Stewards of Communication:
By Marc Vidito
Song selection is the practical beginning point to your worship leading responsibility. It follows prayer, focus on the word, and listening to God about His heart for the people for a particular worship time and the heart of the people toward God. Who are they? Where are they in their spiritual journey? In their season of life? What do they need to express to God, to remind themselves of about God, and to hear from God? How you choose your song set will set the tone for the communication you are the steward of in that time of worship.
Each congregation is different. The types of songs you choose, what liturgical selections you choose, and how the flow of worship and liturgy come together to create a congruous worship experience vary from synagogue to synagogue. The following is an example of our typical service schedule and the types of songs I choose in that setting. For the purpose of categorization, when I refer to “Messianic music”, I am referring to music that is relevant to a Messianic Jewish lifestyle in message, verbiage, and/or style. The variety of types of Messianic music is too broad to address in this article, so, we will stick to this simple definition.
“Christian” music is music that is widely played in and born from the non-Jewish part of the body of Messiah. These songs are songs that you may typically find in a church and are not authored by a Messianic artist, do not have an identifiably Middle Eastern or Jewish American cultural sound or specifically Jewish message contextually.
We are part of the larger body of Messiah. Any song that comes from the body of Messiah and is theologically sound can minister to us personally in an equally powerful way. However, your synagogue staff and spiritual leadership in conjunction with the worship teams and leaders should have agreed upon what types od songs and sounds will best meet the needs and vision of your congregation.
In our congregational settings at Beth Hallel in Roswell, GA, our service is set up this way:
:A familiar upbeat opening song- always familiar and clearly Messianic/”Jewish”
: Three upbeat or moderate tempo songs
I will typically do this with the first set
::::The first song is very familiar and usual has a culturally Jewish sound
::::The least familiar song is typically second. If I am teaching the congregation a new upbeat song- this is the spot. OR this is where a song from the Christian catalogue will go.
::::This last slot is where the most upbeat or anthemic Messianic song will go. This may have a more modern sound and is definitely contextually Messianic
:Offering- during the offering we do a catchy, upbeat, and easy to end song when the ushers are at the back door- sometimes we do one of those very middle eastern songs that everyone loves and no one can sing with fluidity. They go their full 3 ½ish minutes regardless of ushers.
:Torah Service with liturgy
::Once a month we walk the Torah
:::For that I do a lot of Culturally Jewish Music- walking tempo- maybe a Ted Pearce Hallelu Et Adonai or equivalent. That Klezmer sound is great for a Torah walk
:Worship - 3 songs
::The first song is always a soaker or the least familiar. If I am teaching a new slower or worshipful moderate tempo song- it goes here. Often times I use this spot to intercede for Israel- a Baruch Haba, Hine Lo Yanum, or Shalom Jerusalem, or my song Arise and Shine
::Here is the slow build typically- something proclamatory like Toby and Brooke Manolis's Kingdom Come- current, worshipful, modern, and nothing like the whole congregation worshipping to the V'ne Mar-- so powerful!!!
:::OR I save that proclamation for the end and do a song expressing individual longing, humility, repentance, need
::End with the most intimate- the most heartfelt and sweet
:::OR if your intimate individual moment was in the middle--- this is where we come back together with a proclamation of solidarity- "We will not bow to the gods of man- We will worship the God of Israel! YOU are Holy- There is no one else like YOU" (always end vertical- singing TO Him)
There is no set place for the Christian song in this set. It may be any of the three. But- there will only be one. There is nothing like an "All Sons and Daughters" song. But there will only be one in each three-song set.
The reason I keep the ratio leaning toward Messianic music is that this is a service. This may be the first exposure a non-Messianic Jewish person has to there Messiah. I want them to feel connected to their identity through a Jewish worship experience. This are the people we exist to reach first.
:A closer is either something like Shabbat Shalom or Shaalu Shalom Yerushalaim OR a chorus/bridge reprise of our most powerful praise set moment.
NOTE- THIS IS FOR CONGREGATIONAL WORSHIP AT A TYPICAL SHABBAT SERVICE. And- as with any formula- it is subject to change.
FOR THINGS WITH YOUTH the structure and Christian:Messianic Jewish ratio is different. Because we are trying to maintain and instill in our youth our identity, I like to keep the ratio between 60-70% Messianic. Many young people have a hard time understanding the importance of this at first. However, as they should be learning in all other areas of your collective lifestyle, we have a specific calling. If we are not intentional about it, we will turn from it. Another topic for another time.
Other types of services and leading for specific demographics may require different types of song lists. For instance, a Yom Kippur service will be very different from the type of setting our synagogue has on Yom Kippur afternoon. The service is going to be much more traditional, and somber, and interspersed with liturgy. Whereas, the afternoon service is much less structured and much more introspective.
For several years now we have spent the entire afternoon and early evening of Yom Kippur in the synagogue in worship, prayer, scripture reading, and really spending personal time with some of the liturgy, digesting it and meditating on the words. This worship may range from face-on-the-floor quiet worship to hands-in-the-air proclamatory worship. It is less traditional and more intimate.
The day ends with our Ne'ila service. These are the holiday's final songs of repentance, lots of proclamation, and finally joyous praise.
Examples for these three worship settings are as follows:
Traditional morning service (our Kol Nidre Service is very traditional and lead by the cantorial choir interweaving liturgy and songs):
Eizoh Min Ahava Zot
Salvation is Your Name
We are starting with sweet traditional worship, highlighting THE atonement in His sacrifice, and ending with a more modern proclamation whose climax is a modern twist on well-known liturgy. You will notice to that I have used no songs from the "Christian world" in this set. This service is potentially one of the greatest outreach services you will have throughout the year. Therefore, it should be the most relatable to the non-Messianic Jew that may be visiting. This is not a negative commentary on Christian worship. It is a proactive commentary on knowing the people you are serving.
The afternoon time of worship is very different. There will be times of introspection and repentance, unified proclamation, instrumental worship as a backdrop for prayer or testimonies. We read the book of Jonah. Each person reads silently and meditates on the Al Chait, the Yedeed Nefesh, the Shema and V'ahafta, the Messiah's prayer. We intercede for Israel and sing things like Baruch Haba by Shlomo Carlebach, Hoshiana by Joshua Aaron, and my Arise and Shine.
I almost always challenge complacency and hypocrisy in all of us at this time and sing songs like Jason Upton's Will of God (my personal anthem), Holy Unto You, Kadosh Atah, and Nate Benjamin's Sacrifice of Worship. This is a perfect place for Oceans, Crowder's Here's My Heart, and Closer.
Proclamation works with God of All Our Days, Forever Reign, Good Good Father, Great Are You Lord, Kathy Shooster's Arise Oh Lord, Nate Benjamin's Shema, Joshua Aaron's You Are Holy, and Israel's Hope's He Shall Reign.
In this afternoon time, the Messianic to Christian ratio is much more evenly split because these people that have chosen to spend hours in worship are here to press in and may have a wider musical palate. Explore that palate- but do it to foster connection appropriate for the day between these people (including yourself and your band) and God.
The Ne'ila service will have four songs. This is a great time for Bruch Haba again (because Yeshua said He won't return until all Israel says it) and Fall Upon Us Now. Then we rejoice in Him! He is our Salvation!! Hallelu Et Adonai, and, nothing closes this time like Shouts of Joy or Kol Haneshama!
In short, know who you are serving and why you are there. Minister to those needs and focus on those reasons. Worship is never a concert, but when done in spirit and truth, your song choices will allow your worship time to reflect a genuine and creative time of worship that opens a two-way discourse between God and those of us gathered to meet Him.