Format: Sound Plus Doctrine PodcastDownload Session
This is part 3 of 5 in the series, “Shepherding Souls Through Song.” David, Bob, and Bob’s son Devon explore how singing provides an opportunity to faithfully lead a congregation both before and during the meeting. They discuss different styles of leadership and what to say when you’re not singing. As a bonus, Bob and Devon try to nail down whether Jonathan Edwards can really be claimed as an “American” theologian.
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Bob Kauflin: Hey, you’re listening to Sound + Doctrine, the podcast of Sovereign Grace Music. Sovereign Grace Music exists to produce Christ-exalting songs and training for local churches, from local churches. For more information and free resources, you can check out sovereigngracemusic.org. Thanks for joining us.
David Zimmer: Welcome to the Sound + Doctrine Podcast. We are continuing our conversation about Shepherding Souls Through Song, we have Devon Kauflin here with us.
Devon Kauflin: Good to be here.
DZ: And Bob Kauflin. Where…
DK: Before we get into this, I think you had a little bone to pick with something I said the last time we were together.
DZ: Oh, that’s right.
Bob Kauflin: Oh yeah. The false information that you spread…
DK: Which is not false.
BK: On the podcast.
DZ: Okay, for our listeners that were not tracking on the first couple of ones that we did, it was a conversation about the origin of Jonathan Edwards.
DK: The name Jonathan Edwards came up, and he was identified as an American theologian…
BK: And he is.
DK: In the loosest sense of the word.
DZ: Only because… Is it because… Well, explain, Devon.
DK: Well, he was born prior to the United States ever existing, and he died prior to the United States of America ever existing, and so his conception of himself would not have been one in which he would have identified himself as an American theologian. And being someone who is 50% British, I’ve gotta stand up for the English in my blood.
BK: Because his mom was born in England. My wife.
DZ: Yeah, okay. Julie Kauflin. Yes.
DK: Yeah. Is that how you counsel people to think of themselves in terms of how they think of themselves?
BK: Absolutely. Yeah. I went to Wikipedia, which I believe everything I read on Wikipedia, and it says, “Jonathan Edwards, American preacher,” so I stand by my…
DK: And where was Wikipedia founded? Who founded it? An American.
BK: I don’t know.
DZ: Well, can’t you go in and edit it that he’s a… So you would call him a British theologian?
DK: I would say he’s English.
DZ: English theologian.
DK: I would say he’s English. I wouldn’t necessarily say British.
BK: It’s just… That just… It threw me off. I’m sure people, when they saw that, Devon, they’re going, “What? Oh my gosh… ”
DK: I am just here to serve people.
BK: Oh, Dev…
DZ: Yeah, I feel like my whole history has been thrown…
DK: Are you questioning everything that you’ve ever learned?
DZ: Upside down. Yeah. The earth is flat.
BK: As an American, I still claim Jonathan Edwards as an American theologian.
DK: As Americans are prone to do.
DZ: We would claim him. We do. We claim him.
BK: Born on American soil.
DK: They absolutely do.
BK: What eventually became American soil. How about that?
DZ: Say that again. Born on…
BK: Born on what eventually became American soil.
DZ: What eventually became American soil.
BK: Born and died.
DZ: What eventually became… [chuckle] Wonderful.
BK: Okay. We should move on. What are we, like 10 minutes in already?
DZ: Oh, I’m so glad you’re here, Dev. So Bob, where did we leave off last week?
BK: Okay, well Shepherding Souls Through Song, we talked about, I think, feeding the flock through the songs we sing, which was a great conversation. We could have gone taking even more time for that, but we’ve got to move on. And today we wanna talk about, again, one of the pastoral roles that God has given pastors, one of the roles He’s given pastors is to lead, exercise oversight. I think this is one of the areas that those who lead song can not think about, can be confused about, can have misconceptions about, and I’d begin just by saying that you don’t have to be musically gifted to lead the singing in your church. Singing is a way we pray and praise, and lament and rejoice and learn and exhort and exalt, and all of those things can be led by someone who’s not a musician, because God wants the Word of Christ to dwell in us richly not the music of Christ. Music’s gonna have an effect on us, but the person who’s leading wants to bring attention to those lyrics. It requires knowing what the songs actually say and knowing how to impress upon people what’s important. And so, leadership… That’s what leadership is. And it begins really even before the meeting starts, you’re thinking about, “Why am I gonna choose these songs?
BK: What’s the context of these songs? What preceded them? What comes after them?” So I’d like to think you plan carefully, expectantly, humbly and purposefully. Carefully, because you wanna ensure that theological weight and balance that we talked about. It’s not just picking at what’s at the top of the CCLI charts. That may or may not be helpful. So you want the Word of Christ to dwell in people richly. Expectantly, because you think that however you plan, God’s gonna meet you. He wants to bless His people. He is eager to meet us as we gather. You prepare humbly because we don’t depend on our plan. We depend on the Holy Spirit, and we know that apart from His empowering what we do, what we do is for naught. And then we prepare purposefully so that people know what to focus on, so that means as someone crafts a meeting, puts a liturgy together, they’re thinking through these things, and that’s leadership. Liturgy, just like songs, forms us. It creates patterns in our lives, and so if we’re doing that unintentionally, it’s gonna have an effect. There’s no perfect liturgy, but some liturgies are better than others.
BK: So that’s a part of leadership.
DZ: Well, and we’ve talked about having a separate episode on this podcast about just practically how do you build a service, structuring a service and talking though that liturgy beginning to end, how you put those songs together? So I think that would be helpful also for our listeners to know, okay, what does this look like week to week?
DK: Through the structure that our gatherings take on, we’re cultivating people habits of mind, and how do I respond to the holiness of God? I confess my sin. How do I… What happens when I confess my sin? Well, I’m reminded that He is faithful and just to forgive my sin, to cleanse me from all unrighteousness. And I’m assured of that forgiveness. And when I receive that assurance, how do I respond? I give thanks to God.
DK: And so week after week…
DZ: That’s so great.
DK: We’re building these things into people. And we’re teaching them how to pray and how to articulate their thoughts about God and to God.
BK: Yeah. So… And that’s definitely an aspect of leadership that is really important.
BK: But then there’s also the leadership during the meeting, and this is where I think there’s some real confusion and lack of material, I would say. A number of years ago at a Worship God Conference, I taught a seminar called, I think, What Do You Say When You’re Not Singing? And in researching that topic, there was like next to nothing. It’s just kind of assumed that, “Well, we all know what we’re doing and… ”
DZ: Right. We just sing.
BK: Yeah, we just sing. And I realized, there are different approaches to how to think about that. There’s the frustrated preacher who between every song, it’s like a 5-10 minute mini-sermon, and they really wanna be preaching, but they’re just…
DK: It’s my chance.
DK: It’s my chance to prove myself.
DZ: Yes. [chuckle]
DK: My theological grip.
BK: And then on the other end, there’s like the non-speaker…
BK: Just don’t say anything, and…
BK: You know, don’t dare interrupt the Spirit’s work as He’s working through the song.
DK: And I think you have this group of people, well-intentioned and thoughtful in their planning, and just think that’s enough.
DK: I mean, I’ve thought…
BK: Yeah, yeah.
DK: This all through…
DZ: Yeah, yeah.
DK: And it all works together, and I’ve got the right pieces in place, and I’m good.
DZ: Yeah. And people will pick up on the order or whatever.
DZ: Yeah. I’m not gonna… I don’t have to explain it…
DZ: I can just sing songs.
BK: Yeah, yeah, if they don’t get it, then I planned badly.
BK: So I just need to… I just need to plan better.
BK: So there’s the cheerleader, who, between every song, just, “Come on!” I’m not sure why leaders say, “Come on, sing it out!” Yes. Oh, yes. Like, no, give me something to come on about. Give me something to… “Let’s get our voices up!” or whatever.
DK: “Put your hands together.”
BK: Yeah. No, give me something to put my hands together for. It’s like, tell me what I should be seeing clearly, and then I’ll respond naturally. Yeah, just a little… Some unhelpful things that leaders do.
DK: Also… But if our responses, if our affections are gonna be informed by truth…
DK: We don’t need to be told what to do.
DK: We need to be told what to think, in one sense.
BK: Yes. Yes, and told what to think before necessarily we’re told what to do.
BK: It’s just those kinda exhortations unrelated to truth, “Lift your voices.” Well, why?
BK: “Sing it out.” Well, that’s what we’re doing, aren’t we? No, don’t just tell me to sing it louder, tell me… Give me a compelling picture of Christ that makes me wanna sing louder. So, that’s leadership, so that is crafting and thinking about what you say as you’re leading the songs. Now, granted, there are people who… Like I said, frustrated preachers. There are mystics who, they just say stuff between songs and you just don’t even know what they’re talking about…
DZ: Yeah, right.
BK: It’s like the experience, “It’s so great to be here together, oh Jesus.” A lot of times people just pray, pray is the default. “I don’t really know what to do, so I’m just gonna…
BK: Pray. I’m just gonna say things.” Which is not what prayer is for…
DK: Or you might have the gigging leader, I mean, who it’s just kind of like, between songs, it’s, “Yeah, so this next one, I was driving in my car this past week… ”
DZ: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah.
DK: “I was thinking about the trees as I drove along. So let’s sing about God as creator.”
DZ: Yeah, right.
BK: Reminds me of a time I heard someone use the tsunami in Africa… Was it Indonesia? It takes place… This was back in 2005, and he used that as a reference to like the waves of God coming over us. And I’m thinking, like hundreds of thousands of people died in that. So I couldn’t quite get the connection, but it was just kinda… Yeah, and he just kinda trailed off, and…
BK: This is not a helpful… So, if you’re leading, it’s helpful to think about those moments in between songs, or from song to a scripture or a song to a testimony, whatever, as potentially… Potential opportunities for leading people, so… Go ahead.
DZ: They are, I mean, excellent opportunities to lead if you have spent time as a worship leader, crafting the songs and how they’re working together, and you’re pulling from the information. That was a new experience for me before Sovereign Grace Music. It wasn’t only like what you would say in between songs, but what you were saying during songs was so helpful for me and insightful for me just to go, “Oh, that just flew over my head, the song did.”
DZ: But when you brought attention to it…
DZ: I just saw that with fresh eyes.
DZ: Or “What we just sang about is leading us into this song that we’re singing.”
DZ: It’s like, “Oh, there’s structure to this or there’s a purpose that you started with the first song?” It’s not just an uptempo song…
DZ: And then you went to a mid-tempo song, it’s like you are actually drawing from… So I just… That structure is so helpful.
DK: I don’t like plan my songs just by keys, ’cause yeah, I just…
DZ: How to keep them all in E. [chuckle]
DK: Well, no, I don’t keep them all the same, ’cause I like to modulate, so I just modulate each song. Just kinda go through…
DZ: Oh, man.
DK: C, D, E…
DK: F, G, A.
BK: That’s really helpful. Yeah, there are so many bad examples and we don’t wanna concentrate on those.
DK: A helpful picture for me has just been in thinking about… As a kid, you do the dot-to-dots, and you’re just going from one dot to the next and you know which dot to go to because there’s numbers next to them. And as a leader, that’s what I wanna be doing as we gather together, is just helping people go from dot to dot, from thought to thought. I know earlier on, as I was leading, I did think more in terms of, “Alright, we’re gonna sing a couple of songs and I need to have this time where I’m just gonna exhort people,” and it’s kind of my mini…
BK: Yeah, oh the exhortation song.
DK: The exhortation… My opportunity to teach people for a second. And so it’s maybe three minutes or two to three minutes, four minutes, whatever, and would give a lot of thought to that. And as I’ve thought more about it and as I’ve grown, as we’ve talked, no, I don’t need to do all of that.
BK: Not necessarily.
DK: I don’t necessarily need to do all of that. What I need to do is just help people get from one point to the next point.
BK: Yeah, transition.
DK: And so that means that I say a lot less when I lead than I used to, but it’s much more purposeful. And I’ll say one sentence here and one sentence here, or highlight one part of a line here during this song, and that’s it, but I’m leading people and directing people, helping them reflect on and meditate on the truth that we want to dwell on richly.
DZ: Well, and the dot-to-dot analogy, I don’t wanna say using a template, but there is a structure of how you can connect those dots. And if you’re not even building a structure of connecting point one to two to three to four, it then just turns into just, we’re picking songs, just picking random songs that somehow work together because the Gospel is sown through them. You know what I mean?
BK: There’s a lot of bad reasons that we choose songs, and I’ve done all of them. Keys that my voice sounds good in, that I find…
DK: Those are hard to find.
BK: Really hard to find. Songs that are all in the same key. In Sovereign Grace, for years we had this liturgy, if you went to any Sovereign Grace church, it would be two fast songs, a medium song, and then two slow songs.
DK: Probably an exhortation before the medium song?
BK: Yeah, exactly. After the second song. And it was years until we realized, “That’s not in the Bible. There’s no place in the Bible where it says that’s what you have to do.” So there are really two places you can lead. You mentioned one of them, David. In the song… I remember years ago, standing next to CJ Mahaney and hearing him, he would shout out lines, in response to the song. Like, “Yes, that’s true,” or “Not because of us”, or just something. And I think, “Wow, he’s thinking about what he’s singing. What a concept.”
BK: But it would have that effect on me of realizing, “I can be thinking about this,” or, “Oh, that’s what I just sang.” So when I lead now… And this has been a progression, I’ve been leading for 45 years, so I probably say less than I used to. I remember I led on the Together for the Gospel albums, and the early ones I was saying a lot more than I did… We’ve done four, and I say a lot less on the fourth one. Partly ’cause some people said, “You need to say a lot less.” But I realized…
DZ: “Please stand. Please sit.”
BK: It can be distracting if you’re not used to it. And I know some people would say it’s always distracting.
DK: “Who’s this guy yelling at me?”
BK: Yeah, well, “Play skillfully to the Lord with loud shouts,” Psalm 33. That’s what I say.
DK: Just committed that one to memory.
BK: But it can, if it’s done out of faith in response to you’re engaging with God as you’re singing, it can be a real means of grace to people.
BK: And it can be as simple as just shout out, “Yes!” Because I’ve had recordings where I’ve done that and people come up to me afterwards and say, “You know what? Every time I listen to that, I just hear that ‘yes’ and it just stirs my soul. I remember, that’s true.”
DK: So how would you differentiate between that “Yes” and the “Come on”?
BK: Yeah, because it’s in response to a truth we just sang and it’s an affirmation… It’s like an “Amen.” “Amen” is “Yes, and amen.”
BK: “This is true.” And sometimes I’ll say, “This is true.” Sometimes it’ll be a contrast. I’m not gonna be able to think of something right now, but it’ll be, “In Christ alone, our hope is found… Nowhere else.” I wouldn’t do that right at the beginning of the song, but that’s the idea. Where, “Oh yeah, this is different from the way we normally think. I try to put my hope in all these other things, it’s nowhere else.” So just something simple like that.
DZ: It’s interesting ’cause it kinda ties back into the previous podcast we did of you’re responding to the truth you’ve heard as opposed to evoking a response from the people. “Shout it out. Get involved.”
BK: “Come on, act like you’re alive, like you really wanna be here.”
DK: And this all is predicated on presence. If we’re gonna lead effectively, we have to be present with where we are and with what’s going on, and engaged.
BK: With the congregation, with the songs that we’re singing.
DK: Yeah, aware of how people are responding, aware of the Scriptures that are being read, aware of the sermon that’s being preached on. And that’s where a lot of this leadership takes place, especially within songs, as far as what we’re highlighting. Just the other day, I preached from Psalm 62 and talked about God’s power, to Him belongs power and to Him belongs steadfast love. And then we’re singing, “O Lord, My Rock and My Redeemer” afterwards. And so I’m thinking, “Your grace, a well too deep to fathom, your love exceeds the heaven’s reach.” And so just highlighting, “Yes, you’re the God of steadfast love. Or to you belongs all love.” I don’t remember what I said as I was a leading it. But I’m just informed by the truth that we’ve been hearing, I’m just connecting, pointing people to it.
DZ: That’s so good. That’s so good.
DK: And that’s one of the ways that we lead as we’re leading songs.
BK: And that speaks to, you’re not gonna develop, I don’t think, but having a repertoire where you have songs that can emphasize truths that have been taught. So, if we think of worship songs simply as saying great things about God, kind of the more generic qualities about God, you’re… You’re a deliverer. Okay, well, can you spell that out for us? Or, you’re great, you’re glorious. Can you… Why? Tell us why. Well, that’s what sermons do, they should do, tell us why, and it’s great to have songs that can follow up sermons or prepare for sermons, that use those specific words to emphasize in our hearts with music, the truths that we’ve just heard…
BK: So that’s during the song, but then I also wanna talk about the transitions between songs or scripture and draw some contrast ’cause this is where I think we just miss opportunities, so why are we going to sing this next song? It could be done two different ways, if you a traditional church, you could say, “Let’s stand and sing hymn number 46”, that works, people stand, turn in their hymnals, 46 or whatever, or you could say, “Let’s stand, sing hymn number 46, a song that reminds us of our great need for God’s mercy and His provision for us in Christ.”
DZ: That’s such a leading opportunity.
BK: Well, it just, “Oh, that’s why we’re singing.”
DZ: You’re right.
BK: You’re about to read a scripture, so… And now the scripture reading.
BK: Dah dah dah dah dah. Or “Here is Romans 8, 31 through 39.” Maybe you could say something like,”We’ve been singing about how God’s mercy is greater than our sins and how God’s love will never fail, Paul highlights that reality in this passage from Romans, let’s listen to it together.” It’s like, you’re building people’s faith.
BK: That’s… That’s leadership.
DK: I got this picture of, when you’re about to sow a seed in the soil, being your congregation, and so you’ve got this truth that you’re gonna plant in people’s hearts, and if you’re gonna go plant a seed, you don’t just go outside and stump it into the ground, you prepare the soil. And so, through these scripture, introducing scripture or just sharing that one sentence to cultivate expectant faith, we’re preparing the soil.
BK: And you have to work really hard, I think, to do this, unless you’re naturally gifted, which I’m not, to do this well, briefly.
BK: Because someone might hear this and think, “Oh, okay, I gotta introduce everything.” No. Stop!
DK: It takes me a long time to prepare the soil.
BK: Yeah. Don’t do it! Your pastor is gonna be coming to you saying, “Stop talking so much!” It’s hard to craft something that’s personal, that’s biblical, and compelling and brief.
DZ: Oh, yeah.
BK: That’s really hard.
DZ: Yeah, yeah.
BK: So oftentimes, I’ll write out, still to this day, I’ll write out what I’m gonna say, and I’ll get it in my heart and maybe refer to it, but I’m aware of how long it should be, and if… It could… If I’m not doing that, that could easily be three minutes ’cause I’ll think… “Well, I didn’t say that that well, so I’ll say them maybe a little clearly or more clearly.”
DK: “Let me rephrase that.”
BK: Yeah, it’s never better. And the process of thinking through what you’re gonna say over and over and over again actually helps you speak better spontaneously, because you’ve walked through those paths of, “Don’t say that. Oh, that’s too long.”
BK: “I’m always using a lot of weighty words, I need to say this more simply, I’m using a lot of passive tense, I need to say it more… Your active tense directly.” I remember CJ saying to me years ago, “I can… ” And CJ wasn’t like correcting me, he was just saying, “I can tell the difference between the times when you prepare what you’re gonna say and the times you haven’t.” It’s so helpful.
DK: Oh, dear.
BK: Okay. And then he said it to me like, 15 years after that too.
DK: You can see I can still tell.
BK: I’m just, I’m slipping a little bit.
DZ: Do you have a pen and paper?
BK: So the point is, we have these opportunities and we don’t wanna overdo it, but we can lead people as we’re singing, you don’t need to be musical to do that.
BK: If you’re…
DK: You have to be pastoral.
BK: You have to be pastoral.
BK: And you have to be willing to like step up to the plate and say, “This is what we should be focusing on. This is what we should be thinking about.” And when we read a long scripture, for instance, like it’s easy for people to get distracted and not know what… Why we’re reading that scripture, so just a few sentences beforehand of, “Listen for this, watch for this, watch how… “Or even connecting it to what we just did, can transform a dead liturgy into a life-giving liturgy, and it’s often not just the pieces that are the problem, it’s the way we’re connecting them. So that’s leading, and then there’s one other way, if I can go into this, of leading, we’re talking about before the meeting… During the meeting, just teaching on the role of music in the church. That’s the way we can lead the flock. We assume everybody knows what’s going on when we sing.
BK: Not so, I mean everybody thinks they know what’s going on, some people really love it for maybe not good reasons, some people don’t really enjoy that much, we wanna give people a biblical understanding of what God’s intentions for music in the church are, so he… Just even saying that, “You know why we sing the songs we do? Because God wants the Word of Christ to dwell in us richly. So we’re introducing this new song, you may not have heard it before, it’s not on the radio, but we believe it’s gonna enable the Word of Christ to dwell in us richly and it’s gonna enable us to teach and admonish one another.” Like you do that over time, as you introduce songs, it’s gonna change the culture of your church.
DZ: There’s so much intentionality in that.
BK: It’s just helping people.
DZ: Yeah, you’re helping people. Yeah, you’re not just randomly showing up and throwing stuff out…
BK: You’re trying to get songs to resonate…
DZ: Yeah, yeah.
BK: No, there’s a purpose to it.
DZ: Yeah absolutely.
BK: And then there’s the truth that music is a vehicle for worship, it doesn’t produce worship. So, our goal is to come in here already worshipping the Lord, we’re always worshiping something, we’re always giving our attention and our affections to something… Well, let’s come into the meeting having prepared our hearts just wanting to bring glory to Jesus, not wait for the music to do it, and then not expect music to do what only the Gospel and the Word of God are meant to do by the Spirit. So not come in for this emotional charge from music, the musicians, the band, the production, the arrangements, but focus on how God has revealed Himself to us in the Gospel, in the Word, and that’s different from being musically effective, so teaching on some of those things, that’s another way of leading your congregation.
BK: I hope this is helpful.
BK: It sure is fun talking about it.
DZ: It’s helpful for me to process and listen to, and I’m thinking about… There’s so many different contexts that these worship leaders are in, if they’re tuning in to this podcast, and so I know it’s helpful for me, and hopefully it’s helpful for you who’s listening, and we’re happy to have you listening to our Sound Doctrine Podcast, and we will see you next time, thanks for joining us.
DZ: Thank you for listening to Sound + Doctrine, the podcast of Sovereign Grace Music. For more information, free sheet music, translations and training resources, you can visit us at SovereignGraceMusic.org.