your own plans and desires. It’ll break down your pride, require integrity, and demand dedication. To put that simply into one sentence – it’ll cost you everything! The question to ponder upon is this – are you willing to give up everything?

Stay blessed!

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Setting up a guitar rig

I know, through experience, how setting up a guitar rig can be a daunting task for someone new to the world of endless choices in guitars (humbuckers/single coils/strats/teles…), pedals (true bypass/buffered/analog/digital…), and amps (tube/solid-state/class A or B…). Whew!

Below, I’ve put down some of my thoughts that could help you in setting up your rig. Let me make it clear that there are no rules to this thing. These are just some things I’ve learned through trial-and-error and some ideas that have worked well for me. Also, please note that all of this is coming from a worship music perspective.

The first step in setting up a guitar rig is getting a good guitar and tube amp. The guitar world can be very crudely divided into guitars with single coils and those with humbuckers. I’m not going to get into which type of guitar sounds better, but really good guitars in both categories can be found new or used at great prices. A couple of good starter guitars are the Squier Classic Vibe  ’50s Telecaster,  Fender Mexican Strats, or Gretsch G5435T Pro Jet.

Moving on, I strongly recommend getting a good tube amp for your rig. I know solid-state amps are cheaper and easier to maintain, but to me, tube amps just sound much warmer. There’s this complex interaction between the amp, tubes being overdriven, speakers pushing air, and mic placement that just makes tube amps sound and feel really organic. I think class A amps are great for that chimey, jangley sound, which is perfect for worship music. Some good starter amps are the Laney L5t, Fender blues junior, or Vox AC 15.

After you have the guitar and amp part sorted, you will want to look at setting up a pedalboard. An important thing to keep in mind here is that there are literally thousands of options when it comes to pedals, and it is easy to get confused. They key is to start off with a few standard pedals that have been tried and tested for good tone.

The most basic, essential pedals for worship music are a tuner, volume pedal, overdrives, delay, and reverb. Im listing a few pedals below that sound great and won’t burn a hole in your pocket.

Tuners: Boss Tu-2/3 or KORG Pitchblack.

Volume Pedals: Ernie Ball VP Jr. 250K or Boss FV-500H

Overdrive: It is preferable to have two overdrive pedals on your board for different stages of gain. The pedals can also be stacked (both ON at the same time) for bigger sounds. Here are some overdrive pedals you can look into: Ibanez Tubescreamer, Fulltone Fulldrive, Fulltone OCD, Visual Sound Jekyll and Hyde, etc.

Delay: You will need a pedal that does strong quarter notes and dotted eigth notes with tap tempo. It is preferable to have a pedal with preset facility so that you have easy access to a couple of different delay sounds stored within a single unit. (Boss DD-7, Boss DD-20, TC flashback x4, TC Nova Delay, etc.)

Reverb:  This is to add a nice ambient touch to your sound. Pedals with long decay time and modulation are great for those ethereal sounds/volume swells. The Boss Rv-5 and the TC Hall of Fame are perfect for this!

I think these pedals should help you get a good base tone. Of course, there are tons of other pedal choices for compression, clean boost, modulation, multiple delays/reverbs, loopers, etc., but these basic pedals should cover 90% of your tonal requirements.

Remember, a lot of the tone you hear will also depend on what you put into the guitar: the way you attack the strings, the thickness and angle of your pick, etc. So, don’t look at pedals as a short-cut to a good tone.

I think that great tone is a combination of three aspects: good hands (skill), a good mind (creativity), and good gear!

Electric Guitar in Worship

I am no expert guitar player, but here are a few things I’ve learned that may help you in your quest to become a better guitar player.

– Be prepared: This is the key to being a confident and good guitar player. Preparation involves a lot of practice and dedication. It means being absolutely sure of all your chords/guitar parts before you play together with the band. Reading about and understanding a bit of music theory will also help you go a long way in improving your skill.

– Get the right sounds: After all the preparation, it is time to make sure what you’ve practiced “sounds” right. Your guitar tone can play a massive role in creating an atmosphere for the congregation to be drawn into worship. So, spend time making sure that you have the right sounds available at the right moments in worship.

– “Fit” into the band: In a band situation, always be aware of what your fellow musicians are playing. Avoid the urge to fill out every empty space during a song with a solo or a riff (I know this is hard :P). Try to complement rather than overpower the other instruments.

– Be versatile: Adapt your playing style and tone according to what the song is saying. For example, if a song speaks about intimacy, try to use effects like delay, reverb, chorus, etc. to make your guitar sound dreamy/ethereal. But, if the song is one of praise, declaration, or spiritual warfare, don’t be afraid to make your guitar scream and sound huge.

– Lastly, look at your playing as a means of “speaking” the language of music. What you play can make a listener feel a myriad of emotions: good or bad. What a powerful tool! You have the ability to come up with a melody and have people humming it all day long, or to simply stomp on a distortion box and crank up the energy levels in a room. This can also go the other way if we give in to the urge to cram too many notes into a solo or to show all our guitar-chops in every song—it will get boring and repetitive real soon. Here’s what I think: it is better to play three notes at the right time, with great tone and feel, than play thirty notes at the wrong time, with no emotion.

Stay Blessed,
Sammy