What, Why, and How?
How do you select songs for a global gathering?
How do you choose which languages and songs to sing?
Why are there so many leaders?
These are just a few of the questions that I am getting asked by people around the world at YLG2016: Lausanne Younger Leaders Gathering. On the way up and down the three flights of stairs (that frankly are exhausting) people have stopped us to ask these questions and thank us for modeling imagination in worship.
When I was invited to be the worship director for YLG I imagined a group of younger leaders coming together to learn from one another as we led worship. I imagined finding people from different contexts who were also trying to reimagine what worship in the global church could look like for the coming generation. Here is what I was looking for:
- Worship Leaders – I was not looking for singer/songwriters or performers, but pastors
- Diversity of ethnicity, gender, as well as traditions
- Pastors with experience integrating culture and worship in contextualized ways
- Local leaders to the country/region hosting the event
We prepared months in advance in hopes that the worship would support the work of calling us as the next generation of leaders to the task unfinished. Our small community emailed, selected songs, worked on set list, prayed, and practiced. Though many of us only met in person a few days ago, we can already tell God is doing something among us. The discussions we have had over meals and backstage have been eye opening. We’ve had #freeworkshops on topics of:
- Spiritual formation and worship
- Intergenerational worship
- Affecting change as younger leaders and respecting elders
- Sharing Leadership
- Integration of culture and worship
- Theological Colonization through the marketing of worship songs
Unity not Uniformity
As a community of experienced younger leaders we each brought songs to gift one another. We’ve shared songs that were meaningful to us personally, meaningful to our churches and meaningful to our region. Song selection underwent much prayer given that there are 150 countries and so many languages represented – how could one possible select just 25 songs from the thousands available? Here are some of the values practiced when choosing songs:
- Diverse both globally, thematically (praise, surrender, devotion, lament), experientially
- Well known and meaningful to our communities
- Gifted to us from friends, relatives and communities we are solidarity with
- Connected to the Great Story of Creation, Repentance, Love, Reconciliation, Worship
- Congregational (this is not a concert) and singable (not all non-English songs are easy to learn, so we chose ones that were accessible)
- Circulated globally (usually Western hymns and Western contemporary)
This is the criteria we used to prayerfully select the songs for the conference. I was very thankful for the friends, mentors, and regional leadership who spoke into the process as well. While we will not be adding songs to the current ones we have learned and selected we’d love for YLG participants to “gift” us songs for future events (please reply in the comment section below).
One of the things I personally struggled with is that songs “everybody knows” are typically, if not exclusively, songs that originate with a small group of Western worship movements that shall remain nameless. We then export that music to the rest of the world. But what would it look like if we encouraged local communities to WRITE and COMPOSE their own music from their own experience with God? What if we communicated to one another that we ourselves had a story to tell? My vision for worship is to help is reimagine worship for the future of the global church, not assimilating to the consumer market driven forces that make some voices heard and others diminished, but a worship that communicates all are welcome and all are needed.
Here are other songs that our team wrote or arranged in their own context toward that vision of contextualized, gospel centered, socially relevant worship that leads us to mission and reconciliation:
With One Heart (English/Spanish/Korean)