We asked Marilynn Venden about her worship leading and other music-related activities.
Editor – Marilynn, you have a heart for music and have been involved with leading worship in your local church where your husband is lead pastor. When did you first develop your passion for this kind of ministry and how has it evolved?
Venden – Yes, Gary and I have been ministering in Glendale, Ariz., for many years. We went into public evangelism in 1981, and we were leading the people in worship long before “contemporary” worship music was on anyone’s radar. We used choruses, praise and worship songs, and familiar hymns on an overhead projector – words of songs were printed on a plastic film, framed, placed on the projector and then bounced onto a wall or screen. One artist said that music is “words put to emotion.” Powerful preaching from the word of God offered propositional truth, while the music went straight to the heart – softening, wooing, and artfully painting the heart of God’s passion towards his beloved children. It’s one thing to be convinced of something intellectually. It’s a whole other and much deeper thing to believe with one’s heart – to be captured by love. Music reaches those deep, dark places in my heart. I assumed that it would do the same for others. Over these years of facilitating the worship experience with people all over the country, my assumption has proven time and again to be true. We have upgraded our equipment – we have a band now, where at one time it was just Gary and me and a grand piano – our music is usually far behind the current, but the message is still the same – the heart of God is still the same. Propositional truth is important but if God’s heart for his children is not understood, propositional truth is worthless.
Editor – Do you guys write any of your own music?
Venden – Gary has written many wonderful songs and among them are “You Are My Lord And God,” and “Some Trust in Chariots.” But I think Gary would say that he is not a songwriter. Years ago while we were ministering as singing evangelists, the preacher mentioned that he wished he had a song that nicely reflected the message of a particular sermon. Gary sat down and wrote a wonderful song that fit perfectly. I’m not sure how that works except to say that song writing is not his primary passion. From the time he was very young, he knew that God was calling him to preach. Music is very important to him – he has played the piano since he was 3 – but God has placed a burning in his heart to preach the Gospel from the written word, and this, as well as being the “lead follower” of our church, consumes his time.
Editor – Do you have any advice or encouragement to give to someone who wants to revive the worship experience in their church?
Venden – Inviting creativity into our worship services can be a great way to simply get people to sit up and pay attention. So often we find ourselves just going through the motions of “doing church” – putting in our time – with our deepest thought being “Is it lunch yet?” Or, “I wonder when sundown is…?” Worship is a matter of the heart, and let’s face it, sometimes we just need to have our hearts awakened to the possibility that there is a God who is passionate about us and loves to be in OUR presence!
Creativity in worship can also enliven the hearts of those who are truly and deeply devoted to Jesus and want to worship in body, mind AND spirit. Here are three ways one might “revive” or enliven the worship experience. But remember, the possibilities are endless.
Reader’s Theater – This is done with scripts and facing the audience. Take a story straight from the Bible and have different people read the various voices or characters represented. This not only gets more people involved – which is a good thing, I’m told – but it gets the audience’s attention.
Creative Banners – Any who have been to the Adults II tent at Redwood Campmeeting on the Northern California coast will know what I’m talking about. There is a man who has made various colored banners, and he – for a lack of a better way to say it – waves them “creatively” during the worship songs (these would be beautiful with traditional hymns as well). Only a very few have said that it might be a bit distracting, but the overall response is extremely positive. He chooses the banners with thought, and he is graceful and expressive. It is a lovely and creative expression of devotion to our Creator.
Mini Movies – Audio visual. They often are graphics with narration, a short story with actors, or scenes put to music. There are various sources for these, ranging from free to inexpensive – $10-20 – and in various lengths, but I recommend keeping it down to 5-7 minutes. Choose a theme for a particular worship service, selecting music, readings, and a visual – such as a “mini movie.” My one caution is to make sure the quality is up to par. They can be previewed prior to purchase and download.
What ever you do, always do it prayerfully, and consider your audience and your purpose.
I hope that something I have mentioned triggered the creative juices of a reader. Worship is vital for Spiritual health but for many, the vitality has subtly slipped from their expression of that worship. Pray, asking God to guide you as you continue to invite Life into your worship. Listen. (He still speaks you know.) Respond. And then be in awe!
Editor – Thank you, Marilynn. We appreciate your contribution. God is using your music to bless others.
Listen to “Singing His Praise” by Marilynn Venden
This interview was conducted by Rich DuBose, Director of Pacific Union Conference Church Support Services and the inSpire project© 2017 - 2023 ASA. All rights reserved. Click here for content usage information.