Heart of Worship Ministries

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Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn. (Psalm 57:8)

In recent years I have heard a very real cry. A cry for more Apostolic songwriting. The cry sometimes morphs into criticism. “Why do we hold so tightly to songs written by people who don’t hold to OUR precious theology?” Although I could draft a hundred retorts to the critical spirit, I want to instead address the cry. Why aren’t WE crafting God-Songs that everyone wants to sing?

I invite you to put on your seat belt. Because my words will be candid and pointed at times. But I think the cry to write is becoming loud enough that we MUST take an honest look at ourselves as a movement and take ownership for the challenge that GOD is placing into our spirits. How will we awaken our song?

Awakening the God-Song of this hour requires dedication to the craft of songwriting.
Jotting down inspired thoughts on a piece of paper, in a vague poetic outline does NOT make you a songwriter!  Song is NOT poetry. I don’t have enough time to articulate all the reasons why. But go find out the difference, and then study what makes a song. Study hooks. Study song form. Study rhyme schemes. Study figurative language. Go to a songwriting workshop. Buy a book. Do something to grow!

Pardon, for a moment, my self-reflection. Because at first it will seem self-aggrandizing: I’ve taught multiple semesters of songwriting during my 12 years of teaching at UPCI colleges. I have formed songwriting groups. I’ve had over 30 songs I’ve written or co-written recorded. BUT let me be VERY REAL with you. I still feel I have much to learn in my journey to craft a “perfect” song. I work very hard to listen, study, and receive honest feedback. I hate some of the songs I wrote in my early years. (grin!) I still get writers block when writing. I get frustrated if I sound predictable or trite. I want to be so much better than I am!

Honest feedback. That’s a really important part of this journey. I often hear songs written by Apostolics and think, “… this song is a few edits away from greatness! But I wish the writer had gotten some input…” If we really are serious about writing great songs, we’ve got to be willing to expose ourselves to the precious criticism of other good writers. Precious criticism. Yes. I mean that exactly as it sounds.

Songwriting is so much more than the flash of inspiration and the spiritual high that comes from a great idea or powerful line of lyric. It’s hard work! And the hard work must exist on this solid foundation: do I understand what makes a great song that every church wants to sing? Sadly, very few Apostolic people are immersing themselves in this learning process to become good writers.

Awakening the God-Song of this hour calls us to be creative and musical, not just mimickers.
Ouch. This is a tough one. We have to expose a terrible reality that exists. So many people do not possess the musical skill or the creative imagination to know how to take a great, but rough and un-produced song and turn it into a usable choice for their weekly congregation.  We do not know how to listen beyond the production. Or lack-there-of.

This void of musical training is the reason hundreds of good songs sit unfinished. It is vitally important to know how to play chords by ear, to hear harmonies, and to share the vision for how a song could be arranged with the band.  Songwriters must develop a vision for how a song with potential could be arranged to come across more like the highly-produced songs we fall in love with at a large conference. Instead, many of us must have a chart for everything! We literally play by numbers. Or letters. Like a kid who never learns to draw but only connects dot-to-dot pictures or paints by numbers.

I’m not at all against technology. But can I say, we are suffering a terrible by-product of this media-driven generation. We watch powerful church happen! We watch musician’s fingers. We mimic thoughtlessly. So many leaders simply wait to see what song ignites worship at another church, conference or big event. Then they race home to bring that song to their church, hoping to duplicate the same results. Who is spending time hearing harmonies for themselves? Discovering new voicings on their instrument? Who is spending time in prayer to hear the unique Word God is speaking over their local congregation?

The God-Song CANNOT rise out of a generation that simply will not do the personal practice, work and prayer to become musical, creative and spiritual conduits.

Awakening the God-Song of this hour takes financial investment and an outlet.
It’s not easy to be a writer. I’ve never seen a job posting: “full-time Apostolic writer required!” Most writers are cramming their creative pursuits into hard-to-find spare hours of the week. Furthermore, it’s not financially easy to take a rough song and create a demo that represents it well to others.

And once you do write a great song and have a quality demo, what then? Who is looking for new songs? How do we share great songs with one another? How do we “prove” our song has what it takes if it’s never been recorded or sung at an event?

These are honest, real questions that have to be addressed. But there is something you can do. Determine in your mind you will support the creative process. Don’t pirate music, or always take the “freebie” route. Purchase music from Apostolic artists. Buy charts FROM THEIR SITES. Invest in each other. Do it as a discipline whether you love their music or not! Because how can we cry that there is a need, but not support the people trying to fill the need??

Awakening the God-Song in this hour requires YOU.
Together we can break the cycle. Instead of questioning others, let’s hold ourselves accountable. I can do something about this. I can write more. I can become a disciplined, trained songwriter. I can strengthen my musical ear. I can learn to discern a great song without needing it to be highly produced on a recording or presented in the emotional environment of a conference. I can celebrate and support Apostolic singer/songwriters. If I’m a pastor, I can encourage my music team to begin a songwriting group to write for our local church. I can invest in my music leader and send him/her to a writer’s conference. I can pay an Apostolic songwriter to do coaching sessions with me for a time, so I can learn. I will grow. I will learn. I will give voice to the power of the Spirit that is dwelling IN ME! I will declare HIS name as one who is covered by it in baptism.


Laura Payne is the founder of Heart of Worship ministries. She served as Dean of Music at CLC for 9 years and currently serves as Music Program Director and Choral Director at Urshan College. She is a prolific writer and arranger, and currently mentors young writers at Urshan College. On the past 2 albums produced at Urshan, there were 8 original compositions. The new Urshan project coming out in 2018 will have 5 more originals. Heart of Worship Ministries is proud to offer a songwriters track each year at its HOW Conference. Laura is committed, in every aspect of her ministry, to raising up the Apostolic God-Song.

Nuggets Of Wisdom

In our "Nuggets of Wisdom" posts you'll get exposed to the writings of one of our Staff Members or like this week, we're going to talk to one of the original "Praise & Worship" leaders that paved the way for all of us, in this Apostolic movement, none other than Sister Bobbie Shoemake.

The following are "Nuggets of Wisdom" taken from a conversation we had with her about Worship in our Churches today:

Sister Shoemake, as someone who paved the way for the Praise & Worship to become what it is today, we wanted to ask you "what are your thoughts on the way our Worship Services are operated today?"

As far as I’m concerned, I feel like some of the young people being used today have yet to create their own private consecration time...if you don’t have a private relationship you can not have an authentic worship experience in public and you can not expect to have an Anointed worship service. 
Does everyone really have the mindset that it IS REALLY ALL ABOUT GOD, or is it really about them and their own time to shine on the stage? 

If people would pray more than they practice, there would be a flow in the Holy Ghost, He (GOD) will provide the Excellence that we want.   
(If we) give Him us, He will give back to us all the desires of our heart.

In the old testament, when they went out to war, they would send the worshipers out first, they would worship before they went into Battle.   (Today) We’re in a spiritual battle and the people on the front lines are the ones in music, and we’re all NOT prepared for the battle.  The praise team practices, as they should, (because) we need to be excellent before God, but we need our praise teams to practice prayer and practice worship as much or more than they practice a song.

What do you have to say about the songs we use in our worship services today?

Some of our seasoned songwriters have moved on and we’re now trying to “mimic” what is happening in the Charismatic Movement, when we need to create our own “Authentic Worship” from our own experiences and stop mimicking what others are doing.

We, Pastor Jimmy Shoemake and I, have been in music for years and years, we raised our kids on music, but times were a lot simpler then. People (still) like simple, you want to leave people wanting more..you want them to remember that song all week long, they’ll remember the melody and the lyrics, but not your licks and tricks.

People don’t need to hear a “hot-lick” they need to feel a God Connection.  
We need to go back to the basics, just because a song is old doesn’t mean it needs to be sung, and just because it’s brand new doesn’t mean it needs to be sung.  Songs that have something to say need to be sung.  We need to know who we’re singing about, we need to love the person we’re singing about.

Do you have advice for Worship Leaders, anything you want to share with us?

You can’t whip people into worship with your words, you need to lead them into worship with your own heart of worship.

Another thing, Ad-Libs aren’t required, sing the melody, sing the lyrics, you do not need to ad-lib on every chorus of every song. Keep the song simple. Ad-libs can throw a congregation off from what they are called to do and that is worship.

Remember it’s not about my (your own) choice of songs, you need to be smart, (you need to) be sensitive, (you need to) know when a song isn’t working and move on. Give it a decent burial and lay it aside.

Years ago my daughter, Nanci Holston, and I went to an Integrity Music Conference and something they said stuck with me.  “If after singing a song two or three times, if the back row isn’t singing it with you, put the song away.  If people on the back row are not connecting and engaging you need to make a change”.   We’ve got to stop singing for what is happening on the front row, sing to help those sitting in the back of the church. If you can connect with them and God can reach them with the flow of the Holy Ghost, then you’ve done your job.  “God, Let me be sensitive enough to see through Your eyes and use me to help meet the needs of all the people in my church the way You want them to be met”.

How do you teach song transitions or how do you "flow" from one song to the next?

Flow can’t be taught, you have to live it. But, Flow is imperative to having a move of the Holy Ghost, you can not just “find” it, you have to seek it.  Those that are hungry for it will find it, there will be some that just want to play their “hot-licks” and rely on their talent.  
You have to get in One mind and One accord, you have to get those in the back connected with where you’re feeling God wants you to arrive for that service.

The anointing will break whatever yoke there may be in the building.   Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after God’s ways, they will be filled...Filled with the anointing ... but you (first) have to hunger after it.   

My mother, Ople Thornton, always told me, Bobbie there is always a key in a service, she would feel after the Lord, you have got to be God Conscious, if you find that key then you will know what to sing all the time.  For years Mother would tell me what to sing and I would sing what she told me, then she started asking me what I felt to sing, and then when my answer was the same as what she felt was right, then she knew I had found the Key through my prayer. I didn’t know what she was doing, I didn’t know she was teaching me how to feel after God, she just lived it, and was teaching me the entire time.  

It was an honor and privilege to speak with Sister Bobbie Shoemake.  We hope you enjoyed reading her words of wisdom.  We look forward to sharing more "nuggets of wisdom" from other praise and worship legends in the near future. 

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