Oh Magnify My Face With Me

1On Monday I posted “Are We Headed For a Crash? Reflections On The Current State of Evangelical Worship“. In addition to being the longest title for one of my blog posts over, it’s also garnered the most discussion. It’s been a good discussion, and a few people kindly disagreed with a few of the things I encouraged worship leaders to do: lead their original songs in moderation, keep the lights in the room up, and get their faces off the big screen. I wanted to explain more of why I think worship leaders should get their faces off the big screen.

In case you don’t know, in many evangelical churches (and conferences) around the world, particularly large ones, the screens are used not only to project the song lyrics, but also the people on stage. During the sermon you’ll be able to see a magnified image of the preacher. And during the songs, you’ll be able to see a magnified image of the worship leader, and the band members, with occasional close-ups (perhaps) of the drummer, or the electric guitarist’s hands, or the bass player’s tattoo, all while the lyrics to the song are projected on the bottom of the screen, in one-to-three line segments.

Here’s why I think it’s a bad idea for the worship leader’s face (and the musicians too) to be projected during worship.

It constantly keeps you in people’s consciousness
Throughout the time of singing, everyone in the room is constantly aware of you, your movements, your mannerisms, your outfit, your sweaty nose, and your personality.

It forces people to look at you
They have no choice but to look at your face. They can either close their eyes or look at your face. What if they don’t want to look at your face? Too bad for them.

It detracts from the focus of the songs
For about 15 – 25 minutes each Sunday, worship leaders have the weighty privilege of deciding what to focus their congregations on. If you happen to employ your screens during those 15-25 minutes, the odds are that your congregation will focus on what’s on them. Gospel-drenched, God-glorifying, Jesus-exalting lyrics? Or your face?

It makes you even more of a celebrity
People are conditioned to treat a person on a screen as a celebrity. Worship leaders are already on enough of a pedestal as it is, that having a congregation stare at their magnified face can only make it worse.

It changes the way you behave (and not in a good way)
I’ve led worship in settings where my face is projected and it just plain out feels awkward. Oops I just licked my lips. That looked weird. Will this shirt look good on screen? Oops they just caught me looking over at myself. Oh wow I really am losing my hair. For goodness sake, there are enough things for us to worry about while leading worship, that how we look on a massive screen shouldn’t be one of them.

It changes the way your team sees themselves
Now your worship team is thinking about all of those same things. They already feel self-conscious enough, and now they have to worry about looking camera-ready. That Mom who just gave birth four weeks ago, that electric guitarist who spilled coffee on his shirt, that drummer who sweats profusely in the shape of a T-Rex on his back, now they’re all thinking about their appearance. 

It prevents you from decreasing
It’s awfully hard for you to decrease when your face is the size of a Honda Civic.

It ensures that you are central
For the duration of the sung worship time, your face is the number one trending topic in the room. 

It necessitates breaking the song lyrics up
The context of the lyrics we’re singing matters. “Upward I look and see Him there who made an end to all my sin” makes more sense when we can see what precedes it: “When Satan tempts me to despair and tells me the guilt within”. It’s helpful to let people see the different chunks of the song in context. It already flies by as it is, and even more so when we chop the chunks up even smaller.

It’s completely unnecessary
So your room is large. So people standing in the back won’t be able to see you very well during worship. So what?

Let me try to preemptively try to answer some questions/address some disagreements:

What about when you’re talking or praying?
This makes more sense to me. When you welcome people, or when you speak to them, or when you’re praying/transitioning in between or after a song, it can definitely be helpful for your face to be projected. At that moment you do want a connection. You do want people to pay attention to what you’re saying. You do want your leadership to be more present. But when the song begins again, the screen can fade to full-screen lyrics. At that moment your role changes and you need your face to disappear.

But why is it OK to project the preacher?
The role of a preacher is to preach the word of God. To communicate the Word of God to the people of God. It is very much a communicative role (duh). The role of a worship leader is not the same. Yes, it’s a pastoral role, but it’s not a preaching role (though songs do preach). Our role is the role of a facilitator. And an effective facilitator facilitates. Facilitating and communicating are two very different roles. Having your face on a screen indicates that you’re on the screen to communicate. Having your face off the screen indicates that you’re there to facilitate. So get your beautiful face off the screen and do some facilitating.

But people will feel so disconnected from the worship leader
First, so what. Second, that’s the point.

But people need to see who’s leading them
They can see you just fine. And if you want, they can see you projected during the speaking bits. But when the singing starts, they don’t need to see whether or not you shaved this morning.

But it’s so boring just to project lyrics
Then make sure you’re projecting lyrics that pack a punch.

So what do you do if your church is currently projecting your face during the songs?

Stop doing it
It’s not a good practice. It’s something that’s increasingly prevalent in large evangelical churches and conferences, and it’s adding to the trend towards performancism that’s resulting in tuned-out congregations. 

Use it as a huge teaching opportunity
Imagine a congregation hearing something like this:

“For years here at (insert your church name here) we have projected the worship leader and worship team on the screen during corporate worship. Our tech crew have done an excellent job at this, and we know that in this large room, many of you have appreciated being able to see what’s going on on stage. But, starting today, we’re not going to project the people on stage on the screen during worship anymore. You’re going to see full-screen lyrics. You might see the worship leader’s face when he speaks or prays, but when we start singing, you’ll just be seeing lyrics only. Why are we doing this? Three reasons. First, we don’t want you to think that you’re coming to a show on Sunday mornings. We want you to come to worship God. Second, we don’t want to distract you from the amazing truths we’re singing, or the amazing gospel we’re proclaiming, or the amazing God we’re encountering. And third, we want to encourage you to be more engaged with God in worship and less focused on who’s on the screen. So, we’re going to keep the lights up, we’re going to ask that you commit yourself to actively engaging in this time, and we’re going to pray now that the Holy Spirit would help this church worship Jesus with more and more freedom in the weeks and months to come.” 

Sounds good to me.

83 thoughts on “Oh Magnify My Face With Me

  1. What an awesome article! I shared your “heading for a crash” article because I completely agree with you, and this is right on as well! We are called to facilitate the worship of God. Period. Well said and thank you sharing your heart!

  2. Interesting reads on your blog! Like Trevor, I came across this blog after reading the ‘heading for a crash’ post. Definitely agree with much of what you said and have been challenged by some points of perspective I often overlook as a creative pastor!

    In practice, do you think there is really that much of a difference between leading musical worship and preaching the gospel? I would suggest that the purpose of a preacher is not to merely preach the gospel as to “just talk at the congregation” and hope they respond…but to preach it in such a way that it encourages and provides an opportunity for them to respond to the revelation they’re hearing. To use the language from your post, their job is to facilitate the hearing and response to the gospel.

    That same concept of revelation and response is found in every mention of worship in the bible…whether it’s musical or not. That being said, like preachers, is the purpose of worship leaders not to create an environment where people can confidently respond to what they’re hearing and seeing? Too often we delineate between true worship and mere expressions of worship…

    I love the challenge to stop ‘worshiping worship’ that you previously mentioned and agree that many churches have tipped the scale further away from what we should be drawing attention towards and the environments we should be creating for our congregations. But don’t you think that’s more of an issue of what’s happening on the stage before it’s an issue of what’s being projected on the screen?

    • Hi Dave,

      I agree with you — preachers are also seeking to facilitate the congregation’s hearing of and response to the gospel. But their primary means of doing this is by communicating as a speaker. A worship leader’s primary means of doing this is by facilitating singing. So, if your primary means is communicating, then by all means, I’d like to be able to see your face. But if your primary means is facilitating singing, then I don’t really need to see your face.

      But not YOUR face personally. I’m sure you have a very nice face :)

      Jamie

      • I read your piece on performancism, and I heartily agreed. In this article, however, I humbly ask you to reconsider your position.

        You seem to be desiring a song leader/drum major instead of a worship leader. There are many such emotionless teams worshipping their music-making who meet every Sunday, somewhat groggy from their tear-inducing operatic performances the night before. They show up, lead the songs, collect their paycheck, and go home. Many friends of mine from music school follow this exact schedule, and their relationship with Jesus is either non-existent or filled with hate.

        On the other hand, sounds and lyrics are just vehicles by which true worship leaders communicate the Gospel. There is an emotional aspect to singing the truths of God that should be encouraged and modelled by the worship leader. Otherwise we might as well put a mask on the musicians! How would you feel about a printed-out sermon given to the congregation?

        Can the video work during musical worship be poorly done, focusing on a tattoo instead of expressive faces? Yes, and anything else the media team does can be poorly done, which should be discouraged, but as I always say, if those things are significantly impeding someone from worship, they are worshipping either the “experience” or the team putting on the “experience,” and not the Almighty.

      • Hi Roberto,

        I really appreciate you taking the time to comment. Thank you.

        I certainly don’t mean to advocate the kind of “emotionless teams…” you describe. You and I are on the same page: the “singing of the truths of God… encouraged and modeled by the worship leader.” Yes, yes, yes. May all of the musicians up front see themselves as worship leaders, and leading their congregation first and foremost by engaging in heartfelt worship. Their up-front role is crucial. Totally agree with you on this.

        Here’s my concern: when we keep the image of the worship leader/team/musicians on screen behind the lyrics, regardless of how well-done it is, it ensures that at all times, and during every song, the congregation is consciously aware of the appearance, performance, movements, expressions, outfits, and presence of the musicians. A congregation should not always be so unavoidably consciously aware of the people on stage during the singing. But they have no choice but to be consciously aware of them when their likenesses are projected and literally magnified for every eye to see.

        It’s like a waiter who never leaves your table. Or an usher who never leaves your seat once you’re seated. Or a tour guide who never steps away from your line of sight. Or a pilot who narrates every single landmark, state line, cloud formation, and altitude duration for the duration of a flight. It keeps them in constant consciousness, to the point that the people can’t just enjoy what they came to enjoy, and they start to get conditioned to think that they have to have their waiter’s/usher’s/tour guide’s/pilot’s constant presence.

        A good waiter is there when he needs to be and not there when he doesn’t need to be. A good usher shows you where to sit and then lets you enjoy the ceremony. A good tour guide is present and not present at the same time. A good pilot gets you where you wanted to go, safely, with the information you need, and with a level of competence that you take for granted.

        Projected worship leaders simply can’t decrease during a worship set. Nor can their band. Their projected/magnified image keeps them larger than life during every moment of every song. This isn’t the way it should be.

        Worship leaders should be there, should be helpful, should be competent, should do a good job, and should step out of the line of sight as people literally forget who’s leading them, what they’re wearing, who’s playing what, or who’s singing what. I have no problem with a worship leader being present, or even being projected, when he needs to be. He’s being a good waiter. But if he’s projected the entire time, I really do think it starts to spoil the meal…

        Jamie

  3. Sounds good to me too Jamie! Keep writing, keep being a voice for Truth. You also have a gentle and humble way of voicing your arguments while still packing a punch and while I do not know you from a bar of soap, something in my spirit says God is using you as a voice for change. I only say that to encourage you to keep listening for those promptings and keep obeying them. Thank you!

    • We could make Christianese names for everything we have in a church that has a “worldly” counterpart. However, when a person who has never been in a church before (or never been in a church like the one described in this article) hears a bunch of weird names for things, it doesn’t do us any favors. If it’s a stage, let’s just call it a stage. If it’s an auditorium, please call it such. I’ve never heard the word “vestibule” outside the church. It’s just a lobby. The last thing we need is some “sanctified” language inside the church that only we get. It makes it harder for those who don’t speak it (or even understand) to connect. I’m sure that making your church difficult for people to connect to isn’t your goal, but it is a result of what you’re suggesting.

  4. This article and the “reasoning” behind why it’s not ok for the worship leader, but ok for the pastor makes absolutely no sense. You’ve put the pastor on some sort of higher pedestal than everyone else. In addition, pastors go to seminary; they rehearse their sermons (trust me, I know…my dad was a pastor). I also disagree with the idea that the worship leader, musicians, etc are not there to communicate. They most certainly are. I’m absolutely quite dumbfounded by this, as well as the article you posted on Monday.

    • Hi Rebekah. Sorry to dumbfound you! Pastors aren’t on a higher pedestal than worship leaders, but they are on a different one. When preachers preach, they’re communicating through words. It makes sense to see their face while they communicate those words. When worship leaders lead worship, they’re facilitating the singing. So it doesn’t make much sense to see their face. Hope that helps. Thanks for stopping by.

  5. I think you are missing a point. Men are put into leadership for the purpose of being an example. Your article assumes that people attending worship services are already expert worshippers. Not the case in most churches. A worship leader who knows his stuff and is humble can help lead people in knowing by showing what appropriate forms of expression are in worship. For Joe Screwdriver and Mary mother of Tyrannus and Rex, a good worship leader can be used by God to help orient hearts and attitudes from the hoizontal to the vertical. Does this put the focus on men? Only much as the priestly vestments in the Old Testsment did for ancient Isrealite worshippers.

    Let me say it this way, if the mission of your church is to train up disciples who worship Jesus Christ, and you are living outside the Christian bubble where the lost are saves in first generation, never before believed in Jesus Christ kind of ways, an excited, passionate worship leader and worship team can be an incredible asset to a church by helping people find and use their voice to glorify God. Just because the trend in worship is abused by some (as has happened with every other trend in the church) I’d caution against such sweeping indictments. I’d be much more concerned about the content, tone and manner of my worship leader than if his visage was projected on big screen, helping people learn how to worship from his example. If your worship leader/pastor isn’t worth be projected as an example, frankly….he shouldn’t be up front leading.

    • Hi Scott. I think everyone in the world is an “expert worshipper”. It comes naturally to us. John Piper has said that “deep in our hearts we know we are not made to be made much of. We are made to make much of something great”. So making a “sweeping indictment” isn’t my aim. My aim is to challenge all worship leaders (myself included) to make sure we’re pointing in the right direction.

      • I have to disagree with the “expert worshipper” supposition. Worship does not come naturally to everyone, though I can see how you might feel that way: before even peeking at your bio, I thought you were probably a PK just from your writing voice (I’ve been married to one for almost 10 years — you all think alike, I swear!).

        Many things obvious to PKs (who have been in the church since before birth, or close enough it doesn’t matter, and have had great role models in their parents) are not true for or natural to others.

        Having been raised almost never going to church and then attending when I was 14/15, it was all completely foreign to me — I had never heard of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, knew nothing of the disciples save for Judas not being loyal, and had only heard a few songs like “Amazing Grace” and the standard Christmas songs. I had never owned a bible or read one, except for a large illustrated hardcover version from the 1960s meant for ages 6 and under.

        Not knowing the proper etiquette, posture, etc., for worship service can dissuade some newcomers, IMHO, from joining in and feeling connected, and in that, keeping them from the goal of the worship service. Some people who seek Christ are introverted, uncomfortable in public / social settings, or just lack the self-confidence to interact.

        Personally, it helps me to focus on the music and the words to see the music leader (as well as the lyrics). I tend to read lips during normal conversation to aid in hearing, and the same is true for music; when I can see a person’s face, I can better anticipate songs/words with which I am unfamiliar.

        I also think seeing a person on the screen is more welcoming, warmer, more “real” than just words or stock video; it connects the person in the crowd with what is going on right then — the music, the lights, the emotions of their relationship with God. Now, a screen with the worship leader / team would be most helpful in a large church and nearly unnecessary in a small church.

        I am glad a few others have pointed out hearing disability, body language, etc., so I know I am not the only one concerned with such issues.

  6. With reference to the relative importance of the preacher and worship leader can I point out that the post of “worship pastor” is not biblical. Leading worship is not a New Testament ministry gift. (If I’m wrong show me the reference). So… Jamie is right. The worship “leader” is someone who leads people into worship, not someone responsible for their spiritual leading and teaching. As such he/she is always subservient to the pastor/preacher who is leading the service. The worship leader is always a servant.

  7. Or how about *not* explaining at length that you’re going to just do lyrics, and instead just do lyrics?

    Let me offer you some observation from a real experience: for years, our church had a praise band in the back of the room. Most people in that (Episcopal) church were accustomed to the choir (and director and organ) being in the back of the room, and it seemed perfectly natural. No one was confused about when a song started or ended, or when to come in, or what the melody was. (Flash: we often projected musical notation on the screens — easy to do, easy to follow, and you’ll never go back.)

    Yes, there’s some value in seeing people up front leading in worship and having something to connect to. But our congregation did not miss any of that one tiny bit. They loved it.

    The band loved it too. Suddenly, you could give each other the repeat-the-chorus-stinkeye and it’s no problem. And you get to hear the front-of-house mix with very little need for monitors. The band began doing serious ensemble listening that made it a tighter and better group.

    Win-win-win. Try it.

  8. In some ways I think it is helpful to be able to see the worship leader, (e.g. so people know we about to start singing again after an instrumental), but ultimately you are completely right, in my church we have visuals on the screen behind the lyrics (which can themselves sometimes be distracting), but we never have the band/worship leader on the screen. I was challenged (as a worship leader myself) by an article by Craig Borlase, (http://craigborlase.com/social-media-christianity-and-the-whiff-of-hypocrisy/) in which he says (regarding worship leaders) “At the end of the day, I suspect that we were never meant to remember your name anyway”. And that’s the point – it’s not about, and NEVER should be about the worship leader (or even worship band, it NEEDS to be completely, utterly, unquestionably, undeniably about God, otherwise it is blasphemy. As worship leaders we need to be aware that we are in a constant battle with our ego. Satan was the worship leader in heaven until his ego got the better of him, he wants to trip us up in the same way, we must be aware, we must be alert and we must be very very careful.

  9. Not that having lyrics on the screen isn’t helpful, but I remember the services before my church put in screens. The focus during the songs felt very local. You connected with the people you were singing with who were sitting in the seats around you. You reflected and gazed inward or read the lyrics in the hymnal to that powerful but forgotten third verse no one ever sings. Now it feels that all attention is focused together on the screen, the artfully undulating cross in the powerpoint background, and the lyrics that are speeding by. I try to reflect on the images, but they just aren’t as powerful as that shared reflection as you hold a hymnal for your neighbor.

    I read an article a while back about reasons why millennials are leaving the church. I think the glitzy screens and autotuned vocals are part of the falseness that many of us perceive as the problem. Simple, honest, low-budget music is so much better, even if it’s not perfect.

  10. Pingback: Some Thoughts On Leading Singing In Church ( via Jamie Brown) | mgpcpastor's blog

  11. If you “must” have screens at all, an important reason to project lyrics when singing and the face of the speaker when speaking is to enhance the accessibility of the service for hearing impaired people. Considering the decibel levels to which many modern churches crank their sound systems, this is going to be a consideration of increasing importance in coming years!

  12. I love the dialogue. As one who has worked in the music industry for 24 years I must confess that we never meant to make worship so performance based or personality based. Worship should be God centered. I remember when we did our first worship video with Ron Kenoly. People would say “we had heard worship but now we see it and understand it better.” So I don’t think it is bad to see people worshiping; but it was never to become so personality driven. And if the musical part of worship is important, then let the lyrics be always on the screen so that the congregation can fully participate. Why would you ever break-a-way to the leader or guitar player or whatever unless performance trumps participation? God forgive us if we helped make worship more of a performance than an experience of intimacy with the Father.

  13. I mostly agree with your last couple of articles. (Only being introduced to your blog today). However, I wonder how far this extends beyond the walls of the worship service? Yes it is true that the worship leader should be leading us to Christ and not themselves, but is that only limited to 15 minutes on Sunday? Are we not in danger of creating a “cult of personality” at other times, unless it is no longer I that live, but Christ that lives in me? Our culture is developing an insatiable need to project ourselves through twitter, instagram, facebook et al. These can be valuable tools, if used correctly, to share the gospel (just like the big screen, and all those great apps we now have for Sunday morning). Likewise, they can be a distraction from the gospel if I simply must have people watch my hands play that burning solo during the inspired reinterpretation of A Mighty Fortress (with new lyrics and a contemporary message), or insist others watch my video of my two year old dropping the neighbours cat in the pool.

  14. This will continue as long as the church allows the (now completely secular) music industry to define what worship music sounds like and looks like.

    TL;DR: PERFORMANCE is not the issue. Communication is. Are we drawing attention to ourselves or to God? Are we communicating that God is great or that we are? People who try to equate performance with self-exaltation don’t understand what performance is and will never be able to successfully communicate their very real concerns regarding the state of worship with the vast majority of modern worship leaders, who desperately need to hear and receive this message.

    Chris Tomlin has always been an amazing worship songwriter. But when EMI bought worshiptogether, his job became something else. He’s a performing artist (a fantastic one) who sings worship songs. There’s nothing wrong with that. The PROBLEM is that the companies that provided worship resources to churches in the 80s and 90s were purchased by the major secular labels in the last 15 years. These resources now exist to promote their artist’s records. What was once a tangential part of equipping worship leaders (recording CDs) has now become the primary purpose, and equipping worship leaders has been reduced to a tangential marketing strategy.

    I think projecting our faces on the screen is the least of the issues personally. That’s simply a communication technique. The PROBLEM is WHAT we are communicating. That won’t change simply because the screens go away.

    Also, its helpful to define performance. A performance is simply the execution of a task. In the context we are talking about, using performance techniques is not the issue. Every preacher I’ve ever seen uses performance techniques in order to communicate the gospel. If they didn’t, they’d lose the congregation after 5 minutes. There is nothing inherently wrong with performance. The type of performance that occurs on a stage is a form a communication. There is an inevitable crossover between the two. So I reiterate: the issue isn’t HOW we are communicating as much as WHAT we are communicating. And its not even what we are communicating INTENTIONALLY as much as what we are communicating UNINTENTIONALLY that creates these rifts, and gets labeled as performance vs worship (This is a heart issue, and can’t be addressed via technique). Which promptly gets ignored by the people who need to hear it, because its become a cliche, and is completely misunderstood by both sides of the divide. By trying to correct technique, we let the worship leader’s natural (read sinful) desires go unaddressed. We give them (us, me) an out.

    When a person comes up to me and says “The music was good today, but it seemed a bit to much of a performance for me,” what they are (politely) trying to communicate is “It seemed to me like you made this a bit too much about you today, and not enough about God.” Well, the preacher performed. He used clever language, and changed his inflection, and his cadence. He probably shouted at times dramatically. Maybe even MELOdramatically. All for AFFECT. Which is the very soul of performance. But he didn’t communicate “I’m the greatest! Look at me!” and somehow, I did. But I won’t receive that because the person who came up to me made it about the technique rather than about the heart.

    • Yes. I have the perspective of a worship leader and a preacher since I currently share in both ministries. I consider/prepare my transition thoughts, Scriptures I read and lyrics I sing during my worship leading preparation the same way I consider/prepare the words I speak and the Scriptures I read during a message I am teaching. I am communicating both times. Directly to God sometimes (I am an example for others then) and directly to the church other times. HOW I communicate doesn’t seem different to me when I am leading worship or teaching.

    • Well said, Anthony. This is a nuanced topic for sure! Restoring the positive attributes of this word and cultivating a healthy association between it and what we do in worship is paramount in our efforts to engage the worshiper. The negative attributes of perform in worship are obvious and troublesome. In our effort to expose and overcome the people-problem of perform-ers in worship (the person delivering the art), we inadvertently weaken our music when we fail in our perform-ance of it (the effective execution and presentation of the art itself). We MUST deal with the people-problem of perform-ers separately, injecting a healthy dose of service and ministry into their role as perform-er, as a doer that performs without arrogance or shame, while redeeming the dynamic properties of perform-ance. The latter is about the state or condition of our art, about creating, shaping, and delivering our music with fresh expertise, skill, and passion (Ps 33:3). Who could argue that God is not worthy of such an offering? Music that is pleasing in such a way that attracts and holds the attention of the worshiper, is music performed with excellence. It packs a quality that is meaningful and inspiring to us. Paul encourages the Philippians to think about things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. Our performance should move the hearer to describe our music, not us, in such terms!

  15. What is the primary sense used in music appreciation? That’s right, it is the auditory sense organ, the focal point of music appreciation is hearing! When we use our ipods we generally aren’t seeing the artist, we’re listening and for that cause the words make a deeper impression when you listen as opposed to when you are looking at a screen. Someone mentioned inexperienced worshippers, well if they’re inexperienced one can assume they are just meeting God and for that reason alone it’s better that the words are projected fully as opposed to worship leader. When we review scripture music always played a facilitative role, it was never, ever a pastoral role. Music in worship is used to focus ones mind on God and prepare the heart to receive the word. It is absolute unnecessary to look into the faces of the worship leader and musicians, there is absolutely no benefit.

    With regards to projecting the pastor, when Jesus ministered to people on earth He communicated to the by talking with them face to face, looking into their eyes and they looking at Him, when they beheld His face they were impacted. When the disciples preached, when Paul took the message of the gospel around the world he did it face to face (apart from the letters he wrote). If someone is speaking to you it is a very different communication than when someone is singing. When someone is singing you can close your eyes and still enjoy the music. When someone is speaking the intention in their faces indicates various important facets of what they’re saying. The expression communicates the importance of the information and therefore it is necessary to have that visual communication.

    The central focus of the gospel is Jesus Christ, not the pastor, not the stage or band members, not the tech/crew but Jesus Christ and we should endeavour to do everything in our power to facilitate that focus.

  16. (Please excuse the length of my comment) I would suggest that maybe the REAL issue is in the heart. Maybe we, as worship teams across the first world, do not engage in our church community enough. As a volunteer musician for a multisite mega church I can easily see how the lights and cameras could be distracting, but no one has ever come up to me after worship asking about THAT riff or HOW I DO WHAT I DO, people come up to me out in the lobby, in the auditorium, and in our serve team rooms to let me know to NEVER stop worshiping God like I did on stage. They want me to know that the sacrifices (they know I spend countless hours rehearsing, spent a few grand on my gear, and get up at 4 every Sunday to drive an hour to their campus to set up equines for the services, you get the point) I make to worship with them means so much to them and that it truly inspires them to freely give of their time and resources to love people. These people, the average attendee at my church, have been taught that the lights, cameras, music, and SHOW is for God. We give God our 100% best no questions asked every Sunday (the first calendar day of the week), and while we worship God through our various talents we leave it up to God to move and draw people to him through the atmosphere of worship we create on stage. Haze, big teams, “modern” music, and production ain’t for every church. We all have different giftings, and we should really focus on encouraging churches to seek to give God their best whether it’s a simple acoustic set consisting of hymns or a full on worship night consisting of original songs. How we feel about a worship team or service should NEVER determine the expression of worship we give God, and that is really why I believe my church has an online campus, nine prison campuses, and countless mobile campuses around Alabama. God first, then other people, then ourselves. Great articles man! We can never be too careful and considerate towards the things we do. Better to examine ourselves now than to later. :D

  17. I really think your ideas are great in this series. Forgive me if, because of the medium, I get too polemical on that other thread.

    That you are drawing attention to harmful worship practices that undermine the whole purpose…to love God not only with our lips, but with our lives…cannot be praises enough.

    Keep up the good work.

  18. Good article. As a worship leader who sings and plays guitar I do find it a constant struggle to not perform. There is the pressure of “doing a good job” i.e. singing and playing the right notes when actually the really good job is leading the congregation into the presence of God. I see my role solely as a facilitator whose task is to help others find that space where they can focus on Jesus and know His manifest presence, but this is easiest when I’m in that presence myself ….. and there’s the rub. All the other stuff of notes and chords etc going on in the head can so easily distract the leader so that they are performing rather than actually worshiping.

  19. I used to lead worship from the back of the room. We changed venue and so it was no longer practical, but I’d definitely recommend it.

  20. Much like Leonard Ravenhill’s challenge to put a fence around the altar and dare people to come to Christ, I say put musicians and singers in a darkened corner of the room and dare people to press-in to worship.

  21. I certainly can see your point here. But I think we need to be careful to not over-analyze this practice. Yes, there are certainly some pitfalls and issues that can arise from I-mag(image magnification). Yes, people will be forced to look at you at times (though you hardly ever see an upclose shot of JUST the worship leader’s face for an extended period of time-its usually a combination of shots of the stage/singers/band, if you have a good video guy). But what’s the point of being a worship LEADER of you are going to shrink away? Why have a live vocalist or band at all if you’re trying to hide them as much as possible? Of course worship isn’t about us or about making ourselves look good. But I think its a bit extreme, not to mention overly cynical, to think that faces of worship leaders being put up on the screen has anything to do with that. You said you don’t think its a big deal for people not to see you. I would disagree. If you’ve been to concerts, sporting events, conferences, heck, even restaurants, you will know that the experience being far in back feel MUCH more detached that being close up. There is a certain connection that you feel to both the people on stage and to the worship experience in general when you are closer to where things are happening. One of the reasons you have people magnified on the screen is to try and help bridge that gap. But just like the words you say as a worship leader help lead and facilitate people in worship, your body language, your expression, etc all speak volumes about where your heart is. As a leader, you can’t lead people to a place they’ve never been. As so when people can see you worshiping, and see you truly connecting to God, it does that much more in strengthening your leadership. Imagine being a visitor who is coming into a big auditorium not knowing anyone, feeling awkward and think about how even a little step like I-mag can help in bringing people in. Should your face be on the screen all the time? Prob not. Large face magnification is definitely awkward in long periods of time. Used in moderation, with a skilled video director it can actually benefit the worship experience.

    • Hi Daniel,

      I really appreciate your thoughts and perspective. I think it’s possible to use i-mag to help the worship leader establish a connection (in a large room) when he’s speaking or praying. But when the singing starts, that connection is no longer important enough to warrant the unavoidable risks of keeping his face up (or shots of the band with a good video director). It’s just so prone to cause a huge segment of the people tune-out and watch. So, I’m all for establishing that connection in the spoken bits. But it’s in the singing bits where that connection is too fraught with risk for me.

      Jamie

  22. I have never liked worshiping in the dark. or having the lights turned down for the invitation. The reasoning seems to be that we don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable. You should be uncomfortable in church. You should be challenged, not coddled. Evil deeds are done in the dark. Not righteous deeds. Jesus is the light, let us worship Him in the light!

  23. There have been times, when participating in corporate worship, and the lyrics were only fed to the congregation one line at a time, that I have had *no* idea what the song was about. And a few times, while trying to sing along to something new (unsure of where the song was “going” in its message) that I have been horrified when the next line of text came up–because it was not biblical! I felt like I had been tricked into speaking falsehood because I just blithely sang only, even when I didn’t know what the meaning of the song was, or what was coming next. In the old days of hymns, you could read line after line right there in front of you, and in most churches, you could even look at the hymns in advance, because they would be posted up front on the “hymn board” for everyone to see from the start of the service. This promoted a culture of worship that engaged the mind, and not just emotions. i love new songs, but just stringing people through one-liners while they watch the singers heavily emote on stage isn’t something I feel comfortable doing anymore. It used to feel great, but now I realize that how I feel isn’t what worship is all about anyway.

  24. I reposted your first article, but I did so thinking to myself “well, let’s just see if a follow up article comes out about the necessity of the preacher to be above all those rules”. I don’t know, call me cynical… but, you’re a preacher, right?

    Your quote above: “When preachers preach, they’re communicating through words. It makes sense to see their face while they communicate those words. When worship leaders lead worship, they’re facilitating the singing. So it doesn’t make much sense to see their face”.

    When worship leaders lead the worship, they are communicating through words. But not only that, they are communicating through *sung* words – and the people are mimicking their tempo, phrasing, etc. It makes far more sense to see a worship leader’s face than it does a preacher’s face. For starters, they are meant to be DOING the same things as the worship leader. They aren’t supposed to be mimicking the preacher, just listening. So….. ?

    • Hi Tanya,

      A few things:

      1. No, I’m not a preacher. I’m one of the worship leaders at an Anglican church just outside of Washington D.C., where I’ve served for the last (almost) 10 years.

      2. Leading worship isn’t about getting people to mimic you. If it was, then sure, put your face on the big screen. The point of leading worship is to point. The point of leading worship is to invite people to exalt Jesus Christ. A worship leader does this by leading in a clear way, a humble way, a skillful way, and by choosing songs that point to Jesus. People don’t need to see a close-up of your face to follow your clear leadership. They need to hear the melody, they need to feel supported, they need to be pastored well by being given songs that are worth singing, and they need to be encouraged to feast on the good news of the gospel. A big-screen image of a worship leader and his/her band behind all the lyrics is simply one of the best ways to ensure that the worship leader and his/her band remain a constant focus of the people. A worship leader should go home feeling sick if he/she was the constant focus of the people. Good, strong, clear, humble leadership doesn’t lead people to mimic, it leads them to delight in God.

      3. A preacher’s role on a Sunday morning is very different in many ways than a worship leader’s. For one, he is speaking to a mostly silent group of people, who are seated, who are looking at him, and who are receiving the word of God preached. It makes sense, then, for them to see and hear him clearly.

      Jamie

      • Thanks for replying. Having dialogue makes it somewhat nicer after the horrible time I’ve had negotiating online relationships since reposting your initial article ;). I think we’ll have to agree to disagree on some points, but I appreciate the conversation.

        1) It’s nice to know where you are serving, and I’m sure you’re a great pastor.

        However, my beef is that you imply that your ideas are applicable to everywhere else, which caused problems in Sydney, where certain preachers latched on to your article, I suspect, largely from motivation of jealousy or competition. Please forgive me for also attributing that to you.

        2) In regards to ‘mimic’, I meant that the congregation are asked to sing WITH the worship leader in most cases. I don’t mean we should create lemming style clones, which is what your comment seems to indicate I’m suggesting. Of course, I agree that the *purpose* of the action is to point to God. But we could do that in multiple ways, I’m sure you would agree that singing *together* has played a large part in church history. For churches with high ESL populations (like mine), there is some value in being able to see the person’s face as they sing – which was my point. I think we’ll have to put this down to an equal desire to serve the congregations we lead well.

        3) Perhaps what you have written is true of your church, but not really of all. Silence is a value in many Western churches, but not in African American ones. And this type of authority structure is becoming less and less a reality in post-modern services. But I appreciate the contextual importance for your church.

        4) Your article indicated that there is something seriously wrong with the way artists accept and play into the worship industry, and, after a large amount of study in this area, I agree. The issues I have are in how we our contextualize answers (preferably locally) and ways in which critique of these largely white, wealthy worship leaders play out in the North American context to undermine the contributions of those faithfully serving God in their communities week in, week out.

        While I passed on your thoughts to my megachurch, and also to Chuck Fromm, there are many worship leaders who are doing it well, and I hope some of those stories come out in this process for you, so that you can help encourage worship leaders in your process of reflection.

        Tanya

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  27. Jamie, so great to see your posts popping up on my fb feed. You are hitting a nerve. I put together these thoughts on “cult of personality” worship leadership here: http://the12.squarespace.com/james-bratt/2013/1/4/on-the-occasion-of-some-60000-young-adults-who-gathered-in-t.html

    Have you read Shane HIpps on this issue of screens?

    I love that you are critiquing contemporary worship from inside of the expression. Most of the people who raise your objections seriously tend to be condescending of electric guitars and drum kits. We need to continue to push the contemporary idiom, to refine and clarify. Thanks.

  28. I live in Nashville where, arguably, many of the world’s most skilled musicians also live. We moved here from Northern California where I was part of a worship team with a very well known worship artist/worship “pastor.” The church we were part of was an enormous, well-oiled machine where everything that happened up front was planned and staged. What went on behind the curtain was not what people saw in front of it. Imagine my joy when we moved to Nashville, to find a church where world class musicians (literally) play accoustic sets, while seated on the front/right side of the platform. In all of my years at “church Hollywood” I never heard music more beautiful and unadorned that drew me closer to the heart of Jesus.

  29. A lot of good points that I agree with! However, there was one that I was confused about. What is your reasoning behind turning up the lights? Doesn’t that have a similar effect of making the congregation more aware of what is going on in the front like projecting their faces does? If the goal is to remove distractions, wouldn’t it be better to turn down the lights? It doesn’t have to be completely black which could make some uncomfortable but at least dimming the lights allows the worshipper to find his own space and focus solely on God, not getting distracted by the people around him. I always felt uncomfortable to fully worship when the lights were on because I didn’t want people watching me. The same thing goes for when I am leading worship. When the lights are on, I feel so much more aware of my movements which takes away from my own personal worship and the worship that I am leading. In that case it feels more like a performance or a concert instead of leading worship with the rest of the band and together with the congregation.

    • Hi Ruth,

      When Christians gather together to worship God, and to sing “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with thankfulness in (their) hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16), the leaders are responsible to make sure that “all things (are) done for building up” (1 Corinthians 14:26). Our worship of God should be edifying and unifying.

      Further, when Christians gather, we gather in light of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, making us an Easter people who have been “…called… out of darkness into (Jesus’) marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9)

      So, having the lights up is (1) a symbol of the resurrection, (2) a reminder that we are brought of darkness into the light of Christ, and (3) a way to help us be aware of our brothers and sisters around us as we build another up, and “teach and admonish one another in all wisdom as (we) sing…” (Colossians 3:16 again).

      As for distractions in the room, I’d say a better solution than turning down the lights should be well-trained ushers!

      Jamie

  30. Thank you, thank you for helping us to see ourselves for what we have become — imitators of our self-indulgent, celebrity worshipping secular world. How easily we are drawn into the web of self-importance and transformed by the very patterns of our culture that we say that we desire to help transform. Slowing, craftily it transforms us into something we’d would have been appalled at just a few years ago. Thanks for holding up the mirror.

  31. I pretty much agree though we should not judge motives; which you don’t. When Casting Crowns or Kutless sings on stage, they are communicating; just like a preacher is. I want to to see Mark Hall or John Mark Sumrall sing and the other people play guitar and keyboard. That’s part of their communication for sure. But when I am in my church in Manila and the worship band plays (they are quite good actually) I do not particularly want to watch Ted (our worship leader) singing. That’s not why he’s there. He’s there to help us all to sing. But if Ted put on a concert singing great songs for us, I would want to see him, even close up. Good article.

  32. I am a drummer in a large church (four of us rotate). I find it very difficult (if not impossible) to concentrate on praising God with the talents He gave me.. I am always worried about starting the click track at the right moment, how I look with the camera pointed up my nose, etc. I should also mention that I’m much older than all my praise team counterparts.
    It’s much more worshipful to sing my heart out in the congregation.

  33. As a black worship leader in a predominantly white worship environment, I knew this was coming. Worship went from the life saving dinghy to the impressive yacht and now with camera #2 on you, you’re forced to try even harder to act like you’re not trying hard. Worship conferences may be leading the way in this waywardness. When at the last worship conferenceI attended a well known worship leader couldn’t perform because the smoke machine’s fake smoke was oozing out so much that he couldn’t see his keyboard, we had a laugh and a lesson. (Remember the old days when the visible splendor (glory) was so thick that the pastor was afraid to stay on the schedule of the red LED stage clock) Somebody was bound to break rank and say something. The gigantic headshot, the dark room, the camera angles, the “this is a place you can be real…” was bound to have the potential to lose Jesus. There are big bucks being paid to multi site gurus/consultants out there actually teaching churches to produce this stuff and all the while quiet inquirers are becoming disenfranchised this this new church franchise. Just my opinion, but Lord hide me. Help me to stand back, rethink, pray and respond. BTW, we cleared all the stuff, band, singers and all, off the stage last summer and just put a big cross up there, sat on the floor with just a few instruments and worshipped God unplugged. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_VUujOhhyLE

  34. I lead worship in a 3,000 seat building and the purpose of projection is for the people too far away to be engaged. Right wrong or indifferent, it’s hard to concentrate on worship when you’re in a balcony. The screens and cameras help to engage those people. I say this respectfully, but in my opinion, this blog is majoring on a minor. The issue to me is that we DO have a lot of ego and arrogance in the world of worship leading, and when the heart is after self, you’ve got bigger fish to fry. I rarely, if EVER think to myself, “Cameras are on, shape up.” I believe I worship the same on stage and from my pew. Having cameras focused on the leaders Isn’t going to change, but having cocky worship leaders CAN change. Where people are properly led and taught what worship is and isn’t, and when worship leaders are anointed and humble, what the cameras are focused on isn’t an issue at all. It’s in arenas where there’s no guidance and no humility that we would have to address this. I’ve NEVER been treated like a celebrity and would probably laugh if I was.

    • Hi Jake,

      I appreciate you stopping by! I’ve watched your services online and it’s great to hear your perspective as one who utilizes this kind of projection from week to week. Thank you.

      I love your desire to engage people who are far away. And your heart to model humble, heart-felt worship from the platform is evident.

      My fundamental issue and concern with screens projecting a worship leader’s face (and the band and the choir) during the songs, is that it keeps the person on the screen in the consciousness of the people for the duration of the sung worship. It’s simply impossible for people to NOT focus on you when your face is magnified. In our desire to keep people engaged (a good desire) we have deduced that they need to see us at all times (a bad solution). I think a better model, in a large room such as yours, is to intentionally un-focus people’s gaze off of the worship leader/musicians during the songs, by projecting lyrics only. When you’re talking, I completely see that it would be helpful for people to see you. But when the songs start, and our job is to facilitate worship, having our faces magnified on a screen works detrimentally against us, by ensuring our preeminence in the room at all times.

      You’re right — this is a non-essential issue. So, lots of charity here. But I do think the practice of projecting worship leaders faces has a long-term negative impact on a congregation’s engagement in Christ-centered worship…

      Jamie

    • RevHolmes, I can see your point – and if that works for you and your congregation then keep on doing what you’re doing! I’ve seen people change when they become a worship leader – suddenly thinking that they’re amazing, or that they need to transform themselves into whoever has a best-selling worship album (i’m talking brunette to blonde and a complete wardrobe change in the space of a week)…

      Ever since I was 5, I’ve dreamed of the rapture, and it’s the same dream every time… standing in the side doorway (of the church I no longer attend because it became to “showy”) during worship, then as though God was breathing in, all of His true believers were gone… There were a few members of the congregation left , and the worship leader and a couple of muso’s were also left behind – screaming… It was the most frightening thing I’ve ever experienced, and yet I felt total peace at the same time, knowing that I wouldn’t be left behind…

  35. Not sure I agree with this one. In both cases – preaching and worship leading – the leader is facilitating, and the leader is communicating. Yes, it’s in a different way (singing/talking). But they are both communicating, AND they are both facilitating connection with God.

    If you don’t need to see one (i.e., worship pastor), then you really don’t need to see the other (teaching pastor). But if you do need to see the pastor on a big screen, then… I’d say the same thing for the worship dude.

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  37. I used to go to a rock concert every sunday, then I moved churches… At our new church during worship, we have nature scenes with the lyrics. there are no spotlights on the singers or musicians. During sunday nights we have a darkened auditorium, soft blue lights from behind so that the musos can read their sheets, but its difficult to see their faces, and it’s very quiet – you rarely hear a single voice alone… thats the kind of worship i need

  38. Good thoughts, Jamie. I’ll add: I think there’s more non-verbal communication that can help in actually leading worship than you may be giving credit for. I also appreciate your perspective that the risk of ego/celebrity outweighs any strengths. But here is a good reason to project the worship leader’s face: When I lead worship, my goal is to make it easy and comfortable for the congregation to sing. There are three non-verbal ways I do this. First, I’ll move up to the microphone when it’s time to sing, and move away when it’s not. So for song intros our outros, instrumental breaks, or whatever, I’ll physically step back. Then it’s obvious to the congregation when it’s time to all sing again as I move back up to the mic. The two other things I do are similar: A slight raising of the shoulders with a deep breath, and raising my eyebrows – something my old high school choir director always suggested! It’s all subtle but effective, and the opposite of ego-driven. The goal is to get people singing, and make it easy and comfortable for them. Does this outweigh the risks? Eh, maybe not. But I wanted to add my thoughts and give a refutation to your statement that, “Having your face on a screen indicates that you’re on the screen to communicate. Having your face off the screen indicates that you’re there to facilitate.” I think that’s a false dichotomy, though I agree with the overall spirit of what you’ve written.

    I love your point about breaking up the lyrics, too. As a song leader, I like my music charts where I can see the entire song on one page, and know what verse I’m on, and what the chorus is. That feel of the overall song structure gets lost when one only sees a handful of lines at a time, fed to you by someone behind a computer. It almost makes me wonder if there’s an advantage to song sheets or hymnals. (I can’t believe I’m actually writing these words. What kind of a contemporary worship leader am I? ;) )

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  40. And, um . . . really, seriously: “So why IS it OK to project the preacher?” I don’t think there are any more or better reasons to have the pastor on screen – and for pretty much the same reasons as the musicians. Excellent post!

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  43. Very well written and I agree with everything you say. Thank goodness my church is not big enough to struggle with most of these issues, yet. As for why it’s OK to project the preacher, I think you are right on target. 75% of communication is non-verbal; in the case of a pastor in a huge auditorium, a lot of that communication can be lost without the assistance of projection. it’s not about focusing on the pastor, it’s about getting ALL of the message he’s trying to deliver.

  44. I agreed with the spirit of the article but found myself disagreeing with some of the writer’s, what seemed like, over simplistic and somewhat judgemental presuppositions. The reminder to worship teams to keep it real, humble and centered on Christ was encouraging, but that is an admonition that applies to all involved in teaching, preaching and worship leading.

    I think, after a careful look, one would find many good reasons, which have nothing to do with the cynical idea of creating a “show”, why churches decide to project their worship leaders, musicians and pastors on to screens. Many of the reasons, I believe, are based on the sincere desire of large churches to bridge the communication gaps that the size or kind of room they worship in facilitate.

    I have found in leading worship that whether I have been projected on to a screen or not the struggle with pride and ego are in both cases the same. I would venture to say that the struggle would be there even if the leading would take place in the back, behind a screen and covered with a blanket.

    I also believe that those inclined to put worship leaders and pastors up on a pedestal would continue to do so with or without projection screens, with or without professional sound systems and with or without spot lights. The pitfalls of pride and ego building have been present long before the present day church started using modern technology.

    Those who would hold up the warning finger to the musician, singer or worship leader to be sure not to “perform” would do well to recognize that all forms of communication, of which worship leading and preaching are among, involve preparation, practice, contrast in delivery, suspense, humour, acting, mood variation, clever word-smithing, voice modulation and body language. These are all neutral communication techniques that belong to performance. They can be used to build one’s own power, influence and ego or bring glory to God.

    I’m sure when Jesus told his many parables and stories to his disciples and crowds of people he utilized principles of “performance” in the telling of them! How else could He have kept thousands of people spell bound and engaged, or, dare I say, “entertained”? Just a few thoughts for whatever they’re worth.

    Danny Plett
    Worship Pastor
    Emmanuel Evangelical Free Church
    Steinbach, Manitoba

  45. As a worship leader myself, I completely agree with you. I DON’T want my face to be on screen unless I happen to be welcoming people or talking directly to them, such as if I need to say a few words to put the next song in context. As a worship leader, my number 1 goal is to strive to direct as much attention to Jesus as possible. I would find any projection of my face on screen a hindrance to that. In fact most of my worship leading experinece was in a room where ALL the lights were OFF so that you could see the lyrics. People didn’t even have to see me. They could see my form, they could hear my voice, and that was all they needed to see of me – I much preferred they focused on lifting up their voices and hearts to Jesus. In my experience, the more distracting, attention grabbing things put in front of people’s eyes (including often well-intentioned pretty lights and stuff) the harder it is to focus on Christ during worship.

  46. My experience has been completely different. As a worship Pastor for several years, I have had the opportunity to play in multiple venues and churches and for a wide variety of church denominational cultures. It is my experience that regardless of the presentation style, the most profound worship experiences have come from churches that possess a deep desire to see God move in their lives. You can display the lyrics or not, you can sing new prophetic songs or not, you can play with excellence or not, you can use lighting or not, have the best sound system or not…it comes down to the present company being sold out and completely hungry for Yahweh’s moving in their midst. Coming prepared to meet God is also key. You can’t be arguing with your wife on the way and expect God to meet you in the pew. You can’t go out to the bar the night before and expect God to use you to say something profound to someone in church. Does it happen? Yes. But it is the exception, not the rule. It’s great to analyze how we use technology. It is also a good thing to constantly audit our “performancism”. But to say that this is the downfall of evangelical church worship is inconsistent with the experience of many.
    In my humble opinion, displaying the face of the worship leader/band is like using a sound system. It helps to convey the move of God and unifies the body towards a singular focus.

    Also, we may consider the lyrics of many of the current worship songs. The focus in particular. Consider singing “to God” rather than “about Him.”
    Simple example…
    He will reign over all the earth, all the nations will shout His worth
    vs.
    You will reign over all the earth, all the nations will shout Your worth

    You can see how the focus is directed to God in the second example. Whereas the first example is directed to my fellow believers speaking about God. My point is that there are far more greater concerns than simply displaying or not displaying the worship leader’s face on a projection system.

    Matt Hoffmann
    Passionfortruth.com

  47. “But people will feel disconnected from the worship leader” wow is there actually someone who thinks like this? People go to church to connect with God not the worship leader or even the pastor for that matter. “Its boring to just put lyrics” man! Whats happening to this generation? Its boring to sing about how precious Jesus is and how big a salvation He offers? Is it also boring to read the bible? You know God’s word? Im sorry if this seems a little stern but do we go to church to worship the living God or be entretained? And btw im the worship leader at my church.

  48. Yes, yes, yes, yes!! I’ve been saying this for decades and no one at the church I used to go to listened. That is one of several reasons that I left. The church I now go to projects only lyrics and the occasional video- not the musicians and not the pastor. When they start doing that, I’m out of there.
    i do disagree with one point— no, you do NOT need to project the pastor’s face, either. If you have a huge auditorium, maybe you do, but maybe you shouldn’t have a huge auditorium in the first place- church plant, anyone? And if you don’t have a huge auditorium, then you just don’t. It is helpful to see a face, not just hear a disembodied voice, but the personality of the pastor should not be the point, any more than the appearance of the musicians should be.
    “So what” and “That’s the point.”
    Excellent.

  49. I have been disconcerted by “off the wall” worship since it began. Liturgy is “the work of the people” — and leaving the singing to a band of people who can turn up their volume and drown out the “audience” is moving back to the 15th century when “worship” took place behind the rood screen, and the congregation had no part in the experience. The Reformation had as one of its principal tenets the priesthood of all believers, and the necessity for all believers to participate fully in worship. Hence Luther’s translation of the Bible into German. Hence his insistence on writing hymns that could be understood and sung by everybody, instead of just by the professional choir behind the rood screen.

    We are all members of the Body of Christ. We do not all have the same gifts, nor, as a result, the same functions as our neighbour. But we all have equal value in God’s eyes, and equal importance, and responsibility in the building and maintenance of the Kingdom of God.

    Having been a professional church musician, and currently a pastor, I have learned, sometimes at an embarrassingly high cost, that the messenger is not there to be the message, but to deliver it. And the receiver of the message needs every opportunity to respond by any means possible.

    I love your analogy of the waiter. Bring the dish, and then let the diners eat at their pace, and enjoy their meal.

    Thanks! Ecclesia reformata semper reformanda secundum verbum Dei!

  50. I’ll add one suggestion to your teaching moment:

    “Oh, and P.S. – we’re going to try really hard to stop using the word “stage” around here.”

    Thanks for the article!

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  53. I agree with all you have said. Whatever we can do to get the focus off of us and encourage corporate praise. The biggest problem I find is when I can’t hear myself sing nor the person beside me or anyone in the congregation. This creates the feeling like we are here to listen, not here to participate.

    And when you are not participating, your mind tends to wander.

    Great article!

    • Funny you say that… I have found the exact opposite to be true. The more people can hear themselves, the LESS likely they are to participate. This, of course, isn’t true for musicians, but just the vast majority of (american) people who are self-conscious about singing where others can hear them. This self-conciousness is no different than any other barrier to entry; it shouldn’t be the focus of why we lead how we lead. There are other people in the congregation who will find overly loud music a barrier to entry (like yourself) for various, and often differing, reasons.

      The trick is to remove barriers for as many people as possible, so the greatest number of people will participate. I do not buy into the myth of designing worship for the lowest common denominator (unsaved, unreached peoples), probably because of my web development background. I believe in progressive enhancement. We should make it so worship participation is POSSIBLE for anyone who enters with the intent of worshiping, but we shouldn’t limit what we do to ONLY those people.

      • I do enjoy to sing. Another reason people do not participate is because they have no christian music on their ipod but listening to anything but. I’m refering to generally young people.

      • Are you talking about old vs young people specifically in the church?

        I’ve found that our society in generally, quite aside from the church itself, is singing less, and becoming more uncomfortable when asked to. This contributes greatly to the lack of participation, and while things like what we are talking about on this blog are a part of it, much of it is cultural, and unsurprising…

        For centuries, people sang, played the piano, guitars, banjos, instruments, gathered together… simply for secular entertainment. Entertainment itself was participatory. People were used being involved in their entertainment. It was the rare treat when a traveling show, circus, vaudeville act, magician, theatre production, etc, came into town. Most nights, people played games (participatory), read stories to each other (somewhat participatory), sang and played their own music (very participatory).

        We are now three, perhaps four generations removed from where such things were the rule rather than the exception, and there are many, many families with adult children who have never played a board game or card game together, never sat around a piano or guitar and sang. They had the TV on their enter lives. That’s it. Maybe the occasional picnic, trip to the movies, etc. Certainly organized sports, but not for family entertainment.

        So, they grow up not singing. They may have been in choir, but if they thought anyone could hear them, they would clam up. Now, we have a whole generation that has grown up without music as a regular thing in public schools. Even LESS singing.

        Its no wonder they would be uncomfortable with participatory worship singing. And it has nothing to do with anything the worship leader or church have done.

        I guess my point is, there are large, ginormous societal issues in play in this conversation as well. Every act we take is, no matter what it is, places a raised hand in front of an oncoming flood. Only the Holy Spirit is truly effective in the face of such a rising tide.

  54. It seems to me that if your church is so big that you need to magnify the worship leader’s face, you probably need to send a large chunk of your congregation out into churches that are more local to them where they really can be active in their service of God. It may look good if you have thousands of people coming to church, but are they able to be the church effectively in such a huge gathering?

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