In our church this Lent we are going to be intentionally ‘stripping down’ our worship to simple elements – simple songs, voices, perhaps just a guitar or piano, or no instruments at all. This is to put to one side some of the good things which may, nevertheless, become distractions. It is partly inspired by the Soul Survior story of when Mike Pilavachi ‘banned the band’, partly by the ancient practice of simplicity during Lent, and partly by our own experiences of the value of ‘simplified’ worship.
We are also going to be encouraging the congregation to worship in other ways, which do not require any band or singing at all! We have 2000 years of Christian heritage to draw from here, where very often people have worshipped without music. The ideas below (made into a nice downloadable, printable handout on the link above) are suggestions for how individuals, small groups or churches could worship without a worship band. Feel free to share, use, adapt and feedback how you get on!
15 ideas for worship without a band
Almost all of these ideas could be done both individually and with a group. In most cases the only items you will need are a Bible and perhaps a paper and pen, although some suggest using a computer or smartphone. These are intentionally diverse in style – start with one that you feel comfortable with, but you might also want to challenge yourself to do one out of your comfort zone!
1. Psalm Remix Choose a Psalm, read it through. Then rewrite it in your own language. You can put in situations from your own life, use your own phrases, and relate it to modern day faith. Read your own version back to God as part of worship.
2. Worship Walk
Go for a walk, and have your eyes and ears open. Ask God to show you – things to praise him for, things to ask him to change, and things that challenge the way you live now. Talk to God as you walk.
3. Hymn Stories
Do an internet search for Hymn Stories, or for the story behind a hymn you particularly like. Often the background to these songs of faith opens up new levels of meaning. When you find one that inspires you, reflect on it and sing it afresh.
4. Receiving God’s Love
Put on some quiet instrumental music, turn down the lights and dedicate some time to simply resting in God’s love for you. If you struggle to focus, reflect on some Bible verses, such as can be found here.
5. Lord’s Prayer Rhythm
Set an alarm to remind you to pray the Lord’s prayer three times per day – perhaps 7am, 12pm and 10pm. Challenge yourself to stop whatever you are doing and spend 1 minute praying through the prayer slowly, letting God speak to you as you do so. (This idea is from 24-7 prayer. See their site for other great prayer ideas.)
6. Celtic Prayer
Go to http://www.northumbriacommunity.org/offices/ and choose the Morning, Midday or Evening Prayer depending on the hour. Take your time praying through the prayers and readings. This kind of activity grows in meaning when you repeat it over time.
7. Secret Act of Kindness
Pray and ask God to show you an act of kindness you could do secretly for someone. Carry out the act without them knowing it was you, and give the glory to God as you serve them without drawing attention to yourself. (This Lent we are encouraging our church to make use of the fantastic 40 Acts resources.)
8. Slowing Down
In his book ‘The Life You Always Wanted’, John Ortberg suggests choosing the longest queue in the supermarket, or taking a slower route on a walk or drive, to break the habit of hurry. What could you do in this way? Use the extra time to pray and listen to God.
9. Dance Like Nobody’s Watching
This is almost certainly an individual one: close your curtains, put on some upbeat music and move or dance to the glory of God!
10. Newspaper Prayer
Pick up a national or local newspaper. Go through and either circle or tear out stories that touch you as you read them. Listen to God for his heart for the situations. Then write or draw prayers over the stories using felt-tip pens.
11. Bible-Based Worship
Read a passage in the Bible and consider – what worship response does this suggest? Should you confess sin, praise God, offer thanks, express sadness and sorrow, question and doubt in God’s presence, intercede for a situation…? Do what you think fits the text.
12. Hand Prayers
http://engageworship.org/ideas/Hand_Prayers suggests some ways of praying based on different hand positions. Use these or create your own – eg: hands lifted in praise, clasped in confession, push into your palm with a finger to reflect on the cross… etc.
13. Taize Worship
Taize is a community in France which uses simple repeated chants in various languages. You can download Podcasts of their services from the iTunes store, or use this page on their website – http://www.taize.fr/en_article681.html Sit in God’s presence and let him lead you into worship through these songs and prayers.
14. Food and Worship
Have a simple but substantial meal based around bread and wine (or grape juice). Use it as an opportunity to reflect or talk about the Last Supper, the cross of Christ, other symbolic references to bread and wine, and what these mean for us today.
15. Arty Reflection
Either use art materials or rip pictures out of magazines to express to God how you feel right now. Make a picture or collage and offer it to him. Alternatively, paint or collage your prayers for other people, or your reflections on a Bible passage.