Creating Space in Worship

I think one of the reasons why Hillsong continues to be the driving force in worship music is because they’re not afraid to let their music breathe. As I listen to their new project I’m reminded how good they are about creating space in their arrangements.

In American culture we tend to want to cram every nook and cranny of our lives with stuff, with white noise. Silence, calm, and stillness are avoided at all costs. And it’s reflected in our worship music. Now, in no way am I endorsing a far end of the spectrum approach to how we construct our worship services, but I would like to suggest that those of us who put the weekends together be intentional about creating worship space. Below are a few thoughts I have on this subject…

It’s okay to linger.

Just make sure it’s not lazy, meandering, uninspired lingering. As you plan your service try to put yourself in the position of those that will be attending. Should they have to stand for 30 minutes? Should they have to read the lyrics on the screen for the entire service? At what point should there be a natural pause in the conversation? There can and should be deliberate, prayed about moments in your worship set where you allow everyone to take a breath. Let’s give the Holy Spirit a chance to say something now and then. Be intentional with the lingering moments, making them musically beautiful.

Don’t feel like you have to talk in the empty space.

The word “selah” appears 71 times in the Psalms - most interpretations point to “pause and think”. Once again, we’re not as programmed for this in America as in other cultures. Pausing is typically seen as wasted space or indecision. A few pauses in the lyrical content can greatly enhance our worship experience, allowing congregants to have time to contemplate where they are and who God is to them in that moment. I like to view worship as a conversation between us, the congregation and the Trinity. It’s not much of a conversation if one person is doing all the talking.

Less is more.

Just because I have 10 musicians on stage doesn’t mean they all have to play all the time. This goes for vocalists as well. When we arrange the music for the weekend we pull each song apart to see exactly what makes it go, eliminating every piece that isn’t vital. I heard that Chris Martin of Coldplay once said that they consider a song “done” not when they’ve added all they can, but when they’ve taken away everything that isn’t necessary. Hillsong is good at this. Their arrangements typically focus on just a few key sounds, eliminating redundant tones. In other words, the creation of sonic space is also important to the overall feel of the worship service.

I understand that the term “space” can be nebulous, meaning something different to everyone. But the discipline of taking a moment, a breath, during worship can add a beautiful, even deep, dimension to your worship experience. Would love to hear feedback from you on this subject. Hit me back in the comments section below.

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Andy Chrisman
Worship Pastor
Andy came to Church on the Move in 2005, having been in the music industry for over 25 years. He's dedicated to raising up the next generation of worship leaders, and even though he spent many years with the group 4him, he says he's "having more fun now than I ever did on the road."