Some of my greatest joy in years of playing piano and keyboards in live church worship has been in creating responsive atmospheres that are allowed some room to breathe. This skill transcends the scripted singing of songs and excessive musical arrangement to offer expressive space, simplicity and sensitivity. Well-crafted music can facilitate authentic God-experiences. Here are some simple chord progressions that I have utilised over the past few decades to promote felt participation in preference to forced presentation.
I – VI minor – II minor – V (e.g. C – Am – Dm – G) – can replace II minor with IV and the V with IV over a V bass (IV/V) (which in the example given is also called a G11).
I – IV – V – IV (e.g. C – F – G – F) – can use a I bass throughout for variety (in the example given, a C).
I – V/I – IV – V (e.g. F – C/F – Bb – C) – can replace the 4th chord with IV minor on bVI and bVII bass for variety.
I – IV / I alternating, then I / III – IV & I / V – IV / V (e.g. E – A/E, E/G# – A, E/B – A/B) – actually very simple and powerful.
I – III minor – IV – V (e.g. G – Bm – C – D) – ascending, so can build momentum.
I – I/bVII – IV9/VI – V (e.g. C – C/Bb – F9/A – G) – can swap V for IVmin / bVI to vary.
I minor – bVII – VI – V (e.g. Fm – Eb – Db – C) – can seem sombre, but is very expressive, probably best not over-used.
These are typically incredibly effective, but nothing replaces the need for personal passion, preparation and prayerfulness in being a conduit through which God works for His glory and not ours. Nevertheless, I believe songs are often overused in worship and can minimise the prophetic and responsive times of encountering God that people are looking for and that churches need. Usually a core of passionate people will need to lead authentic worship purposefully, so deference to a song list becomes a straightforward but controlled default. Ironically, though, minimal musical prowess (and financial expense) is actually needed for enhancing worship excellence that experiences God afresh to cultivate a dynamic environment of passion, healing and life transformation that churches still so desperately need today.