Last week I spent a couple of days attending the National Worship Leader Conference, hosted by Worship Leader Magazine, featuring many well-known speakers and worship leaders. The conference was held about 15 minutes down the road from me, so it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I’m glad I went.
I met some new people, heard some thought-provoking teaching, enjoyed some good meals and conversations with worship leader friends, and experienced in-person some of the modern worship trends that are becoming the norm in evangelicalism. It was eye-opening in many ways.
Over the last few days I’ve been processing some of what I saw and heard.
Worship Leader Magazine does a fantastic job of putting on a worship conference that will expose the attendees to a wide variety of resources, techniques, workshops, songs, new artists, approaches, teachings, and perspectives. I thought of Mark Twain’s famous quote “If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait 5 minutes”. The same could be said of this conference. It’s an intentionally eclectic mix of different speakers, teachers, worship leaders, and performers from different traditions, theological convictions, and worship leading philosophies. You’ll hear and see some stuff you like and agree with, and then 5 minutes later you’ll hear and see some stuff you don’t agree with at all.
It’s good for worship leaders to experience this kind of wide-exposure from time to time, and the National Worship Leader Conference certainly provides it.
Yet throughout the conference, at different sessions, with different worship leaders, from different circles, using different approaches, and leading with different bands, I picked up on a common theme. It’s been growing over the last few decades. And to be honest, it’s a troubling theme. And if this current generation of worship leaders doesn’t change this theme, then corporate worship in evangelicalism really is headed for a major crash.
It’s the theme of performancism. The worship leader as the performer. The congregation as the audience. The sanctuary as the concert hall.
It really is a problem. It really is a thing. And we really can’t allow it to become the norm. Worship leaders, we must identify and kill performancism while we can.
It’s not rocket science.
Sing songs people know (or can learn easily). Sing them in congregational keys. Sing and celebrate the power, glory, and salvation of God. Serve your congregation. Saturate them with the word of God. Get your face off the big screen (here’s why). Use your original songs in extreme moderation (heres’s why). Err on the side of including as many people as possible in what’s going on. Keep the lights up. Stop talking so much. Don’t let loops/lights/visuals become your outlet for creativity at the expense of the centrality of the gospel. Point to Jesus. Don’t draw attention to yourself. Don’t sing songs with bad lyrics or weak theology. Tailor your worship leading, and the songs you pick, to include the largest cross-section of your congregation that you can. Lead pastorally.
I am a worship music nerd. I listen to a lot of it. I follow the recent developments. I know who’s out there (sort of). I try to keep up (it’s not easy). Even I didn’t know most of the songs that we were supposed to be singing along to at the conference. I tuned out. I sat down. I Tweeted. I texted my wife. I gave up.
You’re not reading the ramblings of a curmudgeony guy complaining about all the new-fangled things the kids are doing these days, with their drums and tom-toms and electric geetars. You’re reading the heart-cry of a normal guy who’s worried about what worship leaders are doing to themselves and their congregations. People are tuning out and giving up and just watching.
This is not a criticism of the National Worship Leader Conference, though I do think they could make some changes to more intentionally model an approach to worship leading that isn’t so weighted on the performance side. As I said, the conference exposes us to what’s out there in the (primarily) evangelical worship world.
It’s what’s out there that’s increasingly a problem.
Worship leaders: step back. Take a deep breath. Think about it. Do we really want to go down this road? It will result in a crash. Back-up. Recalibrate. Serve your congregations, point them to Jesus, help them sing along and sing with confidence. Get out the way, for God’s sake.
671 thoughts on “Are We Headed For A Crash? Reflections On The Current State of Evangelical Worship”
Great post! I agree with you 100%
Well said. Unfortunately, I think some of us forget why we worship. It’s not about the entertainment or us. We should worship to glorify God.
I am noticing this comment being made quite often these days. It almost seems like an excuse for the ultra-contemporary music. Of course we are there to worship and glorify God. But how do you do that when the music irritates you so much that you cannot keep your mind on your worship? And it’s not just me. I hear this from many people. Some just stay away and walk in for the sermon.
I am reminded of a teaching, by your note that some stay away and only arrive for the sermon.
“Judah must Plow” coupled with Judah means Praise…
Basically the teaching tells us that for the “soil” to receive the seed (sermon) it must be plowed with praise first.
You don’t use a bulldozer or steam shovel to plow a field…
The reason we have so many fallow churches is because they are not being plowed right…
Yes I agree, back to The Old Rugged Cross
Though worship has a bit of performance.
That is performing the worship.
Well a lot of moments worship leaders are met to lead congregation into experience they hv had With God. This is driven by the leading of the holy spirit than experience of talent.
The Combination is all in worship, talent, skill, performance, word are vehicles through which the congregation is driven to see Jesus.
Unfortunately, my church went the way of production and professionalism over true congregational worship. They darkened the room, brought in new stage lighting, and even dry ice to have a pillow of fog emanate from the stage. Though a thousand other people left the church, and we dropped from 2,500 to 1,000 people, the (new) pastor and worship leader maintained this course of “we have to evolve and become new,” which was code for “we’re not singing hymns anymore, and we’re not going back.” I don’t mind new worship songs (I really like Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, and others) but the congregation became an audience and stopped participating in worship. People stood there watching. Eventually, I left, too, which made me sad because my kids were saved in that church, and yet it wasn’t the same church they grew up in.
Wow! So sorry to read this. You said it well. I pray that true worship will be of the heart and not performance.
sounds like they replaced the glory cloud with a smoke machine. we need the glory back in the house amen
Thought provoking article. Takes more than just a singer/musician to be a WORSHIP LEADER
Worship must begin in the heart of the Believer in Jesus; the Increase of Jesus and the decrease of self.
Hahaha. I run into this problem 15 (!) years ago. I stopped the stage carrier behind the keys and recognised that the all staff there had no real relation ship with the worshippers — in the Church. I mean the non musician worshippers.
My life has changed. -> I WAS LEVITE = ‘serving priesthood’ = OLD TESTAMENT
S H A M E
Just type the word: ‘worship’ into your Bible Software, filter the New (New!) Testament – and… and… Wonder!
And I thought it was just me! It’s becoming a concert and I want my money back! I want to feel the power of the Holy Spirit, not the power of the sound system! It’s hard to feel the Holy Spirit when the Holy Spirit hasn’t even been invited! I want to have church and to me that means God the Father is the center stage not the Pastor or Worship Leader take the stage! If you are called to be a Worship Leader, that means you are to lead in worship! If you can’t sing about the Lord so the congregation can comfortably join in on the praise, then you are merely in it for yourself and robbing an entire congregation out of a real blessing! If you want to be uplifting to the congregation, start by lifting up you hands in praises to Jesus!
I miss the days when the freedom of the Holy Spirit flowed in church and it wasn’t considered strange and out of order. Truth is, most congregations have never experienced the moving of the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit is not welcome or the church service is so focused on an agenda to get out in time to be first to the restaurants.
Stop any possible moving of the spirit to-
Greet each other
Stop any possible movement of the spirit to-
Offering and Announcements
Maybe special music
Preaching or in most cases teaching which is what Sunday School is for.
Alter call? Bet 90% of the churches don’t even have this.
I get more out of singing along to my favorite worship music at home and reading my daily devotional than I do at church with all the formalities quenching the possibility of any chance of the spirit moving.
It’s sad because I need and desire to be with others, praising the Lord and worshipping in song.
Then find a new church. The traditional model, what you are referencing has its values and merits. I would much prefer what you are referencing. The Holy Spirit can certainly be in this style of worship. Don’t confuse emotion taking over for the Holy spirit, as they are not one and the same.
This is the precise reason l, or one of them, that different denominations exist. Rather than pout or complain about a worship order that has a proven history of success (and a reason for each of the elements above), please find a place that meets your spiritual needs
Additionaly, I don’t feel your comment addresses what the author is writing on in any way.
Wow, I agree with you exactly! I enjoy new songs, but I also appreciate singing hymns. I’ve never enjoyed rock/loud music, even though it was bread and butter to my generation. I don’t dislike 7-11 songs (the same 7 words sung 11 times), but can we just have moderation in all genres? Can we remember Who we are there to worship and give us time and space and spirit to do that? It is often so performance, it’s sad. I’m happy to report we attended/visited in Rialto, CA today at Sunrise Church and found this spiritual worship service. Sad we don’t live here.
Laura, I totally agree with you. I moved away from my lovely church where I was part of the worship team (2 guitars, bass & up to 4 singers.) We always worked prayerfully to include new songs, alongside old hymns & choruses that were familiar to the church. Worship would be (and still is): One opening song. Notices, etc. About 20 mins. of uninterrupted singing of songs by the whole church – plenty of room for movement of the Holy Spirit. Then Communion/prayer, followed by the Speaker. It flows naturally & everyone feels included. The verse above the altar reads: “O Worship the Lord in the Beauty of Holiness.” I miss it.
In my 2 years in my new home, I have yet to find a church that uses this format. Most break up the singing as you have described above, so being able to ‘let go’ is impossible. On the other hand, I have also been to churches where the worship is so free & ‘spirit-filled’, it’s difficult for the congregation to follow what is going on. It’s especially difficult for visitors & often puts them off re-visiting. Again, personal opinion, but often this can be another type of ‘performance’.
The job of any leader, worship leaders included, is to LEAD the congregation in worship/understanding God’s word, etc., not take over completely. I speak as an ex-professional singer, so totally understand the need in church to balance a professional attitude to the music (yes- instruments do need to be tuned & musicians need to practice, just as a speaker should not completely ‘ad lib’ his/her sermon.) with encouraging the church.
One final point – Some churches appear to have forgotten that worship is not just about singing songs & ‘moving in The Spirit’. Every aspect of our lives should be an act of worship. Church is where we come together to hear the Word of God & celebrate Him, leaving ourselves at the door. Nothing to do with us at all. It’s all about Him. xx
I would add to those (rare) times when even a solidly traditional hymn is being sung and it seems that all the verses will be sung, your heart is soaring as your spirit reaches towards Heaven in worship and suddenly there’s a contemporary chorus that has been inserted in the middle of this lovely and meaningful hymn! Not that the contemporary chorus has meaningless words-it has very good words, but it jars abruptly the moving of the Spirit at least in my heart and I am left feeling frustrated. Then there are the endless repetitions of short praise choruses or phrases of songs in attempts to build a frenzy of worship or hypnotize the congregation so that they are more open to suggestion. And altar calls? do you really mean that it is the responsibility of the church and the pastor to actually preach the (gasp!) Gospel?? Sure, we are told to go and share with others in our daily lives, but only Christians go to church so we never have to think that there might be lost people in the church services on Sunday mornings. Right??? I miss the days of my childhood when there was an altar call given every Sunday and people were saved and/or rededicated their lives to Christ with a degree of regularity. Pastors were not afraid to talk about what God says about our need for redemption and the plan of salvation.
This issue/dilema needs to be balanced in perspective with the Churches relationship with The Arts in general… which has been historically bad, at least in post Renaissance era. “Be too creative, or too good of a musician, and we call it “showing-off” or a “distration”. While I agree a simple rendition of amazing grace does not need a guitar solo, an un-fortunate by product of this attitude is The church traditionally making “art” boring, mundane, mediocre in order to be palatable for church congregations. Theres a time for corporate singing style worship, but theres also time for art – both can be “worship” (..overdone quotation gesture with hands..). Eventually “The Arts” in western civilization started its love/hate relationship with the “entertainment industry” (due to the need for artists to afford food and other things) and we simply followed the trends. Which then gave rise to the glammy pop-star based format. I assume its that superstar performance format that can shift an audiences focus away from God, and thats what everyone has an issue with here? Thats a good point, but should our traditional focus on “group singing” eliminate using all the other art forms to glorify God? Should creative arts people, art school students, professional jazz musicians simply give up their calling and trade everything in for an acoustic guitar and 4 chords? Many of these people have been leaving the church in droves because they feel unwanted, so this has self perpetuated over the years making a perfect storm of a) bad art, and b) the creative world not having any Christians influencing it. And so on. If at the very beggining Christianity would have embraced the arts more we would have developed our own musical genres and art forms, but because we didnt, we simply copy what the world is doing, and well.. we have Bebier-pop worship. Begs the question, did we do it to ourselves?
I’ve read a lot of alarmist stuff in Christian blog-sphere regarding “worshiptainment” and while its correct on some things, at other times it seems to be the older generation having different tastes in music and somehow theologically diefying their own preferences.. and most people blogging on this issue had no grid for the creative arts that exist outside the churchworld. There could be a generation gap in understanding of how music can lead us into worship. For some, Hillsongs music or hymns would be annoying and distracting, but electronic music or heavy metal would make them naturally focus and ponder on the mysteries and wonder of God (not suggesting that for sunday morning, occasionally “respecting your elders” is good too!).
I known many extremely talented platform musicians who inspired and played exceedingly skillfully.
These are the ones that add just enough rift or just enough adlib to accent, but not be over bearing or take the lead. (Hey look at me, I can play.)
Then I’ve also known the same level of talent just plug along leaving gaps.
It’s all a matter of heart and willingness to be inspired, talent is important.
When I was playing trumpet on platform there were so many times I wanted to add a little here or a little there, I heard in my heart and my mind. But, I knew I didn’t have the level of talent to confidently pull it off.
But, you’re right not all people appreciate music as an expression of the inner man.
For me, you’re hitting the target at least close to the bullseye.
I’m 58 years young. I grew up Catholic. Got saved, @14, by a Lutheren. Got baptized in my mid 40s a Pentecostal. We’re VERY active members in a contemporary church.
This issue of performance and/or worship-tainment is valid though Not to the degree some make it out to be. Yeah, the sanctuary shouldn’t be completely dark nor should music SO loud that the band can’t hear people singing.
If you study the Gospels you will find the disciples sniveling about others outside “their circle” telling about the Good News (Christ) differently in some form or fashion, but winning souls for the kingdom(!), not unlike the traditional/contemporary debate of today. In turn Christ gave them some heat.
So I say to those w/knotted up knickers over over the process, ignoring “…names added to the book of life,” regardless of your preference, GET OVER IT!!
You just hit the nail on the head. (fiftysomething church keyboardist here.)
I’ve been involved on Praise Teams for almost 40 years(worship is far more than music/singing…)….The writer’s comments/observations have been an issue for a long time. If the team is all show and performance…they miss the whole point of “leading” the congregation. If you are a distraction up on stage….get off! You are hindering the work of the HS. Its hard to find a church with a sincere Praise Team….most project a “I’m cool” attitude. I leave. …..and I know…..I am so judgemental …
I am the bass player, 56 years old. I and members of my family have been involved in music in the church almost our entire lives. To us one of the greatest encouragements is to hear the congregation singing in full voice to songs they know and can sing. Learning new songs is wonderful too. Lately I have adopted the position that the title Worship Team or the like is incorrect. Think about it. The Nursery Team is the group of two to whatever that minister in the nursery. the kitchen team is the 4 in the kitchen. The greeting team is the small group that greets, and so on. The Worship Team should be the congregation, or anyone and everyone that enters the building. I am one of the musicians. The worship leader carefully selects songs that work with the message/sermon and also allow the congregation to minister to each other with their singing. Far too often the congregation is considered as little more that warm bodies in the seats and resource to leadership to get some things done, rather than brothers and sisters there to worship withe each other.
We need “worship encouragers”. Ministers and helpers that encourage the congregation to enter into real worship which is all about getting to God with your heart soul and mind , the body will follow , getting the people to that special place where His presence is felt and experienced , where there is repentance , renewal and restoration , real worship leads to openness and receptiveness to the Word of God. Anything less is just entertainment.
Absolutely agree with this.. Seems like you took the words right outa my mind on all of this content. It’s quite unfortunate that this indeed has been the growing trend on modern day congregational worship… For quite a while I thought I was alone in seeing this thing becoming the norm in churches today.
I submit that we worship leaders (together with the awareness and unison of the church leaders) go back in submerging ourselves first to the presence of the Holy Spirit in our secret place, before going out on stage to lead the people of God to worship thru songs and music, and be the levite that we ought to be in this previlaged ministry of music.
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The issues Jamie brings up here are worthy of our consideration. Read carefully and prayerfully.
Thanks so much for so carefully and lovingly expressing your concerns here. The encouragement towards the pastoral aspects of our ministry are particularly helpful. I went to a great conference a couple of years ago (Doxology and Theology) where many of these concerns were the driving force and themes for the conference. I remember being particularly challenged by Matt Chandler’s message. He voiced, as did several others of the plenary speakers, the warning of the weight and duty of our calling as worship pastors.
Our prayer is for all who stand before God’s people on a Sunday, who seek to lead in Spirit and truth. We must remember that we will also stand before God one day to give an account of how we lovingly shepherded His people. May we all continue to humbly serve Him and our people, for His glory and their good…
Faith Bible Church
Wow. Performacism is one of the three reasons Cindy and I left our last church 4 years ago. We also noticed that the performancism was driving the “worship of worship”; everything was secondary to the worship performance. It was very sad. Press on modeling authentic worship Jamie.
Might be said for the state of preaching among some churches.
Amen. Very well put, Jamie.
Thank you for these great words and thoughts. Seems that you are in line with the heart of God. Grateful to be in a similar place where we allow the liturgy to be the “worship leader.”
I don’t disagree with your premise, but I don’t think it’s really coming from worship leaders. Or should I say the issue is not just the worship leader. The main worship leader, the main worship visionary for every local church is the local church senior pastor. Many senior pastors feel pressure to keep up with church trends and keep up with changing growth dynamics. Let’s face it, the senior pastor gets what he wants from his staff. He is the leader. He is the main vision caster for worship. He sets the pace and tone for every area of ministry.
I understand as worship leaders our primary sphere of influence in ministry is the area of worship and our focus is applied there to bring change and move the congregation forward in worship. But without a holistic approach, that influence will be limited to the vision of the primary worship leader, the senior pastor. The senior pastor and worship leader, walking together with a unified vision of worship, is the most effective way to change the worship culture in a local congregation.
My prayer is that senior pastors begin to drive this conversation and that they rise up as the worship visionaries and lead their worship teams and congregation to an authentic and experiential encounter with Jesus Christ in worship.
Former Creative Director of a mega church
Agree 100%! I saw a Senior Pastor dictate from his office what he wanted on Sundays… he didn’t start to see issues within the worship team until he started attending practice. I sometimes wished he would turn around and look at the congregants on a Sunday morning to see how they were engaging (or not).
Where is the holy spirit in all this. He is where we should be looking to direction, not pastors or worship leaders. Unless they are listening to the holy spirit they should not be doing what they are because all it will be is a worship concert, and thus the performance becomes the focus.
Let’s get back to prayer and worship seeking God’s word for the minute.
And the “senior pastor” is no where to be found in the New Testament church. Now, there’s a GLARING problem I see which creates this “worship conundrum”. Corporate church???? It models more closely the machine of “Americanism” than it does the early church. The foundation of what the church is needs to be re-calibrated, IMO. “Pastor” is simply one of the five fold ministry gifts, NOT the CEO of an organization. Jesus is THE Shepherd of His body!
I so totally agree with you DaRon!
No Senior Pastors? What about Apostles? 🙂
In all seriousness, though. The NT church had elders. That much can be proven.
Would there not have been one elder to which the others deferred to?
And, in Tabernacle Worship or Temple Worship (remembering the Davidic roots of Worship…) There was a High Priest…
Now while I am not a Messianic, I will acknowledge that OT worship precedes the NT Worship. And, the only reason, IMHO, that the NT church didn’t have such an official structure was because they were scattered in persecution.
I know we are off topic here, but as structure affects Worship perhaps Jamie will let me ramble on? Elders were set in place by the Apostles wherever they went. I doubt very seriously that a fellowship large enough for more than one elder, that one would not be appointed as overseer.
For such a group to not have someone in charge discounts reality and puts a false ‘romantic’ perception of what the NT church was like. Remember, even Paul had infighting…
Act 15:39 And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus;
Act 15:40 And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God.
Paul always set up churches with a plurality of elders, not just one guy. Unity displayed in real community was the model for these early churches. It really mattered that the head of the churches be Jesus Himself. Seems foreign to us because of our present day carnality. We really know next to nothing about the power of the Holy Spirit, who is able to knit us together Himself, without the help our secular corporate power structures, without the OT reliance on the one special “anointed” leader. It’s just one of the many changes we need I’m the church today.
Of course there has to be some form of leadership. However, having worked with volunteers, I do venture to think that elders or leaders do not have to be on payroll. When I lead worship or teach in my home I never ask for money!
I agree some churches have become more like corporations in the leadership structure, but the Pastor is the under-shepherd who is to edify (teach), the flock through sermons and training to develop them into functional Christ Followers. Our ‘Senior Pastor’ is very down to earth and approachable. His only direction in worship is it be relevant to engage the congregation and done in a professional manner as to flow not sloppy and thrown together. I am part of a independent Baptist church that is 48 years old so we have a wide range of ages to reach. so we balance worship with hymns and current worship music but we do not use songs that are hard to learn or lack scriptural meaning. Even some of the old hymns people love and wrong related to scripture so I will not choose those even though they might be granny Jones’ favorite. So leadership in the new testament church is vital. Who was Timothy but a young preacher boy Paul mentored.
Amen Daron!!!!!! Wonder how too few people read their Bible. Just liike in Jesus time thinking education equals pastor, worship leader, ect. and too few understand that worship is much more than just music and singing.
Very true. Sad that ; Many don’t understand that worship is much much more than just music and singing.
Exactly Michael there were apostles but they did not have the same function as pastors and no NT mention of senior pastors a study of the functions of the 5 fold ministry and elders and deacons in the NT church is informative.
Which brings us to another problem. Leadership, with it’s nature of service, is collective. Too much emphasis is given to a senior pastor or senior worship leader. There needs to be better accountability within eldership to challenge, to support to reaffirm, through prayer and the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the Word, developing a vision of worship that brings us closer to Jesus and the Father. The same within a worship group. It works better with more than one person having responsibility. I find nothing biblically that backs up this single leader approach and have seen it abused all too often. Keeping each other in check like this should help us avoid excesses and pandering to trends.
Attend a Reformed (not just theological reform but ecclesiological) church and hear simple acoustic one instrument music that is quickly drowned out by the united voices of the saints singing the time tested deep psalms, hymns and spiritual songs that the church has been singing from the day of Pentecost this is what unites a church with each other and the faith once delivered. Note that this impossible if the volume of the instrumental does not allow you to hear each other or the amplified singer “leader” improvises.
Thanks, Former Creative Director. I share your conviction that the main worship leader for every local church, whether he realizes it or not, is the senior pastor. And you’re absolutely right that he sets the tone and pace for every area of ministry. The trend towards performancism is a multi-headed monster that will most effectively be killed by pastors and their worship leaders in partnership.
“…you’re absolutely right that [the senior pastor] sets the tone and pace for every area of ministry.”
As a full-time pastor and life-long (I’m 50) church goer, I know that this type of idea is a shared paradigm in evangelicalism and beyond. And the sad part of it is the nonchalant way that this notion is acknowledged and accepted as normal. Words fail me for how this grieves me.
I’m convinced corporate “worship” will be what it should be when pastors relinquish their collective grips on the church and when the tone and pace for every ministry are set by Jesus through all of His people.
It’s interesting that the context of the familiar passage in Mt 23 (Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted) is men taking positions and titles in the church.
David, I am 62, been in church since ever I can remember, though not a pastor, I have been a worship leader. The ‘primary’ elder or pastor does indeed set the tone and can hinder or enable. There have been times I’ve wanted to figuratively strangle my pastor.
If the pastor has a vision that is communicated and shared with the church family and *if* he will allow people time to grow into their respective places of ministry it will be powerful.
But, too many pastor are too insecure to allow others to shine. It’s not always pride or arrogance.
I am assuming that when you say nonchalant you are talking about the way many churches approach Praise and Worship?
If so I agree… To far too many it is just a preliminary to the preaching, instead of an oppurtunity to meet with Our Father.
David, you are so right on. To me, everything comes back to the issue of paid staff – people who love the Lord, but whose livelihood and provision for family is bound up in the steady reaffirmation of their indispensability. It runs counter to the priesthood of all believers. It works against congressional rule. And it has become a horrible enabler of the performancism that is so ably indicted in this classic post.
Mark Dever’s 9 Marks ministry to the church is so very helpful in these areas. I don’t know if they’ve dealt with the corporate worship manifestation of the “professional pastor” syndrome, but clearly they should.
Thanks for this.
I often struggle with knowing when I should do originals.. My mentor (a non musician) tells me to keep doing them, and I write *for* the congregation, but I also know that I can easily fall into pride and make it about my songs. Until now i’ve only ever done one per service ( a monthly service) and not every time, but in a few weeks we’re doing a special service and two of mine fit, so I’m cautious ly putting in both… Do you have any thoughts on how to deal with this tension?
BTW, ‘we will proclaim’ is my current go-to album for the gym.. Gets my heart going, Love it!
Hey Andrew their is nothing prideful about doing originals. All the songs we do we’re original to someone and we don’t look at Chris Tomlin or Matt Redmond as prideful egomaniacs. Take time to home your craft and develop your sound. You have a creative authority and fresh revelation to share that will effect your community far more than a song written by a stranger a decade ago.
If you want more about this, check out http://www.songsmithcreative.com
I agree! Nothing prideful about doing original songs. My encouragement to worship leaders is to use moderation (i.e. wisdom) and not do too much of their own stuff at the expense of the congregation singing along. And let’s all beware of chronological snobbery, which might lead us to believe that new stuff is better than old stuff, or that old stuff is better than new stuff. It’s all for the glory of God. Just use care when choosing whether your stuff is the best stuff.
I agree that there’s nothing wrong with doing originals. I absolutely disagree that a “fresh revelation” engages the community far more than “a song written by a stranger a decade ago.” I think you’ve created a false tension between these two. Music of any age can speak to community and reveal God. It’s the context and message that’s important, not who wrote the words and how long ago it was written.
I would introduce original or any new music now and then. People do not sing when they do not know the song and two in the same set is too much in my experience. We had a guest worship leader when I was out of town and my pastor told me afterwards he did no songs our congregation knew and it was a train wreck. Here is the real truth, you can repeat the same exact worship set every few weeks and it will be rare to find anyone who notices, but introduce too many new songs or arrangements and everyone notices. I know because I was at a place where we were short talent and we had to improvise for a couple months. Not one person commented on the 4 sets we rotated for about 8 weeks.
As regards to springing new music on a Sunday Morning. Depends on the complexity of the song. And, how it is introduced. All new at one go? Never!
I had thought about the issue of ‘new’ music. And, the only thing I can think of is to have an evening where you could have an ‘Open Praise and Worship’ practice.
The thought is, you expect interruptions. Worshipers in the congregation get a chance to learn new music and form a core group for Sunday Morning. Fledgling musicians can sit in, be evaluated without the trauma of an audition.
Yeah… It’s above and beyond… An extra night… Etc., Etc. But, many churches don;t have Wednesday Nights. The ‘avid’ Worshipers would turn out. I know before I ever led, I would have because I love to Worship.
But, I am also a perfectionist. And, you can quote, “Make a Joyful Noise” all you want… I ain’t listening!
Just a thought…
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Interesting take on it. Definitely anyone “on stage” should be checking their heart attitudes about. Read it and see what your thoughts are on the subject.
Never the attraction… never a distraction… only a road sign that says, “behold the Lamb of God”. …currently mentoring about 10 local worship leaders… the heart of your blog is the reason I started doing so. Thank you for writing… don’t stop.
– Jesus is most easily worshiped when He is most easily seen!
Great article, well put. This trend goes pretty far back. I remember going to a Saddleback worship conference 5 years back or so, and a workshop presenter came out and said, “I believe worship IS a performance. I bet this offends many of you. Too bad, that’s just the way it is.” He was completely un-appologetic about asking the older ladies to quit the choir so he could handle all the fun, new Kirk Franlkin type of material. He had a few good points and I took away some practical tips from the session, but I just think that if you’re going to buy into that philosophy, you really have to clarify for yourself exactly who you are performing for. If the music has to be so competitively perfect and impressive, consider you are performing for the wrong audience. I understand that God wants us to pursue musical excellence, but as church leaders, our calling is so much more than just technique: it’s people. How are we shepherding, encouraging, equipping, and enabling them to worship? THAT would be the performance that truly matters, even if our music turns out a bit simple. Sometimes less is more.
I would add to your critique of “don’t play so many original songs,” to be cautious not to play so many new songs all the time, trying to keep up with the latest hits and be the first in town to use them. Craft your congregational repertoire with great care, be selective of the songs you let in, and be willing to let new material vet for a while. The more up to date you are, the sooner you go out of date.
If worship is in any sense a ‘performance’ then it is a performance by the congregation towards God, not a performance directed towards the congregation. And if the congregation can’t participate, then more than half the orchestra aren’t playing!
Your whole list of things to do/not do made sense to me until you mentioned limiting the use of originals. I certainly understand how a person could be promoting themselves, but there are all sorts of reasons why someone who is most likely a naturally creative person would use their own songs in worship. A “new song” doesn’t have to be worthy of a record contract to be sung to The Lord. All congregations learn new songs at some point; who wrote it is irrellevant. If it’s theologically correct and praises God, why should anyone care if the person on stage wrote it or not? Should our most prolific worship songwriters today not sing their own tunes?
I’ve written and used some of my own songs, but only when it was the best song to fit that service at that point. I began worshipping with my guitar well over twenty years ago just sitting alone in my room singing out my prayers. It took more than a decade before it even occurred to me to write them down or share them with anyone.
This makes you seem (to me) to hold a very low view of the majority of worship pastors/leaders out there (especially since you see performancism as so prevalent to be creating an impending “crash”). God and their head pastor have entrusted them to make all sorts of decisions as leaders. I think we should too.
I say this having just subbed in at a church that uses strobe lights, smoke machines, and the whole bit. I was very skeptical of what I was going to see from the pastor and the rest of the church body, and I am happy to report that I was greatly humbled by their love for our God, for the lost, and for the catholic (little “c”) church. Their ministry is a blessing to the community, and I will be grateful to help them out again. Be careful in making assumptions about the hearts of people based upon what they do in ministry.
Hi Josh. You paraphrased me correctly, that I encourage worship leaders to “limit” the use of their original songs. But it seems that you might think I’m saying that by “limit” I mean “don’t use”. That’s not what I meant/said. Worship leaders should just make sure that they’re not using too much original material at the expense of other songs that people might know a bit better. I think it’s great for worship leaders to write/use their own songs. At my church we sing my original songs from time to time. But when “from time to time” becomes “pretty much all the time”, you’re in a danger zone.
I’m sorry if I gave you the impression that I “hold a very low view of the majority of worship pastors/leaders out there”. I think this post proves quite the contrary. I hold a high view of them and their ministry, and my prayer for all of us is that we use our platforms with wisdom, care, humility, and Christ-centeredness.
Thanks for the clarification. I agree with your warnings, but I guess my concern was with your assumption that this is such a widespread issue that we are nearing a crash. While there is now an industry making money off of worship, I think the vast majority of worship leaders see it for what it is and are routinely checking themselves.
I’ve had the opportunity these last few years to sub in at various churches in my area, and I really haven’t encountered leaders who lean toward performancism. I have found head pastors that view worship as little more than the energy boost before the message, but even that is rare. I was worried that I had encountered such a church, but like I said, I was humbled to see just how deeply their hearts are turned to Christ. That was really my point.
I lead worship at four services a week a large congregational service, a smaller chapel service, a teen youth service, and a children’s choir. I write original music for all of them. I bring copies of the lyrics of the songs with me to service, I never leave with extra copies.
I hate sounding boastful but I am writing this to speak to your assumption that someone should not share their gift with their congregation. All the music I write is done in conjunction with the pastors and with the sole motivation of lifting up Spirit, to glorify God and serve as an example of authentic worship. Most songs I write end up becoming part of our normal rotation.
Does the pastor preach the same sermons on a 4 week rotation? No, but they will typically use a some forms of which the congregation may or may not be aware. They use theology supported by their denomination, etc. That is my approach. Every service I include something from the hymnal, a classic worship tune, a modern/current song and an original if I have written one that week or in the past that supports the message. During communion I do a song that only has a few repeating sentences at a slower tempo so people can close their eyes and sing prayerfully without Gavin to watch the screen. I appreciate your article and agree without all of it.
I’m rambling at this point but I have one other offering. Have we considered that congregation members enjoying and are uplifted by watching? Can a worship leader be too good of a singer where no matter what he/she is going to be accused of performancism? I agree about key choices and a few of your other recommendations but let us not forget that just as there are many different types of worship leaders there are even more types of worship participants.
Romans 12:6-8 ESV
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
I’m so glad your congregation is blessed by your gifts.
As for my “assumption that someone should not share their gift with their congregation”, I would respectfully ask that you re-read my article, and possibly some of the last 5 years of my posts, and I hope you’ll see that I hold no such assumption.
God bless you,
Very well balanced thoughts. I like the way you did not “throw the baby out with the bathwater.” (Which is very easily the way a post like this could go.)
Excellent article! People are hungry for genuine worship, not performnce-driven music. This is confirmed when we are doing one of the latest trendy songs in church, & I look around to see half of the people singing & the other half reading their bulletins. We must keep music that is real & means something to the people. There is definitely an propriety time for a special song to complement the sermon, or an offertory when the congregation doesn’t feel pressured to sing along. May God be glorified, not the praise team!
That’s “There’s an appropriate time…..” not “There’s an propriety time….”
Maybe my language was too pointed but I must admit that you struck a nerve. I don’t feel your generality applies to everyone and in the sentiment of “appealing to the largest cross-section as possible” I feel your stance is a bit too wide.
If you’re interested, would you care to elaborate on what you mean when you say, “Use your original songs in extreme moderation.”? I feel like your follow up with, “At my church we sing my original songs from time to time. But when “from time to time” becomes “pretty much all the time”, you’re in a danger zone.” is just circular reasoning alluding to some nefarious “danger zone” by way of restating your original position.
You don’t owe me any explanations, of course, but I would appreciate being able to better understand why you feel the way you do.
As one worship leader to another, thank you for everything you do for our faith.
Agree … If you write songs for your congregation and they know them, then … isn’t that how the popular songs become popular? Circular reasoning— the congregation have to learn the popular songs also, just as they would non-pop songs. I absoluteley agree with you on certain points, but the solution is bigger than the points listed. It’s like creating a non-denominational church … it’s still a denomination
(I find it very difficult to sing along to most “original songs.”) Really, what I find fascinating is that you don’t use anything BUT your original songs. Why is that?
I realize there are a ton of comments here, thus making it difficult to wade through -also showing how much people care as well. I’m not sure where I said I only use my original songs in a worship service. I will use one (if it’s appropriate). Sometimes the pastor will come to me with an affirmation from the sermon that I will set to music in a Taize worship fashion. Other times I will arrange an existing hymn and take a line from one of the verse, typically the title, (this week it is “Listen To Your Savior Call”) and write a worship style chorus to be done in between the last two verses. I want people who don’t relate to hymns to be able to do so, likewise I want people who love hymns and aren’t crazy about modern worship to have something with which they can identify.
I feel like I am repeating myself too often, so forgive my redundancy, I take offense to the supposition that original worship can not be meaningful. The way it has been spoken here is as if the congregation is simply tolerating the worship leader, indulging them if you will. I also find it rather offensive to assume that the worship leader is a bad songwriter. Sure there are bad ones, should they be allowed to continue, no! Are there bad pastors? Yes, should they be allowed to continue? Most certainly not. But what makes a bad song? I’m constantly asked for recodrings of many of the originals I write and lead worship with, I don’t have CD’s, it’s not important to me. I’m not being boastful here, what I’m saying is just because you experience worship where a leader did an original song that was bad doesn’t mean original worship should not be performed. Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Darlene Zsesch, et al. are all worship leaders, and they have written, and continue to write, all the songs that so many people love and sing, and Glorify god with their souls. Should they stop doing originals with their congregation?
What am I missing?
No one said that “original worship can not be meaningful”. The concern isn’t to do with original songs meaningfulness, but rather with their inherently higher degree of unfamiliarity, which requires them to be incorporated with moderation (i.e. wisdom). I expanded on these thoughts in today’s post.
Hi Robby. Yes, I do take a wide stance in encouraging worship leaders to attempt to appeal to “the largest cross section as possible”. Perhaps it’s too wide of a stance, but it’s my conviction that worship leaders should aim to engage as many people as they can. You can’t engage everyone. You can’t control what people do. You’re not the Holy Spirit. You have to be OK with being disliked and unpopular and offending people and getting blank stares. But we should at least attempt to pull in as many people as we can.
OK, so my original position is “use your original songs in extreme moderation”. I sought to clarify that by saying that moderation allows original songs to be sung “from time to time” but not “all the time”. Honestly, I think one original song per Sunday is enough. Possibly even too much unless you’re a really good songwriter and you’ve gotten affirmation from your pastor/congregation that your original songs are particularly helpful in your setting.
When a set list is consistently and heavily populated with a worship leader’s original material, you are making it difficult for newcomers, visitors, and anyone who doesn’t either have your CDs or attend every week to be able to sing along.
Thanks for taking the time to reply Jamie. I wasn’t clear when I spoke of your stance being too wide. I was really just speaking to your opinion of how one should use original music. I completely agree that we should do our best to appeal to as wide of a cross-section as possible. This is why I always plan a ranging aesthetic of music.
“God Of All Praise” is a really nice song. All of your convictions are right at the forefront as well. Good theology, singable melody in a good key for everyone with a nice break at the end of the phrases to be able to make easy transitions between sections.
Do you feel that worship can still be powerful if people aren’t singing along? (I’m trying to get off the argument train… lol.)
I will have services where I feel like people weren’t engaged. I will question whether or not I should have done a new and/or original song and stuck to something more familiar because people weren’t singing along. But then after service I will get tons of hugs and thanks for how I touched someone with my music (speaking of a song I wrote or a song I wrote for one of the other praise team members). They will ask where they can buy a CD (which I don’t have because I’m not in this to be a recording artist per se) Yet, I am still left feeling uncertain.
I think there are a great number of people who not only want to performed to but find it engaging and spiritually uplifting. Please don’t read this as me trying to rationalize because I wholeheartedly agree with your opinion (save for the bit about original music). Do you have an opinion on this?
Again, thank you for indulging my questions. I stumbled upon your blog today and I am always interested in hearing how others approach the planning and practice of worship music.
Hey Robby. Absolutely – worship can still be powerful and engaging even when people aren’t singing along. And we can’t always pick songs that everyone will know. We have to introduce new songs at some point! I think what we need to watch out for, and what’s becoming an increasing trend (from my perspective) towards the norm being the congregation NOT singing along, and the exception becoming when they ARE singing along. I’m convinced that the norm should be congregational singing, and the exception should be congregational observing. And when new songs are taught, they should be taught in a way that makes it clear that the congregation is invited to sing along. And when special songs are presented, they should be presented in a way that helps people engage with them.
I pretty much agree with all that’s been said already, but if I may, I would like to add one more idea on where this may have started or at least gained it’s momentum and entered into the thinking of some of the worship leaders today.
I received an email the other day from a worship leader friend of mine. Here is some of his problem in the church where he serves. “…the problem is one of my coworkers sees my adherence to congregational-friendly keys as a slap to the success of the Passion artists. That they somehow trump my training because they have sold a gazillion albums and pull crowds of 60000.” Here was some of my response to him. “What Passion does is praise and worship concerts that ( and please don’t take this too far ) somewhat manipulates people’s emotions. They get to play and sing for 45-60 minutes. How far would they get if they only had 4-6 songs to do in 18 minutes to move people? (which is not the point of music anyway). Which songs do you think they would pick? And in the course of this P&W concert not every concert goer sings every song. They probably sing the songs they like and talk or text or Instagram the rest of the time. (Sound familiar? I wrote this two weeks ago.) We (worship leaders) don’t have the luxury of that kind of programming. And it’s not about us competing with Passion or any other artist like that, we do this 52 weekends a year with different songs each weekend. And we are also have to remember our congregation. I’ve said this before and I’ll keep on saying it, it’s not about us! It’s not about our likes or dislikes. If it was then what we are really saying is that God can only be praised when we sing that song, in that key, that way. Sorry, He’s a much bigger God then that. And most likely not everyone in then congregation knows Passion, or has even heard that music. Plus any guest would not know the difference anyway. As long as you have a pastor or other ministry staff members who really don’t understand what worship really is, we will continue to have this problem.”
When I teach my class on Theology and Practice of Worship I use a quote from Rick Muchow. “Excellence is a great value, but a terrible goal. Once your preparation is complete, rely on the power of God rather than on your own strength.” Rick may be talking about excellence as a value and not a goal,but he does bring up one very important point and that is not to rely on your own strength (and that’s performancism) but rather rely on the power of GOD.
By the way is performancism really a word? LOL
John – a retired worship leader, professor, music teacher and still trying to get worship right!
From a layman’s perspective: I believe you hit the nail on the head. I grew up in the 70s and 80s, and as a teenager I LOVED when we sang songs OTHER than hymns in the worship service! Now the pendulum has swung too far the other way! Now I want more hymns! Songs with meat!
FYI – I’ve shared the link to this blog with several pastor friends and clients of my mine here at the radio station. I may sell advertising, but I want to be a resource for pastors and churches that are my client and provide some value to what I do.
Thanks for your thoughts. God bless your ministry.
Jamie, EXCELLENT article and well-crafted comments. I’ve been ‘leading worship’ for more than 40 years in congregational evangelical churches. We are facing a MAJOR crisis within the context of Sunday (Sabbath) worship. When the people quit SINGING, or at least making their ‘joyful noise’, we stand to lose the power and dynamic of corporate worship that God intended. I’m all for the newest, coolest ‘sound’ … but, not at the expense of dumbing down the congregation. Jesus longs for authentic and intentional worshipers; not screaming fans and #BFF’s.
THANK YOU! This has been a growing concern of mine as I travel and connect with the worship community. It is time for Worship Leaders to recalibrate and refocus our worship on the King, not being the king. Great word and thank you for sharing! Blessings!
I agree with nearly everything except using original music in extreme moderation. Using an original song does not automatically mean it is inaccessible to your congregation, or self indulgent, or will take the focus off of God. Those are all just assumptions. Original music can be just as profound and accessible for your congregation as popular worship songs. If done well, they can be even more “pastoral” because the lyrics can be tailored to reflect what God is speaking to your congregation right now.
I agree with you that original songs, if done well, can be effective. I’m not opposed to worship leaders using their original songs. By “extreme moderation” I simply mean that worship leaders should be careful not to overly populate a set list with their original songs at the expense of people singing along.
I thinbk it’s interesting how many worship leaders on this blog seem offended that Mr. Brown suggested that maybe some of them are using their own original songs too much. I wonder how many of the same worship leaders would defend the over-use of Isaac Watt’s hymns, or John Newton’s, or Charles Wesley’s. I suspect that many of us congregants tolerate or even enjoy the original songs we sing congregationally, but I wonder how many of us really prefer them over other well-known and loved songs/hymns. This is not meant to be an attack on the songwriting worship leader. Merely a suggestion that others may not be as gung-ho about “your” song as “you” are. BTW, this is coming from a guitar-playing, song-writing, former worship leader.
As a worship leader and artist both I want to say thank you for this honest and well worded post. When I perform 3-4 days a week (Christian music) then go to my home church Sunday morning to lead it is a conscious decision I make to remind myself that it’s not the same setting. Just simple things you said like “keep the lights up” can put us back in the mindset we need to be in.
So many times I hear bands who specifically call themselves worship bands singing songs that only they know (or their listeners and congregation) and often times with no lyrics helping the crowd follow along. It’s tough because as songwriters we believe in our music and want to use our music to encourage people but have to make sure as leaders we are inclusive of all of God’s children.
Your list of suggestions in the middle is good for the most part. However, you get into some that are matters of personal preference (“get your face off the big screen,” “keep the lights up”). You’re on target when you get to the heart behind those things, but those practices are not always self-centered.
While those might be triggers of “performancism” for you, keep in mind that what might be more humble in comparison to our experiences would be very distracting for someone from another background (use of instruments in worship, use of projection in worship).
“Serve your congregations, point them to Jesus, help them sing along and sing with confidence.” — Absolutely.
Thanks, Bethany. I’m going to expand on why I do think that projecting the worship leader’s face is a bad idea in a separate post. As for having the lights down, that’s simply out of a desire to encourage participation all around the room. When people can’t hear or see the people around them, then it’s no wonder they don’t engage with the people around them.
I agree with what Bethany is saying. I felt similarly when reading this post – several of the things you mention are preferences, like the lighting. In our church, we have found that lower light levels encourage people to participate more, because they are less self conscious that people are watching them. Again, that is what we have found works to facilitate worship best in our setting, or simply put, it is the preference of our congregation.
I was at the NWLC last week and I can relate that there were times I had to fight to stay tuned in, but, take Tim Timmons’ worship set as an example. I LOVED those songs that I had never heard before, and as a side note thought he did an incredibly effective job of leading us through the melodies with his simple, non-weird hand motions. Back to my point, I think that how many original songs you sing, or new songs are all a matter of preference as well. Same thing for IMAG of the worship leaders. One one hand it can glorify the worship leaders and on another hand in a venue that is large enough, it may actually facilitate worship to be able to see the magnified image of the worship leaders. Tim Timmons is a great example of that. What he was doing to lead us through the new songs would have been helpful to see in a larger context, especially if it was in a room that was any larger.
I think the heart of your post is on-point and this is a topic that worship leaders need to always be wrestling with, because the underlying question is, how can I most effectively lead people to connect with God in worship, but I think it is one that can lead us into dangerous territory where we may misinterpret the intentions of those who have different preferences than us, calling them out for performancism, when it might not be that at all.
I appreciate Jamie Grace’s comments, because I think she is right on target when she mentions remembering what context she is in. It’s all about context, knowing the people you are serving and leading, and how to do that most effectively without being in the way.
Thanks for posting this. Great discussion going on here!
Thanks for this post, you have a lot of great insight here. I agree with Bethany when it comes to the personal preference aspect of some of your comments related to keeping the lights up and getting the worship leader’s face off the big screen. Creating an atmosphere for people to enter into the presence of the Lord is the job of a worship leader.
We all have different preferences, some people prefer lowered lights like myself, some prefer them on; it isn’t a holy versus unholy issue. In regards to the big screens and panning in on the worship leader, I think this can be an incredibly powerful tool for connecting with a congregation, especially in a larger environment. There is power in connecting with a person who is encountering the Lord, it can spark a flame in someone’s heart and help them get to a place of intimacy with Him.
Overall, very great article. Let’s just all remember that The Lord is always bringing forth a new sound from His people that He might receive the glory due His name. If we all get to a place of stepping aside and letting the Lord lead, we will see the fullness of His goodness and people’s lives will be radically changed forever.
Thanks, Brandon. I appreciate what you have to say. I’m going to expand on why I think it’s a bad idea for a worship leader’s face to be projected on a screen in a separate post. I’m grateful for this kind of dialogue!
Reblogged this on johnforbis.com and commented:
Every Worship Pastor/Leader should read this blog…I couldn’t agree more with what Jamie is saying here! Thanks for sharing Jamie!!!
Reblogged this on johnforbis.com and commented: Every Worship Pastor/Leader should read this blog…I couldn’t agree more with what Jamie is saying here! Thanks for sharing Jamie!!!
I understand your logic, but I have to disagree with you. Church services are a MAN MADE creation. Whether they meet on Sunday or Tuesday, 30 min or 4 hours, sing or don’t sing, one is not more pleasing to God than any other because God did not mandate any specific type of worship service. Trends and styles will come and go and this is just one were in right now.
I’m not disagreeing that some worship leaders are too focused on themselves, but this isn’t a new thing because we’re singing original music or turning down the lights. God said the people’s worship in the book of Malachi made him sick. It’s always been a temptation for worship to be self centered but the method used in a worship service isn’t the problem.
I think the problem lies in the fact that every leader and every generation believes their way of “doing” a service is the type God approves of the most, but he doesn’t approve of any them more than another. We talk about God’s presence as if its summoned by our intensity or style-when it is already holding us together in our being.
On a side note, I grew up with my mom singing in the choir and going back into a key change when the crowd responded well, and I thought it reeked of performance. I feel like what I do is genuine but my kids wont.
Agreed! IF your heart is right, ANY worship is acceptable to the Lord! Sing a new Song!!! Psalms 96:1 & 144:9 🙂
You know what really bothers me about worship teams these days? It’s not the things written in this article – although I can see an “element” of truth in (probably) all of them. But since I’m part of the worship team, and since I think like I’m a worship musician … I probably am seeing things differently than the congregational people are seeing them. And what do I see? Here’s what (and it really bothers me):
When I get around other church’s worship teams, I would like to think that there would be some kind of a “camaraderie” amongst us. I know for fact that we know who each other is … by name and by “function”. But when I visit them *on their own turf* (so to speak) … I find that the teams are unbelievably “exclusive”. It is just *profound*! And I’ve seen it *over and over again*. (I visit other churches fairly often for various special speakers and so forth.)
It reminds me of high school, really! Do you remember the “cliques” in high school? My school had lots of them. Those cliques were what I am talking about here! When I try to find some degree of “fellowship” with my “colleagues” in other churches and other “bands” … I so-often feel like a *nobody*. Remember, it’s me going to *their* “house” — very rarely the other way around. It’s me going up to them when they’re “off stage” to re-introduce myself and try to kick off a conversation. And far too often, it’s me walking out the door, somewhat meekly, with my “tail tucked between my legs”, feeling like I’m a “zero” in the company of greatness.
Wow. And this has been no isolated occurrence. This has been the *norm*.
God bless and love forever!
David S that has been my experience too, but my experience was a very bad one so this is with a grain of salt. In fact, I’d really love to hear some positive experiences from others because my husband (not a muso) has pretty much given up hope of ever seeing a music/worship team that isn’t riddled with pride/ego/agenda/and selfish ambition, having seen me hurt badly. Like I said, my experience was pretty bad and it breaks my heart because I am a musician and I long to worship within a team again. But to the point here, musicians by their very artsy/creative/expressive nature can be a funny bunch of people, so when they find others like themselves, they tend to close ranks and put off an air of exclusivity, even in the church. I’ve found that music teams are very cliquey even within their own turf. It’s like a line drawn around the stage and the musos can cross that line to pack up their gear etc after a service, and together they share a bond and a certain amount of joviality that no one else can break into. The gift they share and express together is special, for sure, but they need to be aware that the air of exclusivity they put across is very bad and damaging. But again that should come from the top down. A well-functioning leadership team should be able to recognise the exclusivity (as well as the pride/performancism) if it’s there and be able to challenge/reprimand/gently remind the worship team of their role.
Susan, I am part of the worship team at http://www.conduitchurch.com
We’ve never had that occur.. we have 3 worship leaders, and basically 3 teams that rotate. None of us think we are higher than the other. It’s a beautiful thing! So, not all churches have pride/ego issues.
I’m the worship leader at Fellowship Church (www.fellowshipindedham.org) and our team (some church volunteers and some paid simply because of the smaller size of our church and our current needs) is wonderfully intertwined with our church attenders. In fact, it seems like half the congregation ends up on the platform every Sunday after worship. It is unfortunate that you’ve experienced these things but it really does depend on the church – as Keith said, not all worship teams have the same issues. That being said, this is, I find, one of the most difficult things about Christianity – we often have an expectation of Christians to be different, better, less prone to certain things, but the fact is we are all still sinners and continually need to check ourselves. None of us is above committing any of the sins you listed. We all need the grace and forgiveness of God and others around us to smooth out the rough edges. I pray you and your husband will be able to forgive those who have hurt you and open yourselves up to God’s healing touch so that you can join with a new band of believers and minister in God’s grace together.
This is an excellent post, and I agree with other commenters that the problem of performancism isn’t unique to the worship leader. Pastors often seem to struggle with it from the pulpit, and the whole idea of a multi-media “experience” can get out of hand. I studied film peoduction in school, but I’ve been a stay-at-home Mom for almost 10 years. About a year ago, I inquired at the church I was attending about whether I could contribute in any way to the films and videos that the church created and showed in the service each Sunday. I was summarily dismissed and essentially told that they didn’t need any volunteers like me–they had professionals and “volunteers with qualifications” who “took care of all of that.” I felt sad that my training and skills couldn’t be put to use there in any way–I was not worthy. I can only assume that it’s because any substandard offering on my part would negatively affect the “performance.” I honestly think it’s a far-reaching problem with many layers: what does a generation who takes in a steady diet of hi-def, surround sound, on-demand everything throughout the rest of their lives expect out of a Sunday morning in church? How can church “compete” and should it have to? The phrase “Harder for a camel to go through the eye of a needle” comes to mind……
Another thing which this article did not mention, which I think is noteworthy: it’s the *volume level* of the music. To me, it’s so loud, it’s “crazy”. So you’re telling me I should stop complaining and just get a pair of ear plugs? Yes, that’s *exactly* what I hear from the church leadership!
And I guess they want me to take the ear plugs out once they preaching starts, right?
Thanks, Jamie. I’m blown away that I’ve had the privilege and opportunity to lead worship at the same church for almost 11 years now. We have journeyed many miles together and I am the richer for it. As I lead our team and congregation week in and week out, I really appreciate the checks and challenges in your post. Thanks for leading us leaders. Let’s do lunch sometime.
I have hesitated about getting into the worship debates because I don’t want to criticize anyone else’s worship. But when it comes to LEADING others in worship, I do think that there are some important principles, the major one being to facilitate worship, taking into account how people in the church best worship. One of the problems with original music is that the writer might not know if it’s a good congregational song or not. Our church used tepid, unsingable, unrhyming, no-tune songs for a while because they were originals of the worship leader. They did not work as congregational worship songs! I’m also a give-upper on the worship because it’s too LOUD. Since when is it a loving thing to hurt my ears and make my chest pound? I literally feel assaulted by the music sometimes. I did the ear plugs for a while but I don’t want to give my toddler ear plugs and I think the volume is hearing-damaging. ….. I grew up in a traditional church doing traditional music, but I was taught that the role of the musician/leader is to be inconspicuous. Competent enough to not distract with mistakes non-showy enough to not distract with show-offy-ness.
As someone who trains worship leaders in a Bible College, this article is insightful and I largely concur with your assessment. The more I know (and teach) about leading worship (practically) the more I wish to stop talking about all of that and focus on the one thing that matters – knowing Jesus. There are a million ways to suggest how to build a worship set, how to lead, what key to put things in, using Nashville numbering systems for chord charts, how to do the lighting for optimal experience, how to have a good working relationship with the Pastor, Songwriting, etc, etc. blah, blah …BUT there’s really only ONE role that a worship leader NEEDS to have, and that’s the skill of leading people – individuals- into a worship experience that’s personal between them and God. Everything else is fluff and won’t matter too much in the end.
Its the heart – not the art – that matters most and models well for others what matters to God. We are and will be held accountable for our leadership of this nature. No, we can’t make people worship, nor can we worship for them, but we MUST teach them HOW to worship for themselves! That’s why I train worship leaders…get good at your craft so it isn’t a focus or distraction and you can place your focus on following (God) and leading (the congregation). Its takes both great skill and desired focus in the right place to achieve a good balance. Anytime its anything more than that, we’ve missed the mark. I’ve led worship in mega churches and big platforms as well as in tiny prayer rooms on a regular basis. I’m not a stranger to most any setting, But my goal, I pray will always remains the same…lead others TO CHRIST in worship. Anytime we pat ourselves on the back for a job well done for any other accomplishment in worship, we should take notice and search our hearts.
Kudos to “former Creative director” comments above. Agreed. So who’s job is it to help the Senior Pastor understand what he needs to look for in an ideal worship leader? My advice to EVERY church leader/pastor out there…especially BIG churches: STOP hiring worship leaders by charisma and talent first. Instead, ask God for those called, anointed, and qualified with that which matters most to Him when it comes to worship!! Walk in discernment of people’s calling and don’t be swayed by charismatic leadership. Worship leaders should lead people to God, not people to people. We NEED leaders who really know their own need to rely on the Lord for strength to lead and do so out of conviction of faith, not great manipulation or people-pleasing skills. This sets a tone that is delivered to those that serve, and while you may feel at ease about their leadership abilities, it won’t lead your congregation where they really need to go – into a place of great need for, surrender to, and worship of the Only Worthy One.
Luke 10:38-42. Only ONE thing is needed.
Hey Marcia Alverson – I think you have a really great point about the 1 thing that worship leaders really need to do. I think you must be a relevant teacher at your Bible College, by the way. Ha. 🙂
May I ask: can you recommend any books or other resources on that exact subject?
“Even I didn’t know most of the songs that we were supposed to be singing along to at the conference. I tuned out. I sat down. I Tweeted. I texted my wife. I gave up.” This smacks of an “it’s all about me” attitude. Not to throw out the valid points you’re attempting to make, but the statement above appears to be coming from a bit of a consumer mentality, which is what feeds the performancism you’re railing against, which weakens your arguments considerably, IMO.
I thought the exact same thing. We know how much we have to let go of catering to other people’s preferences and we don’t want them to tune out when they don’t know a song or it’s not their style of music, so why would we do the same thing when put in that situation? I would encourage my congregation to intentionally try to connect with God in those moments, even if it means closing their eyes and just soaking it in instead of singing.
“Performancism” is a state of the heart MUCH more so than it is the medium/songs/technology being used. The counteraction to it is not to sing less original songs or turn the lights up or to not talk so much (every single one of those is a preference thing)… it’s re-directing OUR hearts as worship leaders to be authentic (I fully believe people see right through us when we’re putting on a show and not really worshipping with them), and it’s verbally praying over and encouraging our congregations to let go of their preferences, let go of anything standing in their way of opening themselves up to God, and to step out and be vulnerable and intentional in that special, short amount of time we have together each week. It’s our responsibility to teach our congregation what that time is all about, and that happens in the way that we talk and the way that we lead – NOT in what we tune or cut out.
Jamie- stay on top of this and in it we’ll. you have the eyes, ears and voice to push this top up a hill. All pastors unite to make it right. Or people will flee the church.
Jamie- stay on top of this and through your eyes, ears and voice you can push this rope up the hill. All pastors unite to make it right. Or people will flee the church. And unchurched will stay that way.
There is a young man who has a group called Esterlyn who lead s worship, and i was deeply moved when they came to our church . they led us into the throne room of God, and it was Good.They are musically excellent, but the spirit is not one of entertainment, but worship.This is what worship should be. Not a show, but surrender. MB Malone Goleta CA
Reblogged this on Brake 5.
I appreciate what you are saying here. As a singer in the bass register, I often drop out of congregational singing because it just sounds weird to have a bellowing frog singing the melody line of a worship song. It’s not pleasant. You don’t hear that on top 40. For this reason I prefer hymns, because (in many cases) the words and focus are solid and every voice can find a place to contribute. Even the bellowing frogs can sing their one bellow-y low note the whole time and it sounds like a chorus. That is all.
Reblogged this on hunnymoney and commented:
There is a lot of truth in this, and frankly it is a bigger concern at larger churches. I attend a large church and serve in the worship ministry. I must confess that there are times when I think there is too much emphasis on performing for the congregation rather than leading them in worship. In fairness I do not feel this way often, which is good. However, in many large churches like ours there are many people who are talented enough to be performers; actors, singers, instrumentalists, etc. The very real danger is when we start thinking that we’re the show rather than Jesus being the show. We must always remember that God could raise up a rock to sing more beautifully than we ever could if He chose to do it. Our talents are gifts from Him an should always be used to point others to Him. We must not ever reach the point where we are so performance-driven that we actually disengage the congregation from the very worship we are supposed to be leading. God uses us by His grace, not our ability and any worship that tends to focus more on us and our performance than on Him and His love is dangerous. Worship should always be focused on Him, so we must ever be mindful not to become a stumbling block to worship when we’re supposed to be a stepping stone.
I love this article, agree 100%. I was taught that no matter the song or style, glorify Christ & edify the body. The Holy Spirit was sent to glorify Christ, If I glorify anything else, The Holy Spirit is grieved and backs away, no blessing remains.
I agree with your concern and warning. But as I was reading your admonition – that I’ll paraphrase as “Stop making yourself the focus!” – it was increasingly clear that much of this post could addressed to preachers as well.
Listening to all sorts of music outside of the worship of God is fine… but why sing songs of men that are far inferior to the Psalms that God wrote himself?
Reblogged this on Gay and Evangelical and commented:
I’m a worship leader in my local church and I agree that worship leaders need to help their congregations sing with confidence and point them to Jesus. The church as ‘concert hall’ is problematic at best and soul-killing at worst.
I think the point that some missed is that it is too easy for a worship leader to think arrogantly of his own music, so we would do well to err on the side of caution and humility in using others’ music (that we already know is congregation-appropriate) more often than not. If your congregation likes your original lyrics and you recycle the songs enough that they can learn and appreciate them, great! But don’t get ahead of yourself. Remember, in the Bible worship and singing is not so much an “experience” but an opportunity to teach, admonish, and encourage one another.
” Remember, in the Bible worship and singing is not so much an “experience” but an opportunity to teach, admonish, and encourage one another.”
By saying this you’re exposing what looks like an intent to ignore the scriptures that precede Matthew. All throughout there and especially in the golden age of the nation of Israel worship was absolutely an experience. Not an experience that remained on the emotional or feelings level (although those are fully in there) but an encounter with the Word or words of God and His presence which is the same thing as encountering God himself. Teaching, admonishing, and encouraging one another may be only one third of the types of worship songs that can be experienced – “person to person”. There are also “person to God” songs and “God to person” songs. Let’s not neglect the full spectrum, brother. Revelation 14:6-7.
Amen! Thank you for speaking out against this trend.
I think that this is a good view point but I struggle with people needing the perfect conditions to worship. Why can we not worship even when others are preforming. Why give up? Why do we rely on others to be so influential on our personal experience. I lead worship at a young adults service and the band was accused of performing. Someones opinion, doesn’t mean it is correct. You cannot force people to worship. Just be genuine in your leading and worship to God and He will use that to reach those who are there with a worshipful/open heart. There will always be people reading the bulletins unfortunately. I do agree with the song choices and making it as easy as possible for people, but you will not please everyone.
Hi Robyn. I’m certainly not advocating that worship leaders seek to provide “the perfect conditions to worship”. That’s simply impossible and unmeasurable. And I agree with you 100% that you can’t force people to worship and you can’t please everyone. But worship leaders should pursue the heart of a servant towards their congregation, and seek to engage as many people as they can, knowing that not everyone will accept that invitation. Sadly, in many evangelical circles today, the songs and leaders are becoming a bit less invitational.
Thank you for posting your thoughts. I have been serving as a Minister of Music/WorshipPastor/Worship Leader (the terms keep changing) for the past 32 years, the current position for 16 years. Through these years we have been intentional to make changes so that we are delivering the message of the gospel in a current/relevant manor. However, we are careful that changes are strategic and also gradual. This is done so that we can bring along with us as many people as possible, inviting and encouraging them to participate.
Planning and leading a group of people to God in worship is not about picking the top three or four favorites songs. It should be about how we are using songs to present the message of the Gospel…the story of God…the complete story of God. We use new songs, old songs and old old songs, as long as the message is sound and we can answer the question “why did we include this song in this worship outline?” No matter the age of the song, they can be presented in a relevant way that encourages participation.
Each week as we choose songs for worship we look for songs with great biblical content that can be sung by the congregation. And yes…we often changes the keys of the songs so that the melodic range is accessible to the congregation.
I agree the performer/worship leader is hurting congregation worship. Especially when they are the only ones who can sing the songs. However, a trend that is just as disturbing to me is that of the rotating worship leader. This occurs when the congregation does not know from week to week who will be leading them. Granted a worship leader who is a consistent stage presence does not have to lead every song, pray every prayer or segue through every song transition. However I believe a consistent ‘worship leader’ does help the congregation feel comfortable to participate and also ‘safe’ through changes of style and addition of new songs.
Michael, good to hear thoughts from someone with your experience and years in and leading worship. Thanks. Interesting point about the “rotating worship leader.” I’ll be thinking about that some more.
Isn’t worship about interacting with God more than about deciding how we want to “present the message of the Gospel”? That seems more like the will of man than the leading of the Holy Spirit unless we’re talking about the everlasting gospel mentioned in Revelation 14:6,7. Didn’t worship exist before any person was commissioned to spread the gospel, and won’t worship continue for eternity long after there is a need to present the gospel? “On Earth as it is in Heaven,” right? I’m with ya my probably more experienced brother.
Our worship leader sent a link to this post to our entire praise team and encouraged us to read so that we can discuss our thoughts as a group. You have certainly inspired people to converse about a very important aspect of the worship service so kudos for that! Thought provoking, excellent points and well written. Be blessed! Val
Reblogged this on mike ruel and commented:
This is a very important read for all worship leaders.
How about putting worship leaders and bands behind the congregation? How about Churches start writing their own songs and have elders review for theology, instead of grabbing the latest CCM hit song and applying it to worship with no regard to the theology of the CCM artist that wrote the song? How about worship being the whole of our service not just the signing part? How about writing songs that are verbatim scripture?
I agree with almost all of this post. I was at the conference as well. I am not a worship leader. I was invited by our team to attend some of the tech breakouts. However, I used to lead worship with a team for students, so music is in my background. Where I have to disagree with you is from the standpoint of the music at the conference. According to your post you keep up with quite a bit of music dealing with worship. I do not, but I had no problem singing, worshiping, and quickly learning the majority of the songs during the morning worship sessions. However, on Wednesday morning there was a gentleman on piano and two singers that was extremely painful during the morning worship session. Now a little background about myself, I grew up Southern Baptist, I’ve been in the church my entire life, I grew up on three hymns, the doxology, and come to Jesus invitational. I looked around that room and that gentleman was playing the piano with his seriously outdated tone, and style, and the room was almost numb. 2 to 3 people occasionally had their hands lifted and worship. Now let’s go to thursday morning, a band in the more current style of today’s worship, 85% of the room with their hands in the air glorifying God. It was not a performance, it was not an act, it was a room full of people glorifying God through music. Again I agree with you about the performance driven aspect of your post, but I did not walk away thinking all of the worship at the national worship leaders conference was a show with people watching or music hard to learn and follow.
Hi Dave. It’s so helpful to hear your feedback. I agree with you about the Wednesday morning session. And you’re right, the majority of the new songs were pretty easy to learn. And since most of us in the room (even you) were musicians, we were able to pick up on the songs once we got to the second (or so) chorus. But it took some work. And when this happens outside of a worship conference, in a normal church’s normal Sunday service, full of normal non-musicians, people won’t be so willing to do the work to learn a lot of new songs. I’m glad the Thursday morning session went so well. I heard them sound-checking and they seemed to be drawing from a much more well-known repertoire of songs.
I really, really agree, but I do have a question about one thing. How does a worship leader differentiate between doing things that overflow from his or her personality and doing things that are just performing? I’m 40, and I’ve basically been involved in what is now called “modern worship” since I was born (and in the womb). When I came of age and began being involved on worship teams it sure seemed like the direction musicians and aspiring worship leaders were given was to remove their personality from the leading of worship at all costs or above everything else. When an individual really enjoys God and does that in front of other people, however, the line between what people see as personality, leading corporate worship, and performing can get fuzzy. If I stuff my personality (what I personally like and enjoy) down to make myself a cross-section of my congregation then eventually people will turn off out of boredom and will miss out on “singing a new song” as Scripture invites and implores us to do. If personality and “freedom of expression” is all that’s celebrated then it just becomes performance. I don’t believe there is one answer or formula for this, though. It is a moving target that requires us to freshly hear the voice of God and humbly with boldness follow in faith where we see Him leading because He is leading. He is leading, and the river of life flows from His throne. In His river are there edges, and are the edges making the river wider and bringing more people into the flow that goes right back around to the throne of the one true living God?
Hi Dave. Of course when you lead worship you lead with the personality God gave you. Worship leaders who try to emulate someone else, or who try to not be who they are, end up insecure. But as a worship leader, your personality must serve the congregation. Not the other way around. Your personality must serve the musicians around you. Not the other way around. When a worship leader’s personality drives a service, it’s in danger of performancism.
Very interesting article. Gives worship leaders food for thought. From a stand point of “New Material” I have found that new material is great but give the people time to learn the songs and to build a emotional connection to the lyrics and then they can sing with the true heart of worship.. People tend to like and respond / sing to what they know. Sro I agree new material is great but just keep it in perspective! I just discovered your site. will be following you! God Bless!
Reblogged this on D.A.R.E to HOPE.
Great insight! I totally agree. Unfortunately I fear the “crash” you describe to be inevitable. There’s too much money at stake for this “industry” to move in the direction you describe as proper. And we have no one to blame but ourselves. We, the people, are drawn to the show. Pastors grow churches on the show. Somewhere along the line we realize that without the show, there’s nothing, and life would be too uncomfortable without the show… Father forgive us, we know not what we do…
I agree with this entirely. Have you ever been to the LIFT conference? It’s also a worship leader’s conference designed with the same idea, minus the workshops and walking around so much. It’s at Passion City Church in ATL where Giglio is. Check it out some time.
I would like to reply to Robby Wingfield. I am not a worship leader but I read this article with great interest. I think I am going to go right to the heart of your question/position. As a very active church member and worshiper who frequently visits churches of family members, I am very unhappy when there is only 1 song in a worship set of 4 or 5 songs that I know much less can sing along with. As we age it is increasingly more difficult to learn new material, plus our musical range decreases. When I go to a new church, I do anticipate that I might not know all the music but am hopeful to be able to sing along with at least 1 or 2 numbers. As a member of the congregation, I want to attend a church where I feel like part of the worship, not just as an viewer at a concert. It does absolutely NOTHING for me to watch other people worship and when people are not involved they eventually leave and find ‘greener’ pastures where they can feel involved. We need desperately to return worship to an interactive experience rather than an ‘entertainment’ experience. Worship should never be about being entertained. If that’s all you are getting out of it, you might as well stay home. I love listening to new music and learning new music, but if I was at a church where the worship leader was introducing his/her own new music every service, I would have to wonder who they were trying to glorify and what they were trying to prove. I try not to be cynical, but I have been around awhile and one of the things I have learned is that all of us, Christian or non, have the same battle of the flesh when it comes to motivations. When all a worship leader can see is how their own creations can ‘benefit’ the church, then I wonder if maybe they have become blinded to the true reason behind it.. This is not to say that this is your motivation, but just to share a little bit of the life lessons I have learned. I don’t want my grandchildren growing up thinking that worship is only about entertainment and never making sure that they are somewhere where they can be involved.
Thank you for taking the time to share your position on my opinion, Juli. Thank also for being self-aware of your cynicism, because I believe it to be getting the better of you right now.
I write new music because I am a composer by trade. I write commercial Jingles for, Intel, many of the resorts here in Las Vegas, and arrange music for professional singers. My God given gift and passion is to write music. I write commercial music to take care of my family and I write praise music to satisfy my soul and hopefully uplift those whom I serve. (How great thou art rrings in my head as I write this.)
I believe you may have missed a point I made in follow up with Jamie (Thank you again Jamie for taking the time to do your work and answer my questions!) I plan a very wide range of aesthetics every week. We do an upbeat gathering song typically with a call and response like “I am free”. I then plan a traditional hymn (from our UCC hymnal), I will re-arrange an existing hymn with a more modern feel and add a worship-style chorus culled from one of the lines of the hymn. (Think Amazing Grace/My Chains Are Gone or “In Christ alone with Solid Rock) I will then do two uptempo praise songs one from the Hillsong of the 90’s and 2000’s and then a more current tune from Matt Maher, Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, etc… We will also insert the Call to Worship liturgy in the middle of one of these songs so those that don’t like to sing can still speak the Liturgy and feel involved in the music. I then will do something contemplative mid tempo like from “Dalrene Zschech” or Ed Cash, Paul Baloche. Or I may do an original here. During this song this song the congregation will read the Gospel we are using for the day and the Pastor will lead a prayer, again so those who don’t wish to sing can be involved in worship. I then, do a simple repeating ballad for communion that has very simple lyrics so that people can sing along without staring at the screen. Something Like “Open the Eyes of My heart” or something from the Taize hymnal. Sometimes the pastor will write an affirmation that he uses in his sermon and I will set it to music. We will then reprise a song (just sing a churs) from the upbeat worship set after the benediction. All of this is done at a comfortable volume without overly dramatic lighting. The congregation is dim but not dark. Nothing even close to what a typical concert would be.
I write original music because I do it to serve my congregation’s needs. I don’t have a website, I don’t sell CD’s, I’m not interested in a record deal, I write out the sheet music for all of my songs. These sheets are fully notated as if professionally published so the band can easily play along as if it were any other “well known” song. I also do this so that I can share them with other worship leaders or people interested in my praise music. Usually once a month or so, someone from the Choir at an ELCA church where I serve as youth music director, will ask me to do a song of mine with the large choir they have, so I arrange it for them and they sing it.
The UCC is a very progressive church, we do not like overtly glorifying only the masculine forms of God. (This in my opinion is the real crash of worship music that is coming but a conversation better left for another time.). I don’t want women feeling like they don’t have a God that exists in THEIR likeness. I am not opposed to referring to God as He during worship, I am opposed to only referring to God as He, I will typically say You, or God when it doesn’t make the lyrics sound overly contrived in a popular worship song. We are also not overly fond of singing of the “warrior Jesus”
I also write new music for the Children’s choir I lead because I want to give them an opportunity to sing about to mystery and intimacy of God, not just Old Testament bible stories.
I attend a church where the minister seeks to challenge the congregation to live as Jesus did, to love like God loves, to express divinity in everything we do. (please don’t read this as saying that other churches don’t) He does not want to stand up there and simply keep reaffirming how everyone already feels. Telling the congregation what they want to hear. If one believes this position to be valid, are we not willing to draw a connection of that conviction to worship? If we don’t continually add new music how are we not just simply providing entertainment? Play one’s very greatest hit album over and over.
Forgive me for sounding defensive but many here are speaking very plainly, in a very wide-sweeping fashion about things that have a great deal of missing details. (And I am very passionate about those details if my verbosity did not already make that plain to see). In my speculation, many of have a negative view of worship music as it is being performed today when they are simply at the mercy of someone who should not be in their position. This is no different than a minister/pastor who is not serving the needs of their congregation. I don’t feel a crash coming at the churches I serve, I pray for those that don’t feel this way. I appreciate every comment card I get back after service. If you are unhappy I would express your feelings to your worship leader. Also, If you’d like to take a walk in my shoes my facebook account is attached.
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;
The United Church of Christ http://www.ucc.org
me thinkest thou doth protest too much…and if you had gotten the heart behind what Juli was saying you wouldn’t have needed to add a scripture about judging at the end of your defensive comment.
I agree there are a large number of worship pastors who need to take a step back and look. I was encouraged by the new song side of it. However, the thing I find that wasn’t exspressed is the thought that we do need to learn new songs as well. I mean, not overload it to where the congregation is tuned out. But expressing a since of newness is never wrong. As Christians we learn new things every day from scripture that we never knew. I also think there is some importance to relevance. On both sides of the spectrum. Not too new and not too old. Eventually we have to be relevent enough to reach lost who wouldn’t want to attend. It’s a fine line I’m sure. Good read though. It makes me think. Are the songs more about situations between I and Christ. Or more for praising God?
Thanks, Josh. I agree with you. We do need to learn new songs. But one of the growing trends in evangelical worship is worship sets that are heavily weighted towards new and unfamiliar songs. Many times these songs aren’t even intentionally taught, they’re just launched into. I would encourage worship leaders to introduce new songs with discretion, and to continue to sing well-known songs and hymns that the congregation can engage with robustly, in order to build confidence, to gain trust, and to earn capital that you can then spend when you teach a new one.
I’ve always thought of worship leaders as the Levite Priests of the church “Tabernacle”. Now go look up Aaron’s sons offering strange fire and see how that went (Leviticus 10). Although it doesn’t say exactly what strange fire was, I can imagine that with all eyes on them, they were drawing attention to themselves and away from a Holy God.
The problem with that is that we don’t have Levite priests anymore, and to assume that we are is false.
I was not being literal, just saying that saying that worship leaders have a similar, humble, role. Today, if you are an attention-seeker, and have hopes of being a future singing star with all eyes on you, the worship team is the perfect place for you.
Attention-seekers can/will always try to get attention — not just on worship teams — but also in choirs, committees, small groups, etc. But since you mentioned worship teams, I would say that a worship leader’s job is to select its members carefully, to ensure that the people being added to the team are there to serve the congregation, not become famous. And a worship leader is also always cultivating a culture of the humility on the worship team that doesn’t feed diva-ism.
Well I pretty muh totally agree .. Except for also that God also gives people certain avenues and certain people that they can connect to more than others . Like me for instance .. I am a worship leader I have both the congregational worship and also I have a hardcore metal band that reaches a lot of different people and the lyrics are all about God and real tangible things that people who are still young in the faith can connect to . Not eeyore knows why reverence is . I myself would have never opened my eyes to the gospel if it weren’t for churches that quote unquote perform .. Bc that’s what I connected with .. I saw people who were just like me tht were not trying to get all hyper sorority all about things . If you ask me another disturbing trend is people trying to over analyze everything about worship and what it is and what’s it’s about .. And it’s just sounds like the Pharisees all over again .. This worship is order bc we are not drawing attention to ourselves .. But correct me if I’m wrong but Gods command is to play with excellence and skill .. And I’m sorry but nowadays the only people you are going to connect with with that kind of worship is people string in the faith .. If I was back in the day and came into a church singing how great thou art or something like that or even some of the worship songs out now . I probably would have turned around and left . While I do agree that there is a lot of false worship and people doing it for money .. I also know people who want to connect people with God in anyway possible .. And by using what God has created .. ie. light shows , guitar solos , whatever it may be .. So be it .. If it can bring a guy like me who was a touring musician for many years .. Into surrendering my life to Christ and than taking my gifts and serving The Lord with them I’m sure God is happy with that offering . I don’t agree with the overanalazation of corporate worship at all . There are different types of music for different types of people .. All created by and for the same God . And that is all that matters . Who are we to judge who worships better than who . GOD knows peoples hearts and intentions .. So everyone leave it up to him .
I am not a worship leader but a 72 year old worshiper who only in the last few years years of being a Christian have learned what worship really means. I don’t carry a tune and never have. I love to “sing” or say my worship to Him instead of about Him.
“about” Him is ok sometimes but “to” Him is where my spirit and soul really connect (to Him}.
I was just mentioning to our congregation how blessed we were that our worship leader left us.It allowed us to find our own voices, to make our own music and to praise God in our own unique way…I kinda hope we don’t get another one 😉
Or, better yet, pray that God will bring a worship leader who will help your congregation see and savor Jesus Christ with even more clarity and freedom.
Maybe, don’t judge a worship leader by a worship conference? Just saying. If I were a worship leader and I was invited to sing at a worship conference, wouldn’t I want to try and get my song out in front so that it becomes one of those songs everyone sings.
“Use your original songs in extreme moderation.” If a singer thinks he/she has a song to offer, what better place to sing that at this conference? That may not be a reflection of what happens back home. Again, just saying.
I really enjoyed your insights and agree that we are headed for something different. I believe every generation does indeed head in a new direction.
I have a genuine question though… why do you believe we should use original music in extreme moderation? Just curious…
Hi Becky. I feel another post coming on. I’ll aim to post my reasons for this on Friday morning. Thanks for asking (and for your encouragement too).
I wholeheartedly agree 100%
Great article I came upon thru a friend… I am a worship leader in small town USA and couldn’t agree more. I believe every point you posed even to the danger of originals. There are far too many worship leaders of our day holding congregations hostage to immature theology and bad songwriting.
With that said, we should put out there what we believe the Lord Jesus would have His people singing to Him all week long. In closing, Every worship leader should be MORE concerned about the life lived than the music sung. That defines how well you lead worship because it makes you believable. All glory to Jesus for His death and resurrection:)
I’ve been saying this for a long time. Put the team behind. Move pastor to the back so he can see that people are not engaged and hear the ear splitting decibels.
Amen to your article. Thank you!
I’d add to the list: turn down the volume…. or please don’t exceed 70 decibles. It really does hurt my head after 15 minutes, and also, you can’t hear yourself sing.
YES, gracee! I wholeheartedly agree: when a person in the congregation can’t hear him or her self singing, it really makes them feel like an audience. Painful volume is certainly a problem!
The article was great. Worship leaders should see their congregations as their flock to love and serve, not as a group of people who show up on Sunday mornings.
I just had to re-read this post again as I love it so much. Thank you for putting into words what my spirit has been saying for a long time.
You are my hero.
This isn’t a new thing. I’ve watched from the back-line of worship bands over the past 25 years performance take the place of the Holy Spirit. It sickens me and I can’t for the life of me figure out why people who claim to be following the spirit cannot see what’s happening…..I pray the eyes and hearts of worship leaders & sr. pastors become sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading and not the latest trendy worship confrence’s teaching & leading.
this is a symptom of the “whats in it for me” consumer driven christianity. I really don’t think the problem is with the worship leader. people want their senses stimulated.. hence the lights, smoke, big projection screens, etc. like any wise content provider, the church gives these folks what they are looking for. After all, unhappy flock = gone flock.
So much to address here to get to the real core of it. “Christian” labeled music slid off into another world about the same time Keith Green began protesting the political/marketing tactics at his first Christian Media Conference attendance, – he never made it to the second one (he died in an “airplane crash”). Soon after, our worship went from ‘being led by the Spirit’ in real time, to “getting legal permission” to sing something. (At the same time, while Christian music was aired together with all other pop music, it separated itself from the rest of the world into its own genre in every way.) It would definitely be an advantage to create your own music because you can ask each other’s permission in real time! Begs one to ask how much stake we now have in the Holy Spirit’s leading worship with some available-to-Him vessels? Another issue is that that generation basically threw up their hands and allowed the younger generation to take it. Without experience walking in the Spirit, or having a discipling relationship connected to worship, or even sufficient training from the Word of what worship really is (not just music and singing), with worship that is expectant of the Holy Spirit showing up, or how to pray in this regard, etc, etc, etc. I tell you – you will see the difference when the Holy Spirit shows up in it! But for us humans, especially young ones, it takes so little to satisfy. We are not reaaaally hungry for the real thing. I have a hard time worshiping at most churches because I either stand there in the grieving of the Holy Spirit, or feel my expectations being shut down. It then becomes ‘work’ to connect with the Holy Spirit in a corporate setting where it’s all over the place, missing it. I mean, I can do it, but why? (usually I just pray in the Spirit for the whole scenario around me.) I pray some day, those of us will be united who seek His will in our lives, worship included, where we are in a place where the HOLY Spirit CAN lead. Too much self in the way these days.
I appreciate your words of thought . I have been blessed to be in the Music ministry for some 30+ years . I have seen this coming our direction in the evangelical church some 20 years ago . I love contemporary Praise and Worship and work each week with some awesome vocalist and musicians . Serving in a church in one of Americas leading entertainment areas the problem with performance can easily be just that .. a problem . I have found the more I challenge our people to sing to the audience of one, and lead others to worship along by their side the less issue of performance I have to deal with . I feel if we can educate and lead our church families to see , there is a difference between Concert settings and Church Worship services .. again = less performance issues . Redman said it best .. It is more than a song. . God bless each of you ….. and may we all LIFT HIGH THE NAME OF JESUS ! ! ! He is the Famous One. . .
Great post – I’ll include it at WorshipIdeas.com next week. Oddly enough (or I guess you could say “providentially”) I just did a radio interview on this VERY topic today. I think congregations are at a tipping point – they’re really getting tired of what I call “rock star worship leaders.”
Thankful I DO go to the church featured in your blog picture. Coming from a church where I served on the worship team and the Sunday’s music was thrown together and almost an after thought, to going to a church where worship is a part of life and planned carefully and thoughtfully, it makes a HUGE difference. Not saying people can’t get indulgent in what they are doing on stage, but sometimes it takes big production to get the focus right. Our church’s main focus is to make Jesus famous and to lead people into a REAL, life giving, relationship with Christ. Worship is a huge part of that!
P.S. If you want to check out an amazing worship leader/ song writer who LOVES Jesus, check out Bethany Barr Phillips. Real and no bull. 🙂 http://bethanybarrphillips.com/
Perhaps I’m taking this conversation in another direction, but I can’t help but wonder what we are “expected” to do. Music is emotional; as worship leaders we are supposed to create an atmosphere conducive to an emotional response to God. Some feel that congregational singing is the only point of musical worship (as opposed to just listening or praying while everyone else sings), but we can congregationally recite scripture, creeds, or even lyrics without the music to achieve the same ends. Many churches still do.
There is an inherent emotional context to musical worship, and while many focus on the technical, musical “competence” (where is that line anyway? I keep hearing people say, “Don’t be a distraction” but that line is clearly in a wide variety of places for a wide variety of people), I can’t help but also be concerned about the competence of the worship leader in creating an emotional atmosphere with the music.
I don’t think many of us would come out of a deeply contemplative moment in the service with a loud and upbeat song. But even within a song there are other “emotional competence” issues like dynamics, chord substitution, etc. Which substitution chords are “too” exotic and constitute performancism? The old “major to sus4 and back to major” is widely accepted, but even for the non-musical folks in the congregation it’s clichéd. Is a minor 9th “too far?” How about the flatted fifth?
Am I making sense here? We all have a “performancism” line we feel shouldn’t be crossed, and that line varies for each of us. Some people don’t like their worship leader to move/dance/talk/ad lib/speak in tongues/substitute chords/use their own songs/(insert your personal pet peeve here) too much while leading while others want more of it. I can only conclude that this is both a personal and congregational issue. Some congregations want it. Others don’t. For the “average” church, the head pastor will have to partner with the worship leader in figuring out what reaches the most people and go for that. Sometimes that will lead to the realization that some leaders are a bad fit for a church.
Of course, this works both ways too. If someone doesn’t like what is happening on stage and they make their disapproval clear to the leadership in the church, and the leadership decides to stick with what they’ve been doing, then maybe a church with a different worship culture would work better for them.
Truth be told, if a worship leader can’t adjust for their church and still do their job, their heart isn’t in the right place, and if a congregant can’t get into the worship because they don’t like the song selections (or whatever), then their heart isn’t in the right place either.
We all need to meet at the foot of the cross.
Hi Joshua. A few quick thoughts:
1. You’re right that music is inherently emotional. But I don’t think a worship leader’s job is to “create an atmosphere conducive to an emotional response to God”. We use music as a tool (with all that it carries), but it’s the word of God (the “sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17)) that brings the response, and it’s the Spirit of God that points to Christ (John 16:14).
2. You’re right about competency. Yes, the musicians must play/lead with skill. We must be sensitive to dynamics in the room, like you helpfully point out. But we are called to lead with competency for the sake of serving the people in front of us. Performancism leads us to ignore the people in front of us. That’s the distinction I’d make.
3. You’re right that worship leaders need to be willing to make adjustments, and people in the congregation do too. We belong to one another, and we serve one another, and we don’t elevate the people on stage or the people in the pews as being more important than the other.
Jamie- great article! You have a great insight to the ebb and flow of congregational praise and worship. One thing I might observe from my 25+ years in worship ministries as either a leader or musician is that birds of a feather flock together – meaning there will always be those who seek the “show” and there are those who abhor it as well.
A “crash” may not be the right term – maybe exodus or re-banding. We see a good mix of those who are coming to church from the big-show-church [fill in the location of your own local venue] to get away from the “performancism” to a more grass-roots choir/congregational with a small band and a leader or two. Everyone is encouraged to sing out and keep their eyes on the audience of One.
On the other hand we’ve seen people leave and go across the street to the mega-church with the smoke-n-mirrors and laser show. Everything is carefully choreographed right up to including the “time for the Holy Spirit to move”. I know you know I’m not making this up. But there are fannies in the seats and the offerings are big and the ministries are numerous and the list goes on.
So I’m not so sure anything will crash but I’m more that sure that there will be always be a flavor-of-the-month church available to those with an appetite for whatever they’re hungry for. Hopefully we encourage those who have an ear to hear.
We are not in danger of going there, the Church has already gone there. And I am speaking of 5 years experience on the “praise team”. Such a far cry from the simplicity of the New Testament Church, who put no emphasis on music at all; except the occasional “they sang a hymn and left”. If Jesus came into the majority of American Churches, he wouldn’t even be noticed. God help us. We don’t need more “worship”, we need JESUS.
I’m sorry about your experience at your church. I do think the New Testament church put more of an emphasis on music than you might think (they had all of the Psalms, and Paul encouraged them in two different letters to sing (Colossians 3:16, Ephesians 5:19), and I think the book of Revelation indicates that singing will have a pretty important role for all eternity! But I agree with you that we need Jesus. His “streams of mercy, never ceasing” are what “call for songs of loudest praise”.
Reblogged this on Misijonar sem!.
Thought provoking article – incredibly timely. Thanks, Jamie – I quoted it on BabyBlueOnline.org with links here: http://babybluecafe.blogspot.com/2014/05/evangelical-worship-in-church-are-we.html
I hate going to concerts. And almost every church I’ve been to in my area makes me feel like I’m at a concert. I’ve gotten to the point where I hate going to church simply because of the music. The worst part about it all is that music is deeply ingrained in me and is how I worship. I love music and it stirs my soul and grounds me and I can’t help but sing and sing loud. There is one church here that has excellent teaching, probably the best in the area, my kids enjoy it and are comfortable there (the only one we’ve visited that they’ve enjoyed). But every time we go, I want to walk out screaming because it’s all spotlights and fog machines and songs I’ve never heard before. I can’t worship that way, but I haven’t found any other church that has solid teaching and doesn’t make me feel that I’m in a concert.
Reblogged this on Truth2Freedom's Blog.
There is hope! So glad I’ve found this post and so many commenting who agree with you…I was afraid I was the only one who thought worship was supposed to be about Jesus and not about music. I think also this points to an even bigger problem and bigger potential crash in the evangelical church today: a lot of churches and organisations are “kingdom-building” with a lower case “k.” It’s about becoming the flashier, noisier, prettier, more relavent, more hip, more attractive, etc church than the one down the street, which means more bums on seats. Sure, those things might attract people for awhile, until that other church down the street becomes “more” everything and then those same bums walk out the door again. What church leaders and worship leaders need to realise is that people are desperate for authenticity. If we give them that, ie, Jesus with no frills attached, then we will see real growth in the Kingdom. And I don’t mean growth in numbers. I mean growth in people. Thank you so much for this! I am encouraged!
Another love of Christian music and worship music who is 100% in agreement with you. See John Piper’s DVD class “Gravity and Gladness” for a well-developed alternative.
Paragraphs 10, 11 summarize it for me…I’m not against something new every now and then but we only have an hour a week and I LOVE the FAMILIAR/BEAUTIFUL/MAJESTIC that makes me want to be a part!!! I am one of many who worship as much to melody as words and very little of the NEW stuff gives us beauty of melody or words. Going in circles for several minutes on 50 of the same words is not condusive to worship for me. I’m a lay person, in my mid sixties. This does not mean I require a steady dose of hymns. Quite the contrary, I love a BIG variety. I would say, though that if I were in the church where the person who writes music threw a new hand written one on us EVERY Sunday, that would be very difficult for me.
I’m not in a church that requires ear plugs, has lasers and smoke machines, thank goodness. I have visited a couple of those and it does appear to be too much show. I just love music….good, dependable, tried, proven true music.
I’m really discouraged by your writing and the tone of voice you have used in this post. I think the charge you are leading will likely lead to a lot of division and polarization, when these things could have been said in a much more edifying way.
There is no hard core evidence cited other than your own personal experience. I feel you are leading a charge that is not based on facts, and that is disheartening. In journalism, we wouldn’t be expected to join a revolution based on someone’s personal experience at one event. We would want hard core evidence, pictures, and facts. The Scriptures tell us we should dwell on truth, where is that in your post?
Jamie is correct – there is definitely brewing a disgust in congregations across the country for performance worship leaders. He isn’t a journalist, he’s a blogger – writing about what he’s seeing and experiencing.
You’re not alone, Keri.
I’m glad I’m not alone. As a faith based blogger, I tread lightly in areas of influence. We should all be careful how our words affect others.
Jamie has written of a trend that concerns him. No need for core evidence, pictures and facts in this genre. The fact that so many of us are also concerned and find his words a breath of God-inspired air would indicate that he is not wrong in what he sees, despite the lack of “evidence.” And he’s not calling for a revolution, nor is he being divisive or polarizing. It’s about opening up a conversation, a dialogue, and yes he certainly has an opinion, which he is entitled to express. Dialogue is exactly what is needed on this issue, as on so many others. Please beware of accusing anyone of divisiveness. That word is thrown around far too much amongst Christians who take exception to other Christians who use their voice for change and authenticity.
It doesn’t matter what the genre demands. It matters what the Lord demands. If we are talking about things going on in the Christian church, our authority is the Word of God, not personal experience. It says we are to dwell on truth – not experience.
I agree that the idea of performing (going through the motions i presume) and leading worship can be 2 different things. But when does the heart and intention of the musician or the church member come into play here? Does the lighting dictate the ability to worship? For we know that the light bulb has only been around for just over 200 years. Does a dark room today mean something different than it did 2000 years ago? Does having the lights on in a room make the words in a song carry more meaning? Does the lit room carry the gospel further? Well considering that the we’ve only had light bulbs for a tenth of the amount of time since Jesus walked the earth, I would think not.
When you said “Don’t let loops/lights/visuals become your outlet for creativity at the expense of the centrality of the gospel”, are you referring to “loop” as in the recorded piece of music that is being played along with the musicians? And being brought forth through the exact same speakers that all the music and message is heard from? I do not see the difference to the church member between hearing a cello or organ being played versus a synth loop or a keyboard being played. What I mean is, if it enhances the the music’s ability to sound good, and through that better-sound the message is made clearer, doesn’t it make sense to make the music sound better when possible? Especially if the music’s ambiance can show the song’s meaning as much as the words can. There is more to a song than just the lyrics. Otherwise we would refer to what we do as poetry.
If all it took to evangelize was to tell people about God, we could simply walk around with a megaphone reciting the bible. But we don’t. Now if the evangelist or pastor’s intentions are good, then why not simply do that? The reason is, is because we know that there are MORE EFFECTIVE ways to not only gain the attention of someone, but also better ways to instill the word of God into someone’s heart. We are emotional being’s, therefore ours and other’s emotions should be considered when leading, teaching and convincing others of something that is true, especially when that something is regarded as fiction to a huge percentage of the planet.
So, is influencing emotion wrong in the pursuit of instilling truth in the heart of an onlooker? I used the term onlooker because not everyone who goes to church is a christian. Hopefully those who seek what Christianity is will certainly learn of God’s love. I just hope that they feel the power of God through not only what is being brought forth to them, but also in how it is brought forth. My mother would always say to me “Communication is 10% of what you say and 90% of how you say it.
About lights: Since Christians are an Easter people, and since we’ve been “called out of darkness and into (God’s) marvelous light”, I lean towards having the lights on during corporate worship as a symbol of this truth.
About loops and visuals: I think all of those things are great. I also think cellos and organs are great. It’s all great. The key part of my statement about loops and visuals is that we not allow them (or anything for that matter) to become our “outlet for creativity AT THE EXPENSE OF THE GOSPEL”. When the means become the ends, then we’re on the wrong track.
Finally, about influencing emotion: Our job isn’t so much to worry about emotions, but to worry about whether the truth of who God is and what God has done for us in Christ is clear. Be as creative as you want with as many instruments/loops/lights as you want, but never at the expense of the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I feel like the culture of worship in a church comes from the top. Lead Pastors (or whatever you want to call them) are setting the tone. A simple way to take care of the “performancism” issue is to not put performers on stage. A true worship leader is someone who worships when they aren’t leading. We need worship leaders who have a true relationship with God, people who host His presence every day.
We need to raise up leaders with this heart posture.
We also have to remember that all church communities have different corporate expressions. Each one is unique. I think it is dangerous to make sweeping generalized rules like “Use your original songs in extreme moderation.” What if a church truly has great songwriters who are writing music for that particular congregation or region for that particular season or moment?
All the stuff we use to be creative (cameras, sweet music gear, lights, screens…) should just help convey who we really are inside and who lives inside.
To me, it isn’t a performance issue, it’s a heart issue.
“…the culture of worship in a church comes from the top. Lead Pastors (or whatever you want to call them) are setting the tone. A simple way to take care of the “performancism” issue is to not put performers on stage.” Very good point.
Great point. Although, rather than call it performancism, I would just call it pride.
So many worship leaders need to cut the crap and stop making the services, arrangements, set lists, etc. about themselves.
Also, I think there’s a really low standard for worship leaders to be in community, accountable to other brothers and sisters, and to be walking in the light. Being in such a visual and “up front” position makes one especially susceptible the lies of the enemy that would say you have to prove you’re a good person, and if you can’t, lie about who you are.
Your identity is in Christ, everyone screws up eventually, just be honest about it, and be a worship leader in the way you respond in repentance and worship. The two absolutely go hand in hand.
I really think you are spot on about some of your comments and there are a lot of worship leaders who are egotistical and are on the wrong stage! BUT, I think that its important we know who we do this for, is it more for the people or for God? I just believe that God is a HUGE deal and so as we sing and worship, we do it for Him. There are so many famous bands and singers who “perform” but they do it for themselves, and every time they go out they do it with a professionalism that second to none. So as the church should be giving it our all more then these people! I believe the call of a “christian” is to bring God glory, so the christian community should be the leaders in innovation and creativity, in everything we do and that is Bringing God glory. (Ephesians 2:6,7)
“Err on the side of including as many people as possible in what’s going on.” so i guess if you had to have open heart surgery you’d let the janitor join in too
“Keep the lights up.”
Really? I’m not even going to acknowledge that with an answer
Picking songs in “congregational” keys? when you go to a U2 concert does Bono say oh no people won’t join in if we sing in this key. I’m going to be honest and obviously there is a fine line here but if your a “leader” you set the tone, not the other way around. My main point here is that to say that the worship world is “crashing” is absolutely false. I believe we are stepping into a generation who are stepping into a creativity like none other.
I didn’t realize Bono was leading worship.
lol clearly on that point I was discussing more of the practical issues. That wasn’t the point Don, the writer was saying when we pick and choose songs, tailor them to fit the congregation.(Keys, Familiarity, Etc.) Clearly Bono doesn’t lead worship, but the point still remains that maybe doing songs in the perfect key isn’t the main goal like the author states “its about pointing people to Jesus”
A guiding principle for all worship leaders, regardless of culture, setting, tradition, and customs, must be “will this edify the body?” Paul is crystal clear in 1 Corinthians 14:26 to “let ALL THINGS be done for building up” when “you come together”. Therefore, while the leader does indeed “set the tone” (as you said), the leader has the responsibility to make sure that “tone” is edifying. So, yes, even things like whether or not people can see each other, and whether or not the average voice can sing the melody relatively comfortable, should be considered. It’s our job, and it’s an honor, to think carefully and pastorally about these things. Bono does a great job in his role, but his role at a concert is different than mine on a Sunday morning.
lol I probably shouldn’t have used bono as an example, but you know what i mean practically speaking. when a person goes to a concert they don’t concentrate on these things. (song keys, lighting, etc.) so if i person can go to a secular concert or listen to songs on their radio. Then they should be able to do the same at church.
I think in the church, God gives a vision to a pastor to deliver to his people, now believe me. The vision God gives is going to rub some people the wrong way, but it is still edifying. Edification means to build up, and with God sometimes He has to knock some of our walls down in order to build us up again.
Just practically speaking at our church, we primarily sing songs in original keys. I just find sometime when you change the key of a song it can change the whole feel of a song. I’m not saying thats the only way to do things by no means, but i believe whole heartedly in that.
Practically speaking, then, you have two conflicting objectives. First, you want your performance of the song to be faithful to the musical qualities of the original. Second, there’s the matter of whether most people in your audience can sing along. Framed thusly, then of course, the choice is pretty easy – since audience participation is optional. And it will continue to be an easy call unless and until you turn the whole thing around, though, and think corporate worship, rather than musical performance. Again, let’s reboot!
just a thought could having the lights low now make a more intimate setting.
I really dislike the term “worship leader” in the first place. They’re song leaders. But as Christians, EVERYTHING we do is to be an act of worship. We worship God as living sacrifices throughout the week, not just for a few hours on Sundays. On Sundays during our gatherings, all the elements of the service are to be “worship”, not just the singing. The preaching is worship. The giving is worship. The prayers are worship. Even the times of fellowship are to be worship. We living in a culture that has made the word “worship” synonymous with music. Leaders stand up to lead a song and say, “Now we’re going to worship…” It’s giving us this constant signal that worship = the singing of songs, and it’s a false definition. Maybe a better, more biblical definition of worship is in order.
But don’t you feel that a good Worship Leader can LEAD us into a place of worship? There are those who are capable of this and some who are not….and I think this is the issue….Yes we are all to worship in all we do and say, but to actually be led into the presence of the HOlY Spirit through music is a gift…would you agree?
A good worship leader is like a tour guide at the Grand Canyon. He mainly says “look at this! Isn’t it amazing!” and then gets out the way.
And the congregation knows the difference. They may not be able to put their finger on what it is they like (or don’t) about the worship leader, but they feel the difference of being an observer vs. a welcomed worshiper. As a member worshipping under Jamie’s leadership the past 9 years I can attest to how well he leads us into fellowship with God in song rather than giving us a performance.
If you expect to know everyone song you won’t ever allow for new music to come out. Like you said. There is soo much music out there, That different regions and churches worship with the resources they have. Unfortunately the problem with the church is many times not the worship team. It’s audience. It doesn’t matter how much we prepare or pray. We can lead but it’s the churches job to follow. If your heart is not In tune with The Lord and you don’t want to worship it doesn’t matter what is being said or sang up front, you won’t fall into that sweet spirit of worship. Maybe you shouldn’t have focused on looking around and trying to notice things instead of giving your personal worship to God.
THANK YOU! I was taught by our very wise worship leader in college that God is our audience … NOT the congregation. The congregation and those involved in leading worship are TOGETHERr focusing on participating in worship and praising God … that is why it’s called “corporate” worship. It is NOT a concert, and we are NOT performers. This is a wonderful article, and I applaud you, but unfortunately, I’m afraid you cannot stop this trend. That ship has sailed. “Worship” that uses as its model entertainment, and artists whose sole reason for writing music is to sell songs is not worship in the first place.
I agree with much of what you’ve said, the focus should entirely be on praising Him. But saying worship leaders shouldn’t sing songs they write with their congregations is like saying David shouldn’t have written Psalms, just stick with the old guard. If a worship leader that has talent, creativity, heart, drive and if the Lord lays a song on their heart – I want to hear it and I’m proud of people I know that write songs. They don’t do it for money or fame, they do it because The Word has spoken to them and they can’t help but make music the same way David danced before the Lord – he couldn’t help it either!
Thanks Kyle. I didn’t say (and don’t believe) worship leaders shouldn’t sing songs they write. I do believe (and said) they should use their original songs in extreme moderation.
Thanks (to you).
Brother I am going to have to file a police report, because I think you have been living in my head unbeknowngst to me…these are my thoughts and sentiments alike! I have shared a similar post on my FB Profile regarding Apostate Churches.
I think whatever keeps attention of first time visitor and gets them to worship is what matters. As person grows closer to God and can discern what is going on they will either stay or leave that church. To those who is much given much will be asked – that applies to all leaders. That is why we have so many churches with so many styles of worship, because different styles speak to different people. I love when new original song is introduced in worship, and most often then not, I don’t sing the words anyway but connect to Holy Spirit while in worship. Right way or wrong way God’s word is spread through the worship, and it is up to Holy Spirit to change the heart.
Maybe we should learn from the fantastically growing Chinese church. About two months ago I took two personal friends and members of the Communist Party to a large (3,500 people and filled to capacity) church on Sunday morning, in a large city in China. They joined me reluctantly, but mainly out of obligation because of our having extended unusual hospitality to their daughter while she was studying in the U.S. During the energetic, but quite mellow singing of several worship songs, I looked around, and EVERYONE within my eyesight, was singing, including my guests! They’d never, ever darkened the door of a church or religious service of any kind and know virtually nothing about God. My friends were deeply impressed and want to return, even though they had to leave for another appointment after only 30 minutes of opening worship. The sound was beautiful…true worship of the living God.Some estimates point to 30,000 converts being added to the kingdom daily in China. The songs are projected, easy for all Chinese to “sight-read” and familiar to church-goers. Mild accompaniment aids singing but never over over-powers it. Sound reinforcement of the lead singers is only at a level to help singers, but the congregation can always hear themselves sing. Captivating. Amazing. Worshipful
I feel that we need to define “Worship”. The “Worship Leaders” are just leading music. Your “Worship Leader” should be the title for the Pastor. The whole service should be a time of Worship to God. God should be our focus.
One of the things that I have against all the “contemporary ‘Christian’ music” is that it is a commercial, money making machine. Everything is Copyrighted so as to make money. If you use MY song you owe ME money. After all I wrote it! That is the attitude that comes across when in order to use it to glorify God you need protection by buying a CCLI license and paying per the number or attenders at each service.
A very good and NEEDFUL article. Now for the flip side.
That being said, too often the congregation offer a ‘bored’ look. No interest shown, no participation, not even mouthing the words on the screen. Was talking about this just tonight, how it is disheartening to the worship leaders and musicians to look out and see such weak response.
I understand we will never know all the folks have been through, but at the same time, the average congregant has no idea of the time spent in practice, learning, formatting, practice, early practice, late practice and prayer that is offered before even gearing up for the service.
My experience is in 30 years of music ministry, 3 different Christian bands and as a family evangelistic ministry!
When Jesus came to the earth , his ways were different than what they were use to and for that they thought he was some One misleading the people. Even the way this guy that wrote this article worships differently than they did in the days of Jesus. Can’t God use any type of method to reach those that cry out from a humbled heart…
While its always about God not us. To say that a traditional church setting is more Godly is well, stupid. God didn’t ordain the way our churches looked since the middle ages, Constantine did. True worship isn’t steeples and hymn books any more than it is lights and TV screens. Don’t be so carnal and narrow minded. “God is a Spirit, and they that worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” And nobody has the right to tell anyone else not to express they’re creativity to worship God.
I don’t think anyone said a “traditional church setting is more Godly”. My hope and prayer is that, whatever the setting, whether it’s traditional or modern or hipster, the people tasked with leading worship would do it in a way that exalts Jesus Christ above all things.
We don’t pay enough attention to lyrics. Wherever a song originates, its lyrics will be what makes it stick and minister. I think any guidelines about song selection should start with that, not who wrote it, not the popularity of the artist. Lyrics designed for people to sing will necessarily be offered in a way people can sing, which should drive decisions about style, performance, and everything else. It starts with the songwriter crafting the song as a vehicle for the message and goes from there.
Good article. At least 30 years late.
I would add that the sound system must be tailored to envelope the Congregation with the highs tweaked so as not to ‘cut’ through the congregation. Nor, the Bass so high that is knocks them down. (Or sets their innards into oscillation!) Far to many churches I have visited are caterers musically, And, far too much of todays’ ‘worship’ music is nothing more that what I called as a DJ ‘Bubble Gum’. I tend to be Militant in Praise and Passionate (but not effeminate) in Worship. The Worship Service is the first make or break for me. If I can’t enter in. I’m gone. If they use a local meter or phrasing that makes me more conscious of the song than Jesus, gone… I should change my name to frustrated former worship leader. And, BTW all the issues you listed I have been stressing in articles for at least a decade…
You know I have felt the same thing you do. Worship has become a Christian rock concert and performance is everything these days yet our senior saint are left out and don’t go to church anymore, many people of all ages are not going because of the rock concert atmosphere. So I did something about it I start a church in my own home and we sing nothing but hymns in our worship and I made Tuesday Sunday because many people work Sunday so they can go to church and I made Jesus Christ the center of our church not me or anyone else. And I did this because the Lord told me to and people are getting revive and healed and we all have a chance to pray, worship, and look after each other. There is accountability and a deep love for one another and I don’t take money for it when people give but to help that one who lost their job or needed that operation or need gas money or a friend of a friend needed help. My heart is to see people come to church to feel a belonging and a unity of love for one another in Christ and that no one is left out no matter their age and their importance in this world.
Reblogged this on milfordpastor and commented:
A very insightful comment on worship, which should focus on God, not on worship leaders… So I just wanted to share it with my readers!
Lots of comments here, but my two reflections.
1. Many of our problems in today’s church come from a poor theology of worship and a poor understanding of what music actually is. Jeremy Begbie has a great theology of music book called Resounding Truth, if anyone is interested in working out how we should be using music in church, Begbie’s book is a great place to start. In our western culture we have become ‘consumers’ of music, which is a great odds with most other cultures that have existed, (including those in the bible) where most people were ‘producers’ of music.
2. At times the church has been a munificent patron of the arts, (particularly music, think Bach, Handel, Messiaen and a whole host of others.) Now it has relegated itself to a poor imitation of the world. I’ve been an employed ‘Worship Minister’ in a church and bombarded with CCL charts, new songs and lists of requests from the church leadership and members – (much like when I ran a Wedding Band!)
‘Performancism’ stems from a bad theology of worship, and it’s heart is idolatry and is condemned by both the OT and Jesus in the NT. However I firmly believe that this doesn’t mean we dispense with giving God our best. There are many musicians who have been given a great gift from God, a world-class training and a willingness to offer this gift to the church.
Worship in its true biblical form is an offering a lifestyle to God of service, submission and reverence. Until we rid the consumerism from our churches and become truly a place which, ‘turns the world upside down’ we will always run into these problems
NOTHING supersedes God’s Word! In a church setting, praise and worship should be geared to prepare the heart and mind for what God’s messenger has been given to preach and teach the congregation. I was worship leader for 25 years, and had the same pastor for 23 of those years. Not once in all that time did the pastor ever tell me the topic of his sermon , and not once did I ever ask. We prayed together and trusted each other to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading. It’s amazing that in all those years, the music seemed to fit the topic perfectly. Our pastor always came to the pulpit with his outline notebook. There were times that he would come to preach after our worship time, and he would close his notebook and preach from his heart because the atmosphere in the place, and the ministry of the Holy Spirit to his mind, brought a different message than he had planned. It’s true praise and worship that prepares the messenger and the message to be right on target. It’s ALL about Him!
Greetings from the UK where your blog made it by way of some facebook linking. Interesting discussion, possibly slightly less of an issue in the smaller churches over here in Europe – but it’s about attitude, which can become skewed in any size church. We’ve written a book about what might happen if we modelled our worship leading on Jesus – check it out here: http://engageworship.org/store/how-would-jesus-lead-worship-book
grace & peace, from engageworship.org
No “worship leaders” in the New Testament.
Actually, the New Testament never speaks of what Christians do in church as “worship”.
Performancism is just a symptom of a much deeper problem.
I guess if you’re going to critique worship music and leaders, you should probably critique pastors and their sermons as well. I dare say more people sit down and “tune out” during a sermon far more easily than during the music portion of a service. You should at least be fair in your assessment.
Well, as a Pastor, let me assure you how much “critique” we receive, week after week, on our sermons. In addition, there are about 3 million blogs out there that focus on preaching and on critiquing preaching.
Having said that, the author is more than fair in his assessment. He is not writing about preaching, he is writing about music (pet peeve: “worship” is not just music). It is his area of expertise. He is being fair by “sticking to his knitting”!
Yes I definitely agree with this except for one thing you said about “using original songs in moderation.”
The congregtional songs we all know are original to someone even though a thousand artists have recorded them. It is extremely necessary for worship leaders and teams to be writing original music and not relying on old or hand me down revelation. They need to be writing songs for their community and from the heart of their God given unique sound…and not just the American pop sound, we need more cultural styles as well.
Original songs need to be presented by every worship team, not just artists with a record and publishing deal. They also need to learn to write well so that their songs are memorable, engaging, and theologically accurate.
Their really isn’t a whole lot of encouragement or resources out there to provide worship teams sith this training. It’s my ministry through Songsmith Creative that I’ve had the pleasure of working with hundreds of teams teaching them effective worship writing and the power of their creative authority.
Hi again, Rob. Just to clarify: to use our original songs in moderation is just being wise, and it also ensures that we’re allowing our congregation’s repertoire to be healthily broad. I support the use of original music, and the scriptures are clear that we are to sing new songs to the Lord. But even the New Testament church sang a balance of Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, and so should we. Balance is what I’m advocating for when I speak of “moderation”.
Excellent clarification, Jamie.
Excellent comments, Rob.
It seems that most of your experience is working with adults from the discussion presented here, now that may represent 75% of the Church, but I wonder if you would give some thought to the 25% of the weekend service, kids. It seems to me slightly nearsighted to not even consider whats happening in our children’s ministries (positive and negative).
Change rarely starts with the people who created the status quo.
I grew up in a traditional Baptist church. I sang songs from a Hymnal; Just As I Am, The Old Rugged Cross, etc. I stood up, turned pages, sat down, and stood up again. But, I never experienced worship until I raised my hands and sang to and for God like the people in the picture above. I love traditional songs so, I understand when my friends tell me that they could never worship like the folks in the picture. I am thankful for the church that I was raised in and stayed at until well into my adult years. I have always been led by a worship leader and occasionally that leader sang a solo (both “kinds” of worship experiences). I fail to see the difference that this author is speaking about. But, let me ask you this. If “that” type of worship is performancism, and it will help lead the lost to Jesus Christ, what is your real problem? I have been attending Waters Edge Church, in VA (as a matter of fact I was on the start team) for 11 years. I have watched de-churched and unchurched turn their hearts and become part of the body of Christ that serves others, takes care of each other, and gives selflessly. If that is leading to a crash, I say bring it on because perhaps a crash is what we need to make disciples for Jesus out of lost people. Change is difficult for most people and I’d like to tell the people that believe as this author, change is difficult for you but, it’s not going away. And there are enough lost people in this world for every style of church to be successful at their ministry. Here is what I believe is the bottom line. Satan is real. He is a force that is out to seek and destroy. He loves nothing more than for Christ followers to do the job for him. When we say things against one another, when we tear down each other, then we ultimately tear down the body of Christ. That can’t please God…. “And they will know we are Christians by our love, by our love. And they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”
Great article, agree we most everything( but I do appreciate when they dim the lights so I can ” worship” w/o feeling that anyone is watching or that I’m doing it to be seen. by others.)
There is a real tendency for us to equate singing w worship. The Hebrew word for worship means ” bow down , do obeisance to” , which of course can relate to our heart as well as our actions and also our posture. So, music can certainly facilitate this, (make it easier), but is only a part of our attempts to stimulate one another to worship which will , in turn, enable us to receive a pure heart, good conscience and a sincere faith from God, from which flows love and good deeds. ( Heb 10:24 , I believe).
I love good worshipful music, really, really am edified by joining in with other believers, but music is only part of encouraging worship.
Maybe that’s why it can be useful to call it ” praise and worship” do perhaps some may wonder, “so what’s the difference, and why is it called that?”
Interesting post. I like the idea that worship is not performance, but a place of drawing people “further up, and further in” (CS Lewis, Chronicles of Narnia, The Last Battle) to see Christ, learn about His life, and how we should live ours. i look at David, and see someone who shares his heart, in good times and bad. i listen to groups take a song like, “In the Secret, in the quiet place” and rock it out (aren’t you reading the words??). My sense is that we worship the worship music more than the LORD. I’ve started playing ukulele for my worship sets, just to get off the electronic bandwagon and get more acoustic. and, to get less music, and more lyrics and presentation of the Gospel. But, unfortunately, too many worship leaders are frustrated musicians who want to serve the LORD, but end up falling into the traps that many performers fall into. Pray for your worship leader, because right now, he or she has to wrestle with the false promises of fame, adulation, and being on stage. Pray that they would play for one sick person in a hospital, as much as in front of 4000 in a full production auditorium.
Good input on a growing phenom in the American churches. I would also place responsibility on the church in this regard, as many churches are actually seeking this type of “style”. We’re in a unique day and age of “media” that is having a huge impact on the American church. We are now using terms like “marketing” and “branding” to promote churches and therefore actually trending to creating a Sunday “event” in which people leave feeling as if they walked out of a movie theater after just seeing an emotionally moving film. Hey, it’s great that we have such great tools to reach out and draw people in but there is a danger in just becoming “market chasers” …which is a common trend in most music genres. A label launches a new artist with a little different sound, sells some records and draws attention, then 75% of the music produced for the next few years is geared toward that look, that mix, that lyric style, etc.
I traveled to Mexico a few years ago on a mission trip…I watched this 25 year missionary stand in the dirty, unpaved streets of a village and share the gospel…this old white guy who after 25 years of mission work in Mexico still couldn’t say “Javier” correctly…he was by far no Billy Graham… there was no altar, no dimmed lights, no soft music from the worship band, etc….and he gave a basic, sincere heart felt offer of The Gospel …and I learned a lesson that day… I saw tears in the eyes of the people…even after going through a translator…and people being moved by The Gospel and accepting the offer.
The Gospel is the first “identity” of every church, the second “identity” is what it’s done for us personally. The “market chasing” danger is that many of our churches sound and look like the current fads of the new church market, I’ve visited several in my area. They are all the same…but not in an appealing way. They lack their own “identity”. It’s like there is a church marketing hand book somewhere that everyone is beginning to follow. Sing this, say this, talk in this tone, dress like this, stage the performance like this, etc, etc.
It’s hard to explain, but decades ago, although churches still sang many of the same songs (hymns or choruses) and the preacher still used the same Bible, each one seemed to have its own identity as it related to how The Gospel influenced their congregation and community.
Wow. Great blog. I shared this on fb. Thank you. I couldn’t agree more. Lots of this is churches trying to copy the next guy in town. Be who God wants you to be not trying to cater to man. Church is not another episode of American Idol. We are there to worship a Holy God.
Hey, you’ve had a large number of replies here and so I don’t know if you will read this soon but I hope you do.
I agree with most of what you have said here. I think that as churches go further down the road of the ‘attractional’ model (trying to get people to come because we do it better or cooler or bigger) we are going to drive over a cliff. Specifically, charitable funds in the future will struggle to keep up with all the new expensive technology and moreover, we are creating a religious culture of consumerism as opposed to discipleship.
Having said that, there are a few things you spoke against that I am not sure are completely bad. Namely, the issue of lighting (don’t dim the lights), talking (stop talking so much), and loops/lights/visuals. I think as a culture we have a diverse amount of people and we all learn and are moved in different ways. I think that the environment in which we worship can assist us in connecting with God just like the music from the instruments and the quality of the lyrics.
The pit that we are falling into, however, is that more pastoral time is given the the setting as opposed to prayerful preparation and hearing from God. This is unfortunate. I think a new breed of worship pastor needs to have the leadership skills to surround himself/herself with creative people to be the musicians, artists, and creative gurus. The pastor, however, needs to be a pastor. In the words of Eugene Peterson, pastors need to preach, pray, and be present with people. We are spiritual guides. So, if most of our time is spent working on program or environment, we really are not being that pastoral.
Thanks, Nathan. I just answered another commenter’s questions about the issue of lights and loops/lights/visuals. I know there are a lot of comments here to wade through, but hopefully you can find it and it will be helpful.
I appreciate your good insights,
Really, what makes us think of creativity as a necessary element of worship? Isn’t it all just a twisty intertwining of boredom with God and craving for an audience? Please pray in this – I have.
I think that as we look through the Scriptures we see symbols, visuals, smells (sacrifices), and environment to be very important in the way that people interacted with God. So, I think that since we are multi-sensory people we ought to engage with God using any and/or all of these senses.
Don’t get me wrong, it is a means to an end but not the end itself. When the way that we worship or the things we use become more important or more of a focus they can become idols; that too happened in Biblical times.
Thank you, Jamie, for an incredible article. It expresses my thoughts/feelings/convictions very well. The performance aspect of these corporate worship substitutes screams to the congregation, “Leave this to the trained experts,” and like you, frequently I do. I check out of any group effort where my contribution seems inconsequential. Most folks do.
In fact, I notice that the worship performers have mics, they have amps, they have hours of practice together, they know when they’re going into four bars of instrumental interlude or eight bars of solo slide guitar. The volume differential tells me clearly that it’s best if nobody can actually hear me. Seems to me like my unprepared and unprofessional contribution is frankly unwelcome.
Corporate worship has morphed into a weekly CCM concert. Add to this the theatrics of dance performances, drama skits, engaging announcements, and inspirational videos, and the in-person experience is not a whole lot different from watching a video replay of the whole event at home off of the church website.
Can I get a witness? Amen?
I think the remedy is a total corporate worship reboot/make-over. We have to completely tear it down and build it anew from scripture, as if we never “knew” anything about corporate worship.
I have lots of ideas here, more than I can cram into even this really long blog comment, but one critical part of the “reboot” would be to decouple worship from music. Worship does not equal music! Another element would be to make the whole service worship – including the sermon. Completely drop all that is not scriptural, including and especially announcements (use email). Insist that everything that can be done by all actually be done by everyone, at once or in turns (singing, scripture reading, corporate prayer, responsive readings, etc). Let everything be done vertically, directed toward God Himself – worship the King, period.
See how everything would change? Suddenly you’d have everyone involved in corporate worship. And we’d show conclusively that worship is not equal to musical performance. Even the musically challenged will be involved in the congregational worship of the King.
Corporate worship is what we’re headed toward when we get to go before the throne (Rev 7) and it’s what we are made for right now. Our gathered worship could/should show forth the glory of God in truly remarkable ways. Let’s schedule the concerts for weeknights, and start coming together in true full-participation worship in all of our assemblies.
Reblogged this on The Disciple Co. and commented:
Do you know what they’re talking about? We’re careful at Discipleco!
Great article! The state of performancism is a problem because it is a problem in our culture. People are used to observing (ie, sporting events, concerts, watching TV). Americans come with this built in. I believe it is our job to reveal this bias, contrast that with God’s plan and communicate that our faith, our worship, our lives are meant to be participants in the gospel and not observers. As worship leaders, we need to be mindful of then making that time of corporate worship accessible. Unfamiliarity and unsingable keys are two obstacles that we can easily address. Communicating the need to be a participant in worship is teaching that both worship pastor and senior pastor need to address on a regular basis.
Jamie, agreed and well-stated. Thank you for laying out a framework toward which we can reorient our hearts without being legalistic and attempting to over-engineer the Spirit. Your sensitivity to these matters is always appreciated.
So long as we don’t relegate God to a passive role in the worship process, we might find Kierkegaard’s analogy between worship and theater helpful:
“What goes on between the speaker and the hearer in a genuine edifying discourse? It is so on the stage, as you know well enough, that someone sits and prompts by whispers; [he is hidden;] he is the inconspicuous one; he is and wishes to be overlooked. But then there is another, he strides out prominently, he draws every eye to himself. For that reason he has been given his name, that is: actor. He impersonates a distinct individual. In the skillful sense of this illusionary art, each word becomes true when embodied in him, true through him—and yet he is told what he shall say by the hidden one that sits and whispers. No one is so foolish as to regard the prompter as more important than the actor.
“Now forget this light talk about art. Alas, in regard to things spiritual, the foolishness of many is this, that they in the secular sense look upon the speaker as an actor, and the listeners as theatergoers who are to pass judgment upon the artist. But the speaker is not the actor—not in the remotest sense. No, the speaker is the prompter. There are no mere theatergoers present, for each listener will be looking into his own heart. The stage is eternity, and the listener, if he is the true listener (and if he is not, he is at fault) stands before God during the talk. The prompter whispers to the actor what he is to say, but the actor’s repetition of it is the main concern—is the solemn charm of the art. The speaker whispers the word to the listeners. But the main concern is earnestness: that the listeners by themselves, with themselves, and to themselves, in the silence before God, may speak with the help of this address.
“The address is not given for the speaker’s sake, in order that men may praise or blame him. The listener’s repetition of it is what is aimed at. If the speaker has the responsibility for what he whispers, then the listener has an equally great responsibility not to fail short in his task. In the theater, the play is staged before an audience who are called theatergoers; but at the devotional address, God himself is present. In the most earnest sense, God is the critical theatergoer, who looks on to see how the lines are spoken and how they are listened to: hence here the customary audience is wanting. The speaker is then the prompter, and the listener stands openly before God. The listener … is the actor, who in all truth acts before God.”
—Søren Kierkegaard, Purity of Heart, pp. 180-81 (SV XI114-15); reprinted in Parables of Kierkegaard, Thomas C. Oden, ed.
Thank you so much Albert! That analogy is awesome.
Well said! In the end Worship is all about a Jesus! Lose the music, the lights, the equipments and worship shud still thrive on!
What would we do then….would we just sit there and stare at each other in a whitewashed room? That is a far cry from what worship in the Tabernacle was in the OT…there were very specifically crafted instruments used and a variety of senses engaged. In fact, in Exodus 31 Bezalel is “filled with the Spirit of God” and given creative abilities to craft things to be used in worship in the Tabernacle.
I think we are heading down an unhealthy road in some ways in evangelical worship, but lets not do an abrupt U-Turn without thinking.
Your question “What would we do?” is one worth wrestling with. What do they do in house churches in China? Do they not worship corporately? Do they perhaps worship in ways more playing to God? Maybe they don’t need all the flash and programming because they are actually genuinely smitten with the glory of God Himself? Indeed, let’s explore these great questions before we entertain ourselves to death.
Thanks for your reply. I think there is a diversity of ways that we can authentically worship God. Obviously house churches in China can worship just as pleasingly as anyone else despite their lack of things to assist their worship. I don’t think we should necessarily emulate China in North America because we are not China. We need to take the resources that we have around us and accomplish authentic worship in a pleasing way in our context. I agree that corporate worship can perhaps have an air of performance and it should not…but I don’t think we should ban all creativity and technology either.
Sure, there’s no need for us to be quiet in worship as if the police were going to jail us if we’re found out. And music and instruments are fine, too. But for purpose of discussion and self-examination, what if your church totally unplugged? What if all the electric and electronic equipment were stolen or banned? First notice your accelerated heart rate – not just you, but a whole lot of people would really have a problem with this change. Lots of people would stop coming; such is the weakness and superficiality of our commitments to one another via the local church. And the folks who no longer had a stage from which to “share their gifts” would simply pick up and move on to their next gig. All of which amply demonstrates what a grip this performancism has on our “corporate worship.” Seriously, check your heart – “the thing we’ve made it” is working powerfully against our great God-given calling to worship God together in spirit and in truth, in the beauty of holiness.
As regards going acapella… It would be *very* rough at first. I mean not having the musical crutch to guide the heart. But, then… With some practice it can be quite liberating. Still, it requires a strong vocal or choral leadership in a key the congregation can sing from the heart comfortably.
Actually, bro, I was thinking even more devolution than a capella. Until we get off the idea that music equals worship equals music … we’re nowhere. See my response to Mr pnhill regarding the full breadth of worship that we’re missing while we act like corporate worship means nothing but X number of tunes and a sermon. Still, a capella would at least get me and many others singing along, and that would be better than my checking out and leaving it to the pros.
The story of how and why Matt Redman wrote “Heart Of Worship” comes instantly to mind here. It is a great story for those that don’t know it.
Matt is one of those worship leaders who employs all of the devices listed in this article. I would challenge anyone who has not heard: Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin, Matt Maher, Darlene Zsesch, Paul Baloche, etc. the people who write all those familiar worship songs, many of whom use loud sound systems and lights, many of whom could easily be judged by looking at them and say they are in it for the personal glory and fame… Please listen to them speak about why they write their songs and what their beliefs are and how everything they do is in service to the praise and worship of God. Listen to them speak their heart.
(Not speaking directly to you here Michael but to many who have complained about having to get up and walk out of service because of xyz)
I would encourage anyone who has felt unhappy at a service to reach out to whomever plans said service. Fellowship with your local worship leader or pastor, or both!?!. Before you get up and storm out because their brand of worship didn’t live up to what your “correct” standard is. Find out why they do what you do. If you were in my congregation and you left feeling uninspired I’d want to know why. Their is pretty concrete scripture to backup my request as well.
You’re probably right on many counts. We have an attractional model of church where if the “glitz and glam” are taken away many people would leave to find it somewhere else. Same goes for the musicians. However, I don’t think the solution is to throw away technology, instruments, and the such. This is a heart problem amongst people and needs to be addressed that way. People need to be challenged spiritually and discipled…then, once they experience authentic Christian community they will stick around not for the perks but because Jesus is active in their lives. The instruments and creativity will feed their soul as opposed to their appetite for entertainment.
This is where the Ministry comes in. I always considered the order of songs and the songs chosen as my sermon. 🙂 I a very real sense we were created to Worship Him, and when we do what we were created for, whether regenerated or not we will feel good about ourselves. Therefore, without proper messaging from the pulpit many come to church feel good after ‘Worship’ and go out unchanged. Ministry also requires that we give God’s People what they need. not always what they want. Let God worry about the offering. 🙂
Thanks pnhill for following along. Now, this devolution of worship that I espouse holds so much potential for refocusing hearts onto God, why would we delay? Let’s help “worship leaders” who only think they’re all about God to see that, perhaps, they are really more about playing music in a band with a steady following and posing before the elect as part of church leadership. Let’s help people who are part of the”audience” to see that their hearts are (perhaps) not worshiping God after all, but merely rocking out to performances that match their music preferences. Let’s ACTUALLY go back to the heart of worship – which quite naturally tends to break out into song, but is neither song nor music nor creativity in and of itself. It is adoration and praise and thanksgiving and submission and confession and bible reading and prayer and silence and testimonies and preaching and prayer and more prayer. How horribly feeble is our rock and roll concert diminution of corporate worship!
Of course, your logic works both ways. The people who leave because of the addition of lights, electric guitars, etc., are demonstrating the “weakness and superficiality of [their] commitments to one another” as well.
Agreed! for me the issue is, can the Majority of the Congregation sing it, and sing it in the key presented without undue concentration of phrasing. This scripture came to mind: 🙂 (I can’t concentrate of Jesus while stumbling over the lyrics, meter, phrasing or key.)
2Ch_5:13 The trumpeters and singers joined in unison, as with one voice, to give praise and thanks to the LORD. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, they raised their voices in praise to the LORD and sang: “He is good; his love endures forever.” Then the temple of the LORD was filled with a cloud,
Unison of the Heart towards God… That’s what brings Power in His Presence… Instruments are essential for the average Congregation because so few are trained to sing acapella.
Reblogged this on Worship Synths and Keyboards and commented:
Great blog post on current trends in worship music. I agree for the most part- it seems to me there is a big struggle between excellence (giving our best to God) as musicians and congregational participation. I think it’s true that we have drifted away from congregational participation.
Agreed! But, there really shouldn’t be any ‘strife’ between our excellence and the congregation. It depends on how ‘we’ view ourselves. If we are lone rangers then our ministry is solely between God and Ourselves. But, if we are ‘Ministers’ our true excellence is measured not in performance excellence but in how well we support the Ministry of the Congregation before Our Lord. Look, I believe there is a place for ‘performance’. I was going through a really bad dry space and I stumbled on a version of Jehovah Jireh by Sent Forth a Christian Band. And, when the lead guitar lit off it struck a chord in me and I was finally able to weep before the Lord. But, I doubt he was showing off. 🙂
Interesting article. I agree with some of it. But I would Iike to share another perspective as well. Since when have churches been about just reaching people who are followers of Jesus. Because in what I like to call churchee churches. The style of music that is being played and executed in ways is in fact reaching the next generation. Look at how the younger gen lift their hands fall on their face hunger for Christ. Go to lost average churches in america most adults just stand watching not participating. Is it because they don’t like the haze, lights, seeing someone on a screen? I don’t know? But I do know that it has to have something about personal taste in music. Especially the older gens. I had a Older man tell me that he said God says hymns and older songs are more worshipful? Really sir or is this just your personal opinion. Lol
See ah have to remember that as music artist leading others to Christ throne room. We have to remember that if artist we want to reach the next gen. We have to be relavent, creative and excellent in our skill to help reach them.
Now I agree some churches or artis I’ve seen or watched in my personal opinion have let focus on the heart of leading and rely on media, videos etc too much.
But I heard Rick Warren once say recently at a leadership conference I go to each year called thrive.
Two very clear ways to gauge a healthy church are: 1. If your people are singing louder. 2. If they are hanging out longer after services. You can’t argue those statements aren’t true. Ok well someone will lol. Because everyone has an opinion.
I personally think as a artist who leads not just worship but with my life on stage and off. When I loose focus and get so wrapped up in the gadgets and gizmos and the perform and aspect. The I have lost the heart behind what I am called to do. All those things to me simply enhance the experience through the creative minds God has given us.
Picking one or two songs to tech your church is good. Picking all new songs you might then see why no one is singing along lol.
Matt redman wrote his song heart of worship. To remind the church that we worship and sing as one body not two? That the praise does not go to the band. The band is simply a tool being used to help people sing along hopefully the band is in key and on beat.
Or that can create a barrier or distraction. David when he played his harp before king Saul. Didn’t suck at playing. I’m sure of this. And the walls of Jericho didn’t come down by simply tooting a horn.
If something is working don’t try to fix it. Lol
Great comments. I would like to add one other aspect: VOLUME! It appears that Worship Leaders today think that God is DEAF! The music can be so loud that it is offensive. When your insides are jarred by the sound of the guitars and drums, can that REALLY be worshipful? We have had to leave the “Praise and Worship” time due to a headache. My husband and I LOVE worship songs, and play them all day long at home, but the volume is not deafening. I wish that Worship Leaders could get the message that loud is not better.
Volume… IMHO while very important, is not as important as tonal balance. Having said that… There is a lot going on on a normal platform and it can be quite hard for everyone to be on the same page… In a small venue one trick I’ve used is to give the monitors everything the Praise Team wants then use the ‘House’ for ‘fill’. Some of us either can’t work with wireless earpieces or can’t afford them. As I shared earlier I prefer a ‘warmth’ in the sound system. with the Bass just barely felt and the Highs not so high as to cut people off at the knees. Sometimes you have to add an in-line EQ to tweak some things like cymbals without raising everything else. Sorry… This is an area I haven’t been able to share in for a while and there’s a lot of ‘opinion’ to get out. 🙂
A couple of insights into the interchange between Jamie and the Former Creative Director. As a “Senior Pastor” I would agree that the Senior Pastor does set the tone for what is going on in the worship service. In one way or another the music part of the worship service will reflect his own views on worship, and it will also reflect his own views on how to go about getting people in the door.
In my experience many of the senior pastors who allow performancism/concert type music are also performers themselves, and their preaching is not so much about preaching as it is a performance.
Also, the warning to Timothy by Paul in II Timothy 4:2-4 applies just as much to the musical part of the worship as it does to the actual preaching. In the end, too many pastors will give the people what they believe the people want in order to draw or maintain the crowd. As a result too many churches have turned Sunday morning into an “worship event” in which both the music and preaching are event focused.
Amen, Morris! Performancism robs glory wherever it rears its ugly head. Remember Jesus’s parable of performancism in almsgiving? How desperately we need to get off of our gifts and adore the Giver!
Completely totally 100% agree. What happened to hymns, simple songs that catch on easily, true corporate singing, etc. When I was in Atlanta I experienced this performance worship like never before. I fell into it for a while even though in my heart I knew it was wrong. I finally let the conviction fall and left for that and a myriad of other disturbing trends. It’s so easy as a P&W leader to give in to pride and “see me” or “watch us” mode. That inclination to pride is something you have to watch constantly in any gift that is displayed publicly.
Thanks for this thoughtful blog article. Excellent points throughout.
Here’s where I’m struggling: “It’s not rocket science.”
Honestly, it’s more difficult to be a worship leader than your article might suggest.
For example, you say, “Sing songs people know.” I don’t know if the background photo is of your church … if so, it’s a very large worship center, which means it holds a lot of people. Are you honestly telling me that you know what songs every person knows? My congregation wouldn’t fill the center section, and I can guarantee you, I don’t know what every person knows.
Not being critical here. Only saying that it’s not THAT easy.
Obviously, there are cues we take as to whether the congregation knows a song. But how will we know if we don’t try them? Just last week, I decided to try a new song (new to our congregation). I was convinced nobody would know it, but I was hopeful they could learn it quickly. The song was quiet instrumentally, so I knew I’d be able to gauge how well things were going. Well, imagine my surprise (and gratefulness) when they sang it loudly from the first note! I was stunned. The song I was sure they wouldn’t know … they knew!
Also, the bible says many times, “Sing a new song unto the Lord.” New songs are the lifeblood of the church. I, for one, welcome them.
That being said, we need to take care that we don’t inundate the congregation with new songs. I never do more than one in a week, and usually only introduce no more than one or MAYBE two new songs in any given month. Your mileage may vary … I know my congregation’s tolerance, and you know yours. We also need to make sure that when we select new songs, they meet the criteria you mention: Singability, sound theology, etc.
But that brings up another point: “Sing them in congregational keys.”
I agree that many recorded songs are simply out of range for most singers (me included). But I would caution against making the keys TOO easy. As worshipers, we need a little challenge. We need to RAISE our voices to our Lord, and we can’t do that if every note of every song sits comfortably in the middle of our range. It breeds complacency.
As for the lights, there are other reasons for dimming the house lights besides turning worship into a concert. Lighting is really about directing attention. I served a church for 10 years where the house lights were left up. In that environment, people’s attention goes everywhere … to the person across the aisle, to the fussy baby, to the sign on the left wall, to the sound booth when something doesn’t sound the way we want ,,, everywhere, it seemed, BUT worship. Focusing light on the platform helps keep attention focused there.
Yes, that means the attention is on the worship leader. Guess what, guys … that’s where our biggest responsibility lies. It’s our job to display authentic worship and redirect attention to God. If we as worship leaders are making it about something else, then shame on us. Psalm 51 says, “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.” If we accompany our worship, our “burnt offerings,” with something other than a heart that breaks for Him, we’d better believe He’ll know it … and He’ll despise it. He desires our hearts, not our talent.
I guess what I’m really saying here is that you’re right … it’s not rocket science. In many respects, it’s harder.
Crossroads Church • Norwalk, Iowa
Well said. When I was younger, a teacher who went to my church mentioned his dislike of people clapping after worship because it seemed to honor those leading worship as if it was for our pleasure. It aligns to the thought of worship as intended for God and we are all participating together… some of us just choose not to get in front of people because only God loves our voice and not the rest of the congregation. For the ones who God did bless with a joyful noise, let them be reminded that they are there to honor God and not perform.
My biggest pet peeve is when people clap at the end of worship! My pastor and I work hard to create transitions that flow seamlessly from music to prayer to sermon to communion, etc. to avoid applause… And you know what?!? Some people said I was making the service to slick that they missed being able to clap after the songs!
We aren’t going to please everybody and because of the infinite images of God that exist (in my opinion) we are always going to run into matters of disagreement in how church should be presented -and that is okay. What is not okay (again in my opinion) is for any of us to think that we no absolutely best, that our way is the right way, or even worse the holy/divine way. Pride does not only exclusively exist in the “rockstar worship leaders”.
Reblogged this on Lookin' Fer Learnin'.
So well put!
We have to be careful here. Yes to the heart of this article, we absolutely need to point people to Jesus. This is priority number 1.
HOWEVER, anytime you stick people on a stage you will automatically have people saying “this is a performance” I don’t care if it’s mega church or a small church, people in some capacity are saying it.
I’ll speak for the team of volunteers I serve with. Not only do they play and sing great, but the LOVE JESUS. the majority of our team is serving the poor, in small groups, in community, preaching the gospel. The sad thing, is because they are on stage with skinny jeans or whatever, people who aren’t doing the work of the ministry sit on there computer screens and write ridicules over generalized blogs about churches like ours. I take great offense to this.
These articles are good reminders, but not always helpful. Perhaps we should take down stages and remove sound systems if we really want to be successful.
I feel you, Mike.
I think this book will resonate with many of you. The title is “Worship Leaders: We are not Rockstars. http://stephen-miller.com/wearenotrockstars/
Isn’t being relatable an important part of any kind of ministry? The newer generation can barely understand old hymns, much less like or enjoy them.
I think the article was a little too all-encompassing; not ALL worship leaders are like that. I would even dare to say MOST worship leaders aren’t like that. And, to some people, performing/playing music is their way of connecting to God. I’ve met many worship leaders, and they were all on-fire for God and just wanted to be a vessel for people to be comfortable in worshiping the Lord together.
Truth is, we NEED the lighting and the special effects and the “wow” factor these days, because THAT’S HOW WE’RE REACHING KIDS. People of the faith, who’ve been on a walk with God longer than people my age have been attending church (or even living), shouldn’t feel pushed away because the sound of worship is changing. I understand the disappointment of missing out on your favorite songs, but I truly think that as long as we’re connecting with the populace and keeping God as the main focus, worship is still going strong.
V I have to disagree with you and I think this is the crux of the debate because so many churches and leaders believe they have to relate and connect in order to reach people. So they keep chasing the next big thing to try to connect and relate in new, exciting, different ways. Sure these things might reach kids for a time, but they are a consumer generation: they’ll get bored very quickly. I believe Paul’s words in Colossians are for now: “We preach Christ, warning people not to add to the Message. We teach in a spirit of profound common sense so that we can bring each person to maturity. To be mature is to be basic. Christ! No more, no less.” (Colossians 1:28, MSG). I’m not saying that using lights or sound or any of the creative gifts God has given us is wrong; but we mustn’t make them our focus and we mustn’t let them distract from the simplicity of the message: “Christ! No more, no less.”
Thinking more on the relating and connecting bit…I should say yes, we do need to do that. I didn’t mean to sound like we stand over people with the Bible, slam the Truth down their throats and then walk off. But I don’t think we’re meant to relate and connect through sound/lights/bling and glam in church. If you take that practise to its logical conclusion, then we’re reaching people and drawing them INTO a church institution, rather than drawing them TO the person of Jesus. I don’t think we’re supposed to reach people that way, even (or perhaps especially?) kids. Predominantly, Jesus reached people by meeting them where they are at, in their own social situation. He talked to them. He listened to them. He met their needs. Then they followed Him. Nothing attracted them except the person of Jesus Himself. People long for connection still today–real authentic one-on-one connection and relationship. Everyone has a story and they long to have someone else listen to their story and to be loved for it or even in spite of it, with no judgment, no conditions. That’s how we’re supposed to reach people. We’re supposed to love each other and love them. Quite frankly, with what I’ve seen in churches lately–the judgement and the arrogance and the conditional love and the manipulation and the pride and the agenda and the power-trips, as far as reaching people goes, I would leave church out of it. Brutal, I know. I fully accept that my response here is coloured by my experience and I hope you will see that my words are laced with grace rather than disillusionment as I know we are all doing the best with what we have and we are all following our convictions.
Thank you! So refreshing. As a worship leader, my goal is to invite, encourage, and inspire others to engage in worship during our corporate gatherings. To facilitate this during our set times, I have solidified a few realizations:
1. Theology matters:
There are songs I will not lead, or (close your ears some of you, this may offend you) change a word or line in order to be able to sing the song…or leave a verse out. I want people singing truth. It matters. Declaring truth-and the affirmative of it. (Who we ARE, not who we are not)
2. Our focus needs to be on Jesus. Primarily. This doesn’t mean we can’t say “I” or “me”, etc. He meets us in relationship and in the real. But let’s spend most of our focus on Who He Is, the fact that He never changes, He gave it all because He lives us as sons and daughters, and we love Jesus!
3. My song and style preferences are not that important.
Neither are yours, or quite frankly, any individual’s. Choosing songs that our congregation collectively knows and connects with – and that the Holy Spirit prompts toward – is paramount. This was recently highlighted for me at a women’s retreat where we had no projection, ages ranging from 20-80…and I decided to pull out songs like the call-and-response “You’re Worthy Of My Praise,” “I Could Sing Of Your Love Forever,” and “Shout To The Lord,” (which we honestly just don’t do very often anymore). The ladies LOVED it, and everyone was able to worship because they knew the songs. That experience prompted me to use a handful of classic songs for a weekend service a couple weeks ago. The congregation ERUPTED in praise.
The body is hungry to jump in. I agree it is a choice to posture our hearts no matter what is presented. But we, as worship leaders, also have a choice. Let’s posture our hearts towards our congregation. We can sing any song we so desire when we worship before The Lord (and should be doing this away from the platform). But when we are PASTORING people, let’s do our best to serve well. Doesn’t mean we don’t do our best to be excellent. But in the end, the goal just delighting in Him as He delights in us.
I TOTALLY agree! I heard your heart; you’re not negatively critical of the conference. I’ve attended only one Worship Leader Conference, and you’re right; it IS a great, well-rounded, diverse conference in the areas of music, denomination, ethnicity, teaching, etc. Well-planned, and well-executed. However, WE are not the main attraction – JESUS is. I see “performancism” all the time, and sadly it is about the lights, and the stage presence, and the new music, and on and on it goes; everything except real worship. But we MUST keep worship about Jesus, and not about us. Jesus said, HE would do that drawing – not us. AND Jesus said in John 4:23-24 that God wants worshipers who will worship Him in spirit and in truth; Jesus says NOTHING about music, instruments, praise teams, musicians, etc.! He said, ‘in spirit and in truth.” So whatever we do in the name of worship should come under that umbrella. Your synopsis is well-thought out and well-spoken. God bless you. Let’s all keep worship about God, Jesus, and being led by the Holy Spirit. Worship is NOT for us – it’s for God.
Jamie! You are right on! I have been in ministry for 63 years and the past few years my heart has been saddened in the dozens of churches that I have visited. I find that the worship?? in most of them is, as you say, PERFORMANCE CENTERED. May God bring us back to putting Jesus in His rightful place — that is FRONT and CENTER.
My favorite part of the article ….sing in a congregational key! I have a degree in music, can follow along pretty much anything….but I hate it when I attend a church where the worship leader has a really high or really low voice so he/she puts everything in “their” favorite key. If the musicians I know, including myself, can’t sing the song, what hope does the average non-musician have in participating in the worship. They are left to just “watch” and “listen” because the notes are impossible to sing. I thought the article was well-written and thought through. I didn’t see you trying to condemn anyone, just asking us all to take a look and recalibrate – we should all be doing this anyway.
I don’t completely agree. I think God can be worshipped through lights and technology. I think that their are people in this world with incredible skill sets in stage design, lighting, sound and technology that want to glorify Jesus with their skills. They want to serve the church and they do this by creating beautiful stages and areas of worship that I believe can be God glorifying. These people want to serve their congregation by creating an environment where the focus isn’t on a giant whole in the wall or the annoying fluorescent lights… They try to serve Jesus by creating an environment where people can become completely focused on God. I do think that this can be taken too far, but not every church that has cool lights and cool venues is wrong. I am part of a small church that doesn’t have those things and God is glorified despite that but I have also been to other churches that do have those things and God is glorified despite what they have. It is the same God. He is present everywhere whether there are lights and cool stages or not. Let’s not blame the lights, environment, stages or even worship leaders for not being able to worship.
I don’t think anyone said God can’t “be worshipped through lights and technology”. Creativity is a wonderful gift of God and it should be encouraged in the church. But not at the expense of the proclamation of the gospel. What should be avoided is creativity becoming the main thing instead of pointing to the main thing. We’re called to be faithful before we’re called to be creative.
This was a very interesting article to read. Thank you Jamie, for sharing. I’ve been leading worship for the past 10 years and have seen many quick changes happen on the worship front due to technological advancements and the influence of technology on music as an art form, period. I think you bring up a very good point Jamie. With all of the “trends” happening in worship music it can be hard not to put pressure on our selves as worship leaders and on our teams to keep up. Also, I see many worship leaders trying to discover the line between performance and excellence in their offering.
As God’s people, we have creative authority like one of the users above mentioned. Why should mainstream music be having all the influence? I have been in small churches and mega churches and lead worship or sang on teams in both arenas and no matter the size of lights or size of speakers when either church offered up their most excellent gift in their worship, it was an exceptional invitation to become a participator and not a spectator. I’ve seen the lights and fog machines be distracting…..who hasn’t? But I’ve been in arenas where those exceptional aesthetics became the most unique offering that you couldn’t help but get in on.
I think it is important to remember that our goal as worship leaders and worship teams is to bring our congregations into the presence of God so THEY can worship. The steps to help them get there require a consideration for a song’s familiarity, sing-ability, and content. As well as eliminating distractions of all kinds in our presentation. These are all very important items to consider in order for the congregation to feel invited into worship. But I also believe that it is our obligation and privilege to bring to the Lord our most excellent offering. After all that He has done for us, wow! How could we settle for a mediocre offering, no matter what you have?! I don’t believe that worship sessions without fog machines and dark lights are not acceptable to the Lord. I believe no matter whether you have one acoustic guitar and one voice or a stage full of a 50 piece orchestra, when you are bringing your absolute best offering of worship to the Lord, He honors that.
So why not praise Him with all creative outlets?! If He gave us the creativity with lighting, sound and music why not give it back to Him? Yes, be mindful of distracting light changes, super long guitar solos, or vocal lines that are hard to follow. But don’t be afraid to use the creative minds that God has given us to bless Him and to invite our congregations to join in on this most excellent offering.
In your journey of discovering all you and your team can offer, you’ll make mistakes, things might be distracting but learn from each week. Let the next week be an opportunity to fine tune those new creative outlets and see how they can be an invitation to the congregation. In this way, your worship experience won’t be a performance session but it will become something much greater than that, an invitation to experience God face to face in His most excellent presence as you bring your most excellent gift. When He is exalted with the best that we can give, this is WORSHIP!
Anon… I can relate. And, I know it’s all too easy to say that we stand or fall before God alone. Being wounded *hurts* there is no way to soft pedal it. But, even after being ‘sat down’ several times… Even after being replaced by the first slightly more competent talent, several times… I know deep in my heart that I am still a Worship Minister. Even if I am not healed enough to step into the fray today. I know that is what God has called me to do. I’ve dreamt about having my own church. But, I know in my heart I am not *that* guy. Sure I could for a while… Probably anyone could. So, I would say that each of us has to know their own heart… And, remember that it is easy to look like a pro when you are touched by God. People who are not touoched by The Holy Spirit can’t understand how we look when we are basking in His Presence. Don’t fear them pity them. Minister to them if you can. But, know you own heart, first.
One of the best articles I’ve read on the topic. I’m a rank and file, anonymous worship leader, and I’m not a songwriter. After almost 30 years of serving in this ministry, I absolutely agree with you Jamie. You’ve put out in a public forum what I’ve experienced in various churches, and sadly, was part of the trend for a time. I was inspired early on by truly biblically grounded, anointed and gifted worship leader/songwriters who understood what’s required for this ministry. They set the standard for me, and this article is a call for evangelical worship to return to these principles. Well done.
Good article. I am not a worship leader (but used to be, and play on a worship team)–I am a psychologist who does research in a field called the Cognitive Science of Religion, and one of the areas I examine is worship ritual. This article hits on an issue that is not only theologically important, but psychologically important as well. I am convinced that the current evangelical model is not sustainable (I speak of the celebrity-driven mega-church model in which worship “feels” like a performance or concert for the majority of the congregants).
There are some really important reasons why this model cannot be sustained for most church-goers over the years, and certainly not across the generations. If we don’t feel like we are a worshiping body, in community with each other, worshiping with each other, but rather feel like what is happening is an almost anonymous group of people all having individual “worship experiences” together, then there is no deep tie to the community of faith, no sense that we are the body of Christ together. This increases the transient nature of people’s connection to a local church, and ties into why people change churches so easily and think about church as something that is supposed to “feed me.” It also feeds into the notion that people can “church shop.” Church becomes simply part of a consumer mentality. Yes, this will indeed lead to a crash.
This taps into some essential psychological/ cognitive issues related to how we are embodied souls (rather than souls that inhabit bodies for a while). It also taps into how our minds process worship. We need some rituals which involve high sensory pageantry which signal that God is indeed doing something in our midst and people are being changed forever–marriage is an example of this. And we need rituals in which we offer something to God, rituals that are repeated often and lead us to sense God’s presence and our connection–communion is an example of this. But unless people who are planning worship begin to understand how these rituals work in our lives, and unless they design worship so that the people in the congregation feel like they have participated together in the rituals, there will be regular overstress on one or other kind of ritual and approach and people will flow in and out of church with temporary connections to a particular local church, for now, and little connection to THE church, universal. (and please don’t talk to me about “getting rid of dead ritual”–every church creates rituals. Rituals are at the center of all worship, always. It’s how humans DO worship.). These issues are really important and contemporary evangelical worship is indeed heading for a crash unless they are attended to in some way. I know the church will always continue, and change is absolutely inevitable in what we do, but it would be good if we could manage the change with eyes wide open and design worship that draws people into community in order to empower them out to service and cross-generational stability.
In my several decades now as a believer and a regular church service attender, I have served as a “worship leader”, a “worship team” participant, and now as a senior pastor. I believe it is important from time to time to come back to the very basic premise of what worship is – acknowledging worth. In the sense of worshipping GOD; Jesus Christ our LORD, worship is to acknowledge His worth – to extol Him – to exalt Him! Although we may tend to think of worship in terms of music and song, thankfully it is much broader than that. We have the great privilege to worship Him also in our work, in our thoughts and meditation of Him, in our giving (of ourselves and our resources), and literally in every aspect of life. Colossians 3:17 has helped me greatly as I consider it together with 3:16. “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed…”, worship our Lord in it. When I realize that my life as a “worshiper” (Jesus’ term in John 4:23-24) is far grander than just my opportunity for singing, either alone or with others, terms like “worship experience”, “worship leader” and “worship team” take on different meanings perhaps. I urge you to carefully consider your life as a worshipper, and who and/or what it is you worship. I will strive to do the same.
It is not about the songs, the trends, the vocal acrobatics or the catchy beats. Will the visitors, young people and elderly enjoy the songs?… NO! The question is will it please God? The goal is to lead the congregation in to the presence of God. This requires the leader to be living a life of Holiness and total abandonment as a yielded vessel to the Holy Spirit. Churches tend to elevate talent before godliness. Also, we are supposed to enter into His gates with thanksgiving and then enter into His courts with Praise. Songs that thank God should be followed by songs that praise God for who He is… Holy, Worthy, Savior, etc. Read in Revelation what the praise sounds like in Heaven in the throne room.
If we had spent the man hours that were spent in Worship services actually going to unreached people groups, we would literally be in the thrown room right now. Jesus would have returned. We would not be down here in a worship service. Matthew 24:14 – Also we cannot kill performancism. Our system/church is built like a concert hall. We have opened the doors for thousands of amateur want-to-be performers to partially realize their dream of being famous musicians. It is not the purpose of Christianity. God cares not one grain of salt about our worship services. One can truly worship God after one has obeyed God, and until we are shining in the totally dark areas of the world, we are not obeying.
I for one don’t hate you. You’re spot on and why the “crash” to which Jamie points is actually something else entirely.
I can’t believe how exact your points are to how we (my husband and I) have been thinking on the subject of worship lately. We look around and see most people not moving their mouths at all during worship. They just stare at the “performers” on stage. The room is so dark I fear we might trip on something when we walk in, but the “stage” is all lit up. The worship leaders don’t see how silent everyone else is. I am a singer/music major/songwriter myself, and I get weary of worship when I can’t even keep up with the music being machined out. I pray something will change.
I appreciated Jamie’s post, as well as all the wonderful comments. I have never been a worship pastor, but am actively involved in the worship ministry of my church. Up until recently, my career at an IT contract worker led me to work and live in many different communties. As such, I have visited a lot of different churches. I’d like to speak from the point of view of the first-time visitor. The praise and worship phase of a church service should actively involve the entire congregation, including members/regular attenders as well as visitors, to focus their adulation on an audience of One. I really do enjoy learning new songs. However, I have visited churches where the worship minister was a songwriter, and every congregational song was one of his original compositions, totally unknown outside of that particular church. That made me feel like an outsider rather than a welcome guest. Much more important however is the fact that so much of my focus was on trying to catch on to the songs that I was unable to really join in the worship. And if I can’t feel that I can worship as a first-time visitor, I’m not going to waste my time coming back a second time. By all means, introduce some new material, but not to the exclusion of songs that might be familiar to a guest.
Yes I guess you are right Susan, the real crash is includes all the activity of the church, our worship is dead because the churches purpose is dead. We are left here on earth for one thing and that is finish the Great Commission. Jesus was already resurrected when he gave us the command to make disciples of all nations/ethnos. And here we are in 2014 with more than half of the worlds people groups still without a missionary or Bible translation. Our worship is just the reflection of our Christianity. We show up but are just moving our mouths. Every person on every worship team everywhere needs to take the Gospel to a people that has not ever worshiped God before, discipling them first of course so that they know what the songs mean. 🙂 Don’t worry, there are plenty of musicians that are waiting to take your place.
Performancism has been on the rise for a very long time. I’m going to throw another bit into the mix: the celebrity preacher. Presumably, pulpits were placed center stage by our reformation forefathers to highlight the centrality of the scriptures. But it’s long given way to the centrality of the preacher. Hence the performance oriented speaker. We need a new reformation. Kierkegaard was right: when we come to the place of worship it is we who are the players (not performers) and God who is the audience. So we never ask whether the worship “spoke to me” we ask, “how did I do (as a worshipper giving God his due)?” Also, whatever happened to Trinitarian worship? Pointing to Jesus is fine but remember the other two members of the Godhead why don’t we?
For one, they are music leaders, NOT worship leaders. Please, the Spirit leads me in worship through singing, hearing the word, prayer, fellowship, etc.
The fix starts by understanding what these hired musicians are.
Agree wholeheartedly and thank you for saying what needs to be said. The only thing you didn’t address is the volume. Our entire worship is in the red… faders peaking and speakers distorting. There is nothing “corporate” when you can’t hear your own voice or voices around you. I’m a singer. My hearing is valuable so I sit it out in the foyer. A mega church in our area supplies ear plugs. Fine for adults but what about infants and children who don’t use them. Perhaps worship dumb down and hearing loss are related?
So, “You will hate me,” where are you?
Jamie, thanks for your thoughts. I agree 100 %. I’ ll share my thinking too: worship is a calling from God and it’s about God. We can respond to that calling because the Lord has already equipped us with it. We can sing, but to minister, we need the His anointing to worship. And when that is present and is reality, not an effort, we just flow in that calling for which He has already given us a gift…we just flow in it… We can train and we have to train our talent so that poor technique will not be a hindrance at the moment of ministering unto Him… good handling of technique takes us to the freedom and joy to flow in the lead of His HS. I always pray before I worship that I can minister in His peace… and then I suurrender all human energy and enthusiasm to Him, all human agenda… So it’s like I provide the voice but He is the road, the Way, the HIGH-Way” =) He is the Way indeed! A healthy repented heart will provide the right sacrifice before God, like Noah after the flood… and the ultimate sacrifice: our Lord Jesus. I pray that He shows us which is the right place in worship before Him.
Hug from Argentina!
It’s kind of adorable how this article makes it sound like this is a disturbing new trend rather than something endemic in Evangelical worship since forever. But the suggestions are good ones.
The traditional solution to this problem is to make every Christian a performer and God the audience.
“Liturgy” means “the work of the people”. Traditional worship (meaning the greater catholic tradition…Roman, Eastern, Anglican) means a very high participation in worship–lighting candles, reading scripture, singing, kneeling, crossing, moving, eating, drinking, feeding, dipping, touching, smelling, greeting, praying, carrying, offering, etc. It’s ironic that Protestants think of traditional Christianity as legalistic, top-down, and creating special classes of Christians. Instead, they are churches where everyone participates in the prayers bodily, and where one’s musical skills or preaching takes a very small role in comparison to the other elements.
You simply cannot create a culture of worshiping as a body if there is a tiny professional class of Christians being amplified, videographed, lit, put on digital screens, and giving their opinions on the scriptures for the bulk of time together.
When I was in the center of all that, leading worship at a cool, large evangelical church, we thought that the medium was value-neutral. That we would use whatever tools to attract people to the gospel.
What we did, in reality, was win people to flashy, shallow cults of personality.
The medium IS the message. The way we pray and praise together affects our social imaginary, and therefore is more important than any sermon, lecture, or book in shaping our life of discipleship. This is why the Torah has such intense detail about how to craft candelabras and doorknobs. How we worship together has everything to do with how we live lives of worship daily.
Western Evangelicals have cut themselves almost entirely from the body of Christ, baptizing themselves into a culture of isolation and death through the waters of fad and fashion.
I regret almost everything about my evangelical past.
Thanks for stopping by. I don’t think I’ve ever had one of my posts called “adorable” before. I kind of like it.
But seriously, I’m sorry you had experiences in evangelical churches that you regret. There certainly are unfortunate excesses of, as you say, “fads and fashions” in evangelicalism. And there are also unfortunate excesses in the more formal/Catholic/Anglo-catholic churches you mention. The answer to one excess isn’t to run to another. The answer to one excess is to address the excess. There is a lot that’s good and healthy and vibrant in western evangelicalism and its worship practices. If my post leads some to think that I’m suggesting it’s all headed for ruin, that’s not the intention. Rather, it’s the performancism in corporate worship that’s headed for a crash, and I hope this post encourages worship leaders to address its excesses before it’s too late.
Yes, the Church is an enormous glorious mess. I don’t think there’s an easy correlation between the excesses of trying to make prayer as cool as a tv show and whatever excesses you might find in traditional liturgy. Worship doesn’t need less excess! It needs everything and everything good that helps us worship in spirit and truth. What evangelical worship has is an excess of practices that de-form us in regards to the kingdom. In addition to leading worship I also made my living in the Christian music industry AND have a circle of friends that are in positions of ministry in the largest, coolest evangelical churches in the world. I can speak with some authority when I say that as long as you are moderately good looking, have musical talent, and know how to say the right words, you don’t have to be a Christian to lead this type of worship. It is divorced from actual discipleship. I know leaders in mega churches who are literally psychopaths whose families and staff suffer from their ugly in-Christlikeness. And it’s not a flaw in the system. It’s a feature. Church boards and search committees want people with talent who are lacking enough empathy to help the church reach their goals (always numeric) without anyone getting in the way.
I don’t regret all my experiences in evangelicalism…I’m very grateful for a deep knowledge of the scriptures and the enthusiasm of conversion.
But it simply can’t be compared. What a relief it was to fall into a tradition where any person from the congregation can go up and read a sizable amount of scripture, where people will sit in silence for a moment of reverence, and where people will get on their knees and confess that they haven’t loved God with their whole heart or their neighbor as themselves. In short, to gather together to worship as a body instead of manufacturing emotion using the tools of hollow modernity to create individualistic consumers of religious goods and experiences.
No matter how sincere I was in my desire to lead people to Christ, he simply was not at the center of that culture. It’s been that way forever
That many faithful saints have preserved prayers, praises, and practices to pass along to me with the baptism, scriptures, and good news that I’ve inherited…why do we struggle to invent our Christianity? Why not receive it as a gift, recognize it as something that doesn’t start or end with our puny goals, allow ourselves to join the multitudes of prayers an praises that have been preserved so carefully for us?
Church history is pneumotology. To be cavalier about our inheritance as Christians and reinvent Christian worship in isolation from the “great cloud of witnesses” is to ignore the work of the Spirit in the body of Christ. For millennia.
Learning the tricks of the trade can only ever pale in comparison to that inheritance. Modern worship is thin gruel. It does not a healthy body make.
Outstanding contribution to the discussion, Joey. The corporate worship you describe is what I crave, and is what most evangelical congregations probably need to move to. It’s what we did in the 70s in our simple student gatherings, usually in someone’s living room. We saw it in scripture, and so we did it. No gifted worship leader required – we were just all together before the throne. Joey’s story proves we can go back to that simple but beautiful shared experience. Let’s do it now!
“Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open and all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit that we may perfectly love you and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
How was I allowed to lead worship as long as I did without learning that prayer? While we were vainly repeating over and over how “awesome” God was, why didn’t I know the rich history of Christian worship?
I still lead with guitar. I write some songs for worship. We still have drums. But what I would give to teach a seminar at that sort of conference on a proper Rite II Eucharist from the Book of Common Prayer. I think such an experience could only help deepen the spiritual formation of the evangelical church. Anglo-Catholicism is the tradition that formed C.S. Lewis and N.T. Wright, and houses some of our best Christian theologians today (Stanley Hauerwas, Rowan Williams, John Milbank).
Can’t be all that bad 🙂
Indeed. The Prayer for Purity is a wonderful prayer. In fact, so wonderful I named this blog after it!
Thank you so much for these comments, Mr. Aszterbaum. I hope they will help some readers understand and even appreciate the value of liturgy and the Churches in which this is the norm. I also want to point out, however, that “Anglicanism” was the term you wanted below, rather than the narrower “Anglo-Catholicism” for at least C.S. Lewis, N.T. Wright, and Rowan Williams.
Here is a sharing from a congregation member aka an “audience.”
I totally feel you. One day I went to this church. Didn’t know any of the songs. Tried to immerse to His presence but was always bothered with loud yelling from the worship leader or flashing lights. I tried to “connect” to Him but I failed (maybe it was me?). It was loud, confusing and frustrating — not the feeling I want to have when going to a church.
After a troubled heart for almost half an hour I had to leave. I ran for another church where I could “redeem” my worship time with Him…
I was one of the worship leaders at the NWLC. I completely agree with you assessment. I was part of the ‘songwriters’ featurette at the beginning of the Thursday evening event. I’m a regional worship pastor here in VA, and I was a bit taken back by the number of times I saw people sharing a song on stage with no participation from the crowd. It is unfortunate. I hope the culture changes. I really do.
Interesting article and I mostly agree. I do want to throw out, in parallel, an even greater threat to our modern worship. Worship is not for the non-Christian, and I don’t think Paul was referring to non-Christians when he mentioned “inquirers”, or, in your words, “outsiders.” For some reason, many churches are making their meetings, or more specifically, worship services, engaging primarily for non-Christians. This trend is highly dangerous for the church. Arguably, the church is for Christians, and worship is not evangelism, anyway, but that’s a different article.
Why is this important? Worship services, song choices, and everything else shouldn’t be constructed around, or primarily, toward the non-Christian audience. If so, we have really missed the model of the church, and worship, as outlined by Paul in the New Testament. Again, I realize this is a different article (i.e. subject), but I also see this trend of “performancism” as catering to the wrong people. If we are going to correct something, let’s make sure we are looking at the correct reference.
Worship is a deep subject, and I am a simple guy. I’m also not a scholar on worship. I just feel many modern practices in our churches–while they are great ideas and very logical–are not biblical. That is obvious.
Again, good article. Thanks for tackling the tough subjects.
If you have an older congregation than, certainly, a lot of these things apply. Although, a more modern church might make great use of some of the newer technology. I have been in worship settings that were pretty flashy, but the worship was sincere and wonderful. I say, regardless of the venue, know God, be yourself, be sincere and encourage hearts through songs of grace and love. Paint a picture of a loving Father who longs for us to acknowledge his presence. I think the worship leader has to fight to stay amazing by God’s love. I know there’s all this talk about worship leaders needing to make sure to “get it right,” and don’t do this and that, but what about worship just being an overflow of the work that’s being done in our own hearts? Be You. Don’t conform and try to be like the next person. Sing a new song, be yourself and most importantly, keep growing in the knowledge of God and his never-ending love for you.
I was a worship pastor sandwiched between 2 performance driven worship pastors. My constant reminder to the team was, “If you’re not worshiping during service, you’ve missed the point.” We saw our denomination being run like a business…as the manual took priority over scripture, we gave up my husbands ordination and my license to search for 2 things: Bible and Worship. So thankful to have found both, but the options are fewer than they used to be. I have learned so much about simplicity here…we have great vocalists/instrumentalists, but the messages of the songs are mostly straight from scripture and easily learned. God already decorated His truth beautifully, there is nothing we can add to make it more beautiful. It is simply the heart of obedience that makes the difference as we lead.
Hi, I’m a worship leader near Boston, MA. I play the acoustic and lead songs just about every week. Our band’s style is a lot like Bethel Worship, except our sets are a little shorter. Anyway, my comments about this article are this:
1. I agree that serving the church, pointing them to Jesus, and singing songs they know is necessary.
2. I don’t know why this writer and some other Christians seem to think that “performing” is so terrible. I think performing is sometimes part of what naturally flows from your personality, hard work, and calling. When you’re on a stage, you’re going to have people looking at you. You have “attention” by default. I don’t know how to not “perform” when I’ve worked hard to learn my craft.
Thanks for serving your church and for being faithful to point them to Jesus.
“Performing” is the wrong lens through which to view our role as worship leaders. No matter how hard we’ve worked to learn our craft or play our instruments, God does not give us a platform at our churches so we can perform. He gives us a platform so we can point people to Jesus. The point of leading worship is to point. Sure, there’s a degree to which we perform songs, play instruments, work on arrangements, use our creativity, and do it all as excellently as we can. But our approach to our role matters, and colors all that we do. If we approach it as a performance, then it will carry the characteristics of a performance. If we approach it as a servant, as a facilitator, as a pointer, and as a pastor, then we’re in better shape to tame the performancism.
Hey! Greetings From the Sunny South 😉
Pretty interesting article, I think he has some legitimate points, but not legitimate concerns in my mind. Yes I’m concerned for people who have the wrong heart for worship but merely because they’re missing out on what it’s all about 🙂 As a leader we are supposed to lead, and if we leave behind those we are leading, shame on us. For some leading looks like walking in a single file line, for others of us it looks more like ants swarming fresh fruit. (Not great examples haha) But the point is, we are to LEAD (not control) and to think that we can do that in any way, other than the Grace of God, we’re just running in circles.
That place where we lead them to is this… to worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth. If that’s not a place we (worship leaders) can go, then we are just blind leading the blind. (But even the blind men found Jesus)
I think Jesus is just too irresistible to miss out on! But the greater truth is how irresistible it is for him to smother his children with Love.
Here’s my favorite super highly intellectual definition of worship, in the words of Civilla D. Martin:
“I sing Because I’m Happy, and I sing because I’m Free.” – His eye is on the sparrow
If we don’t understand that worship is meaningless without him, we just gotta keep swinging blindfolded till we hit the piñata. Worship (In my opinion) is simply this… an outward expression of an inward reality. Jesus makes me happy so I smile and laugh- That’s worship. Jesus gives me peace, so I rest- Worship. Jesus Saved my soul, so I jump up and down and sing songs about it- Worship. Sometimes I wonder if people think it’s weird that I jump around and yell and laugh and cry during worship… but I think it’s weird that we do those things at sporting events and TV shows and not at church. That being said. Someone sitting quietly in their pew contemplating and beholding the beauty and mystery of God is Far Greater Worship than a fool jumping around in vain with a Guitar.
And sometimes I might look like that fool, but what matters to me is the Heart. Sorry I can’t help looking like a fool. In fact “I’ll become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes…” -King David 2 Samuel 6:22. Sometimes you gotta just let whats inside come out. and if there’s nothing inside, Pray for it! (Even though It’s already there haha).
Now last thing…. I’m a song writer as you know. So in reference to only playing songs in “congregational keys” and singing originals in “Extreme Moderation” I really couldn’t care less about these statements. I’m sorry if he was hurt or rejected by someone or some church, but I think that if God only intended songs to be in the key of G he only would have created 8 notes and 4 chords using those 8 notes. Song writing is important logically because we wouldn’t have any worship songs without the songwriters who started it all. So he kind of bit himself in the butt there. But I believe that songs can emerge from journeys that churches have been on together and people can connect with them even more than going online and searching for songs that have “Key words” in them.
Anyway it’s all about what the father wants, which is to worship in Spirit and Truth. So I can’t say anything about electric guitars, or lights, or fog machines, But I challenge every person with this. Worship God in any situation and environment wether it’s a fire breathing Pentecostal service or a Catholic liturgy. If we can worship him alone in our rooms, we can worship him in the loud clingy off key music with weird looking worship leader. It’s about you and him. 🙂 Lets keep it all about that.
I hope this makes any sense haha I’m so tired, thanks for bringing this to my attention.
I don’t think God intended songs to only be sung in the key of G. Although I do think Gsus is his favorite chord.
Clever sir… Clever. haha
By the way awesome Job at responding to as many comments as you do 🙂 you’re a better man than I haha says a lot about you though.
I’m 63 now. I grew up in a good evangelical church. We used to sing traditional hymns out of a hymnal. I’m glad I now have a collection of those old hymnals I can return to even if it is now just me and the Holy Spirit. I find better worship there than in the local mega churches I’ve attended with nationally known worship leaders. The theology is usually so much richer. Shouldn’t songs we sing teach good theology? I think all of this trend toward trendy songs catering to the young has been a huge mistake. Since when should young people, led by pop culture, have first say in running the churches. I watch older saints stay out until the noisy banging music ends. I think that is terribly disrespectful and great wealth in traditional worship is being lost, maybe never to be recovered. Since when is popular right?
I’m not a worship leader, but I am excited, as this is what has been impressed upon me for the past 18 months!
Eh.. I agree with your position that worship leaders should “point the congregation to Jesus” but the overgeneralization that this is happening across the country and in every church is bunk. You went to the NATIONAL WORSHIP LEADERS CONFERENCE. What did you expect? Chairs set up in a circle and a guy or gal you’ve never heard of before lead y’all in Here I am to Worship? No matter the size of your congregation, a worship leader’s job is 100% absolutely without hesitation to #1 spiritually and #2 physically “create an atmosphere conducive to an emotional response to God.” #1 do the spiritual work/prep, if you don’t know what I’m talking about, put down your Taylor 🙂 and go serve in the kids church. #2 Do the physical work/performance. “Don’t draw attention to yourself” I read this A LOT, usually from boring worship leaders. Don’t draw attention to yourself? Why not? Everyone is looking at you!! You’re the one with the mic! Would you rather them play Angry Birds? Don’t worry, no one is gonna start worshiping you. Lets presuppose a typical parishioner “X” admits to not really engaging in worship. What should we do with them? Kick them out? Pray they somehow connect with God in the parking lot? Give them someone to follow! The Church is ‘the body’ right? Our congregations are not all alike. Our expressions of worship are not all alike. Will not our people gravitate to the worship expression that helps them connect with God in the best way possible. Even if that means a fog machine, big fancy lights or sitting around in a circle singing Here I am to Worship.
Four quick thoughts:
1. I didn’t say that this was happening in every church. But I do think it’s a growing trend.
2. I don’t think a worship leader’s job is to “create an atmosphere conducive to an emotional response to God”. I’m not trying to create an atmosphere. I’m trying to help people exalt Jesus.
3. You’re right that it’s unavoidable that worship leaders will receive attention. But we can absorb or deflect. And people can tell pretty quickly what we’re trying to do.
4. Yes, different people like different things and will choose different churches based on different factors. But everyone needs Jesus. When he is obscured, by whatever it is, people are not being served well.
As a worship leader and worship blog writer, I totally get what you’re talking about.
About ten years ago I clearly remember being led by my team and leaders to “play skilfully” – ‘bliblical’, right? Trouble is, we all end up stressed out and under pressure that ‘skilfulness = biblical’ and I’m *really worried* that we’re (read: charismatic evangelicals are) running into the ground through trying too hard when maybe we should be doing it for Him and Him alone.
I’m not going to say much more because I’m reacting, and as a blog writer I know what it’s like to get a flurry of reactions. Recently I posted an idea about putting forced limitations in place for the sake of our own growth ( http://www.worshipleaderuk.com/choosing-worship-songs-5-year-old-rule/ ) and it didn’t go down very well at all. Some people got it, but others totally misunderstood the point that I was making. What is great though is when we join in the conversation for the sake of growth, and move forward in magnifying His name.
Reblogged this on Following God: Notes ♫ From A Grand Adventure and commented:
It’s always about Jesus…. there is a fine line between leading and performing. Leading should point toward Jesus and performing points towards ourselves… and it’s always about Jesus.
Mark Cole, you say there’s a “fine line” between leading and performing, and then you prove that you know that the difference is far bolder by saying, “Leading should point toward Jesus and performing points towards ourselves.” Performing asks others for a response; leading is coordination and facilitation and direction of an effort of which the leader is also a part. Leadership is a role for a team member; performance is inherently a diversion. Performance, like all diversions, has its place, and can certainly be edifying, but corporate worship is a group project, hard work – the hard work of collectively seeing and savoring the Savior.
Performance vs Ministry… If you are truly gifted of Our Lord… There will always be people who will put you on a pedestal. It’s inevitable. How you respond to this is what reveals your heart. And, whether you encourage it reveals your true love…
Reblogged this on Connect.
Well said! I also find it appalling that parents use this ministry to “showcase” their children’s skills. We often like to say that musicians have a “gift” when the Word of God only mentions two primary (Salvation, Holy Spirit); and five secondary according to Eph 4:11-16. The concept of “music ministry” is not Biblical in itself. There is no record of the early church having a “music ministry”.
I love this blog post. Thanks for writing it! I think it points out one of the temptations in our culture today. With social media, I think we all have to fight the temptation to lift ourselves up on a platform and make life about being loved and noticed rather than loving and focusing on God and others. I also fight this temptation as a writer and it’s even harder since it’s so easy to click over to Amazon and see where I am in the rankings. I love that you brought the issue up to talk about and pray that your blog post will impact the church culture!
Excellent insight, however it is not the Worship Pastor at the helm as this ship approaches peril. It is the Senior Pastor who not only allows this but insists on it.
Our churches of all sizes are satuated with the egos of Pastors addicted to satisfying the need to feed their egos with large crowds and a great satisfying performance. Until Senior Pastors repent and change directions, the church will continue to move in a self destructive direction.
People were tuning and just watching 30 years ago too… Probably just as much. I don’t think “Performancism” is the problem. We have a heart problem. All of us. And if someone wants to use their creative output in worship with loops and lyrics and synths, whose to say that that does not, or can not, point directly to Jesus. It completely can. It’s the heart behind the worship leader and te congregation that matters. It truly is just a preference thing. Some people love lots of lights and big walls of sound and actually connect better with The Lord and have more freedom to worship in spirit and truth in those settings. Some prefer acoustic settings. Some prefer reading out a hymnal. It’s all preference. As long as you point to the gospel and sing of the gospel, then how can you say “Performancism” is the thing getting in the way when the heart of you and your people your leading are on Christ?
Great post! The reasons you said are precicely why I have grown to appreciate Keith and Kristyn Getty so much. Their commitment to hymns and bringing the modern church to a more purposeful approach to congregational worship is refreshing. Worship leaders would be wise to follow their lead on this.
On another note, your brought up a great point about lyric content. The content should be scripture, liturgy, and doctrine set to music, for the most part, to write truth on one’s heart for pure worship. Some songs are so “artistic” and intersted in being unique that they are indulgent at best and often confusing. Thanks for the great post!
Check out WorshipMob on YouTube for some authentic worship that’ll set you on fire- a 45 min session that lights me up every time: http://youtu.be/BuzZX2VWD-I
THAN YOU Jamie!!!!
I am not a musician, but I am appreciative of many types of worship. However, what you are saying rings so very true. I attended a service in a “black box” church where the auditorium was literally a black box with the “rock star” presentation of “worship”. The preaching seemed to be the sideline event, and I felt “processed” as I was instructed in the middle of the last song to quickly leave so the next service could start. The music was so loud that I had to look at the faces of those next to me to see if others were singing. It gave me a feeling of being isolated instead of being drawn into the unity of a body of Christ. The choir had been disbanded as superfluous, and the worship songs were performed by three people accompanied by flashing lights spanning the audience. When I asked our friends why the huge shift, they responded that it “necessary” to keep the young people, and that they have learned to sacrifice their own desire for other kinds of worship. Ironically, the sermon that day was on how the younger generation feels entitled and assumes that what they want is more important than what has come before. It made us smile, because the impression I had was that the church was perpetuating in their worship was a form of entitlement in itself. Speaking to this issue of performancism for the sake of brining in the numbers,
I suggest a look at the book, Dining with the Devil – by Os Guinness.
Wow – as one of those that sit in the pew, this blog and comments have been very interesting. One thing I did not see was mentioned is that this is suppose to be “congregational worship” – when I do personal worship I do it when I am alone. How can we worship as a group – and connect as a body – when we cannot hear ourselves, let alone the person next to us? This can be as much of a problem with an organ as with drums and guitars.
And when does “creating conditions of worship” become manipulating people? I go to concerts and watch the performer lift emotions and lower them using particular styles of music. When music becomes loud enough the brain turns off and our response is purely emotional. Shouldn’t worship be a thoughtful, intentional reaching out for God?
Thanks for listening to a layman’s views.
Reblogged this on Ordinary Becoming Extraordinary and commented:
Our job, as worship leaders, is to direct a congregation and their worship to The Lord. We must always point to Jesus, not to ourselves. The second that worship becomes about us, and we begin to point to ourselves, we become like Aaron in Exodus 32, forming an idol out of man made things and then declaring “Here is your god.” I love this short blog post, so many solid insights for worship leaders and pastors.
Good article. I think the original song situation is simple. Listen to the holy spirit. If he is tellig you to follow a certain theme of songs then do it! If it means no originals or all originals then so be it. But dont be stuck in a religious way of thinking. And also you are not doing your congregation a favour by not singing an original because youve already sung your ONE original for your set despite the fact you feel urged to lead into that song.
And to solve the problem of people not knowin originals. Its actually really simple. Justnlike how everyone learns songs, you just play it more ofteb. Its not that hard. A
nd to be honest, God will speak to people during worship about the theme and lyrics of a song – if they are engaged. If the congregation doesnt have a “feed me” mentality then they will do their part to engage in worship and worship God via the song.
Has God called you to lead people in worship or to people please?
Why does a church need “worship leaders” anyway? The answer is they don’t. I’ve never been to a church with a band and people on stage singing with mics where it didn’t feel like a performance. If you really want it to be about God and not about you on stage like you say, then put the band- yes, it’s a band, in the BACK of the church or up in a balcony somewhere. Nobody needs a band and “worship leaders” in order to worship God. And if you DO need to be entertained while you are at church, then you’re at church for the wrong reasons.
And one more thing…repeating the chorus or one line of a song 47 times in row is NOT worship, it’s vain repetition.
A church doesn’t “need” worship leaders, but it sure can be served by them. And it’s possible for those worship leaders/that band to stand on a stage and help facilitate/model Jesus-centered, God-honoring worship. Leading from the back doesn’t solve everything, and it could actually create new issues (the first one to come to mind is feedback!). Yes, to come to church to be entertained is a wrong reason. But regardless of why people come to church, our job is to serve them and point them to Jesus. And most of the time singing a line 47 times is a bit much, unless communion is going long and you have to fill some time. 🙂
So glad I found your blog!!! I have a burning heart for worship and am frustrated when it does not serve it’s purpose!!! Thank you!!
BTW where are that conference?!
It was in Centerville, Virginia, just outside of Washington D.C.
Reblogged this on misterjoshuaray and commented:
I’ve seen this blog making the rounds recently and think this is a critical issue to engage with. We must always always ALWAYS “Point to Jesus…[and not] draw attention to yourself.” Great thoughts.
I agree. As a former song-leader and now much older pew-sitter I’ve seen these bad trends developing into worse practices. It’s probably outside the writer’s paradigm, but the problem began decades ago when song leaders were renamed and re-purposed as worship leaders. A song is merely the empty vessel into which the worshiper pours his devotion, the song leader merely the signpost to keep everyone on the same path. Congregational worship is not merely singing, but rightly includes other forms of worship, such as preaching, congregational testimony, prayer, etc. Demoting the so-called worship leader back to song leader will help resolve a number of these issues, including the ever irritating performance problem.
I do agree that this can be a problem. But I also think that it’s not JUST the worship leaders job to lead in worship, but to teach the congregation new things on occasion.
I also think that the congregation should be seeking out the new music out there. Yes, of course not everyone is interested or moved by music, but congregants should take a bit of time to learn modern music just as modern leaders should take the time to learn traditional music.
Reblogged this on AccessN2Grace and commented:
This is Excellent!
Thank you, Jamie, for upholding the Word of God as applied to corporate worship, and making a long-overdue hit on this nerve. Your gracious replies to many commenters keep pointing people back to scripture. Thank you for that. What fascinates me is how many comments are still pouring in that define music and worship in a non-biblical manner. I beg you, my colleagues, to get back to content-driven music (it says psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, not waltz, ballad, and mosh pit) as we are commanded to do. What also amazes me are the amazingly well-stated other comments that describe the situation better than I think I’ve ever read before. Let’s turn this into a book. God bless you richly, Jamie, and my other brothers and sisters.
The perspective from which this is written is a perspective coming from one who does not use cameras/original music/etc. It’s unsettling reading definitive conclusions coming from those not practicing what they’re writing about.
It’s hard to read conclusions from a person uninformed to the “whys” of a church’s actions, and a view disregarding the priority of unchurched people walking through doors for the first time – which the heart of the church is meant for.
Hi Ben. We use all of the above.
Hard to take seriously when the website is called “Worship Magnify,” and also when the comments must be approved before any voice is shared.
Good news, Karl! The site is called “Worthily Magnify”. Maybe that will help. And about the comments, as you can see by the comment count here, I’m a pretty ruthless comment deleter. 🙂
It’s important to know that all of these comments have been “approved” by the author. Says a lot.
nepotism also runs wild among some worship leaders. It’s ok to include your well-trained teenages in the band, but it’s not unusual to see unqualified teens with poor voices and poor taste become lead vocals of their dad’s band. Not to mention their poorly written songs.
Love it! Good discussion. I have been waiting for this kind of blog post to go viral on Facebook etc. As a worship leader, It so important to LEAD people closer to God. It is alarming how some worship services have turned into a concert for the worship leader with NOBODY participating. I thought I was watching this guy dancing around and singing for an extremely long “special song”. Even the Worship team members didn’t know what he was doing and were not participating. I do believe everyone was just as happy as I was when he hit his “grand finale”. I thought we were watching an episode of some reality singing show. It was really bad…. but he thought He was GREAT! (I had no idea this kind of stuff was going on… most of the worship teams I follow work as a team and there is no “Lone Ranger”) Thanks so much for opening up this can of worms and bringing this larger than I would have imagined issue some attention.
Amen to this article–well said, and I much agree with it!!
The modern format of music in most evangelical Christian churches leaves me cold. It goes like this: the words of “contemporary” Christian songs that very few, if anybody, knows and are even less “singable”, are splashed across a screen at the front of the auditorium without the musical score, along with instrumentation that is so loud that I have to wear ear plugs just to reduce the decibel level to a point to hopefully avoid permanent hearing loss. When its all over, I breath a sigh of relief that the audio assault is finally in the past tense–I feel more like I’ve stumbled into a rock concert rather than attended a worship service. Oh, and what if I do like the song and want to learn the words and the music??? (I play piano/keyboards) Good luck finding it in written form!! How I miss the days when churches had hymn/song books. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against new music. Every song out there was at one time new, but sadly and too often, the new has come at the complete expense of the old familiar songs. Oh yes, they do throw in a token old hymn or gospel song now and then, probably as much a concession to us old dogs as any other reason. I can appreciate, to a point, what churches are up against with copyright laws being what they are and everyone, including too many Christians “artists” and publishers being sue-happy, but sadly, I cannot remember the last time I really enjoyed a song service in church, or felt like I had really been worshiping God. We, at least here in America, have lost something, and am not sure how to get it back, if that’s even possible. I realize that church music is probably one of the most divisive and contentious matters in a church, and probably always has been, but I do know that I’m not enjoying or appreciating the current state of the music.
Hi T-Mac. I hope that this Sunday God surprises you and you’re able to worship him with your brothers and sisters, and sing the songs (whether they’re your favorites or not, and whether they’re concessions or not).
Hmmm, I’m little curious why my comment from 2 o’clock is still “awaiting moderation”. I guess I hit a nerve.
Meh, as Jamie’s wife I can tell you that many comments awaited moderation while he put mulch down in our front yard and took our daughters out for ice cream this afternoon. 🙂
Amen to that!! And stop singing about yourself and what you’re doing, and what it feels like and what it looks like. Stop focusing on man. Worship is to be focused on God. Worship comes from worthship, it’s about His worthiness, His glory, His power, His goodness, His majesty. If we want God to come and His presence, we have to stop singing about ourselves. Count the words that refer to I, me, my, I’m, and circumstances. Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all the I,me, my
I grew up playing the organ for our denominational church, have played the piano in several charismatic churches, and am now out in the congregation and singing. I love the new songs that focus on Jesus – but I miss the old ones I grew up with. When I worship alone at home Great is thy Faithfulness always comes up. When I’ve gone through struggles, the old songs with the words I know by heart are what sustain me when my songs have to be confined to my mind (i.e. in the hospital or driving through a blizzard). I’d love to still be a part of leading worship, but I feel like I’m perceived as too old and out of the loop. But it’s still in my heart and I still worship alone at home. I know back when I was the organist, it certainly wasn’t about the musician – it was about all of us together worshiping Jesus. I miss that.
I appreciate what T-Mac brought up about Copyright laws. This is a huge ‘bone of contention’ for me. I have been severely convicted by the Holy Spirit to follow the Copyright laws “right to the letter”, to the degree that I can. I practically “stand on my head” to cross every ‘t’ and dot every ‘i’. But that being said, I have become really convinced that the fact that worship song writers *insist* upon “locking down” the use of their songs — so that they must be “licensed” so that they can be recorded or broadcast is a huge “wrong”.
I’ve heard *all* the arguments (I think) from the side of those who believe they are “worthy of their wage”. These folks don’t seem to want to hear about “rewards in heaven”; they want them right now. (I hope that really fires up a bunch of you to write me hate mail. Ha.)
This is such a *big thing* which is *blocking* the furtherance of Praise and Worship music *across the world*. If the songwriters could see this from God’s perspective, I am certain that all but the most-greedy would slap a notice on their songs and their albums saying something like: “This songs(s) may be freely copied and distributed and used in any fashion whatsoever. You have my permission. No further licensing needed. Go for it!”
It seems like songwriters are so proud of “their” songs — although they claim it’s “from God” — that they can’t fathom “letting them go free” after they Copyright them. No, they have to “lock them down” so the rest of us have to kiss their feet and pay them for permission to include their song on our next recording. Thank you.
And FYI, for the songwriters who thing that it’s “just and fair” to keep your God-songs on a *leash* like you do … yes, I do propose there is a better way, but you might not fall in love with it. It’s an online ministry I started so as to answer this one exact problem, called “Worship of Heaven”. (http://WorshipOfHeaven.com)
God bless and keep writing!
It’s not all up to the Song Writer… There are many considerations involved… First, if the song is not copyrighted anyone else can take credit for it, warp to their own means, or otherwise thwart God’s purpose for the inspiration. However, I think the scripture is clear about taking brothers in the Faith to court over Copyright or anything else. Such would not be necessary *if* we supported our song writers adequately. I *do* believe in executing Copyright Law against secular folks who use a Christians work for secular gain, or warp the song to a secular purpose, though. Secondly, we are not in heaven, yet. And, while there is great reward (then) we still have to feed our faces here. As I said earlier we do not adequately support our ministers. Many of us came from a time when we thought preachers were supposed to be paupers, and ‘song leaders’ even more so. This was never God’s plan any more than a minister making 100% more than the average of his congregation. Some small churches really can;t afford even the minimum CCLI or CVLI licenses. Fortunately, I haven’t heard of Word or Hosanna going after a truly impoverished church, yet…
Right on Jamie! I don’t go to church to “see a show”!
I agree there is a lot of this. As one of my former songwriting professors, Gloria Gaither, said, ” There will always be an element of performance in what you do in leading worship. It’s just not the main purpose.” I feel that the disconnect with songs from yesteryear (that I love) is that a LOT are from a horizontal approach that speak about God and His goodness, and the newer choruses are more vertical worship- singing to God. This vertical worship approach creates a closeness some haven’t felt before. There are exceptions with both and both ARE still needed. However, it is both the heart of the leaders and the preparation of the worshipper that is necessary. We always should perform for the audience of ONE (Rory Noland, Heart of an Artist)
The author of this piece is dead on. I remember several years ago, when I attended one of the large worship services here in Austin, TX. The band was great, the music had gotten me. When I was wonder, I would have confused this with “the presence of the Holy Spirit.” However, I realized that it was the same feeling I had two weeks prior at an Indigo Girls concert. I actually think in hind-sight, the Indigo Girls concert was a more spiritual experience.
I agree with what you have to say here. But I’d also like to add another side.
The best worship experience I ever had was when I went to a conference and knew none of the songs they sang. NONE. It was the best because I wasn’t there for the music. I wasn’t singing because I knew I liked it. I wanted God. I needed Him and I wanted Him to know it. I was there for Him. There were times when I didn’t really know what was going on and didn’t really sing much, but that didn’t stop my heart from seeking. There were songs they sang that I didn’t like the sound of at first, but soon I got lost in them. I Just wanted to worship Him. I go back and listen to some of those songs now, and I have no idea why I sang like I did. Why I was so moved by them. They don’t all have great sound. The ones that excited me weren’t always upbeat or big.
I agree that performancism needs to stop, but I would say that its probably not only taking place on the stage. I do play on stage for our church some weekends, and you’re right, it is an awful lot like a performance sometimes. But you can’t blame it all on the worship leaders or the band. There is fault there, and it definitely needs to be dealt with, but the issue is not the symptom. Performance style worship isn’t what is going to crash us. It’s a lack of stepping back and worshiping God, no matter what the music is like. We have become so in need of “feeling it’ that we forget that God is worthy of more than just our feelings. I speak to myself.
If performance were really the issue, then giving our best wouldn’t be good in part of life.
I do agree with what you have to say. Very well written and communicated. There is good wisdom there.
Quoting Robby Wingfield:”(Not speaking directly to you here Michael but to many who have complained about having to get up and walk out of service because of xyz)”
I have no reason to believe he was talking to me. 🙂
But, the only time I have walked out of a service is when the Bass level set my innards into oscillation and made me physically ill. Of course, at 62 I am not longer a hard body, and the congregation was obviously youth oriented. Took almost a month to get a response to my email and then it was we are doing it this way take a hike. Which is really sad because the Praise Team was really good and would have been a great blessing to me and my family.
Other than that there was one other time I *wanted* to walk out. Great Worship… Great Message… Then they they had a “Fire Tunnel”. 🙂 (Something this old school pentecostal couldn’t handle.)
To Jamie… Thank you for letting me take part. Being able to share is, in itself, a great ministry to me. Thank You.
Thank you for taking part!
These are good thoughts as we move forward together 🙂
Well stated. Get back to the basics of Worship. The type of music being used today needs to crash. The sooner, the better.
A lot of the music today is being published for some gain of popularity or money. We need to get back to church members being more involved in the process of worship,
I’m going to share an opinion which may rile some feathers, but if we still live in America where free speech is theoretically valued and if it is truly scriptural to offer words of exhortation in love, then I really do hope the printing of this will be granted.
Let’s just be real here and admit that most of the churches being described here have thrown away the rich musical heritage passed along through the centuries. I live in a large city and I can count only a handful of churches singing hymns out of a hymnal any more. The spotlight (literally) has been placed on “the new song” with the ever-present rock beat. Dare I say the word “rock” without creating a stir? It’s so “politically incorrect” to say that in the church today. I can sit in church and listen to music with the exact same beat used in the Top Forty list on radio continually describing out-of-wedlock sexual acts and being used in strip clubs. And people want to tell me that the rock beat has nothing to do with the downgrading of the music in the church today. We’re ignoring the elephant in the room. If Christians truly are disengaging from singing this music in their churches, then maybe it’s good news. Maybe their consciences are pricked and they don’t want to sing music like that any more and stick Christ’s name on it.
The blogger is intelligent and I don’t think he meant his words to come across in the way I took them, but I beg him to bear with me while I make a larger point. He said: “Tailor your worship leading, and the songs you pick, to include the largest cross-section of your congregation that you can….Even I didn’t know most of the songs that we were supposed to be singing along to at the conference. I tuned out. I sat down. I Tweeted. I texted my wife. I gave up.”
To me this is a huge part of the problem today. Churches are dumbing down sermons and music in order to appeal to the largest cross-section of their congregation, in other words to appeal to the masses who lack critical thinking and reading skills. Read music? Forget that. No one reads music any more. Read complex text in a hymn? Forget that. Too deep. Just give me the heavy beat and I’ll croon along barely moving my lips and watch the gal swaying her mini-skirt hips in front of me with her hands raised to the sky. Don’t fault me if my mind wanders a little bit…. (Oops, forgive me….I’m a girl and that’s not my fault, it’s his.) Read from an actual Bible? Nope, gimme The Message cuz it’s cool.
The sad truth imo is that the dumbed down masses want to just stand there staring at a screen like they do most evenings in their own homes with their tv sets. It’s getting harder and harder to tell a Christian from a non-Christian because too many are blending into one dumbed down rocking mass of non-thinkers. Too many drench their minds in secular media rather than in the pages of Scripture. Too many Christian kids engage in promiscuity like their secular peers because they are all soaking in the same mindless, sex-filled rock and then seeing it upheld as “sacred” at church on Sunday.
Sorry, I told the truth. Did anyone listen?
One valid argument James made is that too many new songs are being introduced and since most people either can’t read music or the churches do not want to provide hymnals with music that can be read, most people are no longer singing. But it goes beyond that. Poorly written music is hard to follow. Period. And most of the “new songs” written today are poorly written, not only musically but also textually.
Another valid argument a few people here made is that the egos of some of the stage musicians have become front and center as entertainment, but here again isn’t this what the masses desire? Celebrity preachers who say what they want to hear? Musicians singing the same beat and rock they listen to all week on their radios?
There probably aren’t many reading this blog who want to hear what I have just said because it isn’t pleasant. But it’s the truth.
My apologies to anyone who took offense, but as long as rock is the primary conduit through which illicit sex is sold via radio and t.v., I will never stomach it mixed with my Lord’s name and call it sacred. It’s the elephant in the room no one wants to admit is there. Our kids are leaving the church en masse by the time they reach their college years and we’re stupid enough to assume it is because the church has become irrelevant. God’s truth is never irrelevant! The truth is that the church isn’t much different from the world any more. What these kids are not getting is a godly example from their parents based on Biblically sound doctrine and convictions, along with solid teaching in their churches.
2 Tim. 4:1-4
I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
I think Jesus Invented Rock Music… I think people born 50 years before you may have called the music you listen to evil and sin inclined. I think that the problem isn’t your church or your worship leader, i think the problem is people who just haven’t found the Real Jesus. They act like they’ve found an Abusive Father who doesn’t love them and only visits them on the weekends. “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” – Matthew 15:8. I hope you can quote every scripture, I hope to be there one day. But if we can’t even get past our worship leaders we’re behind the game a little bit. Why is it we have have underground churches in China and North Korea where they have church for 12 hours straight and that’s still not enough? Yet in our churches people start to complain to the pastor because worship went over 25 minutes and service lasted longer than an hour and a half. So whats they difference? What’s the problem here? I’m curious to know your response as to why people want as much of God as they can get in other countries, and not here…
Thanks for sharing your heart. I promise my feathers aren’t ruffled, and yes, I listened (or read, actually) the whole thing.
A few quick thoughts:
1. I understand your position on the rock music genre. Several years ago I explored your position in the light of Scripture, and you might be interested to read it sometime. The link is: https://worthilymagnify.com/2011/06/15/handiwork-and-jesus/
2. By tailoring your worship leading to include the largest cross-section of your congregation as possible, I don’t mean that we should dumb anything down. Quite the contrary. To include a wide cross section of a congregation means loving them, serving them, and leading them in singing songs that will build them up (Paul is clear on this principle in 1 Corinthians 14). Build your congregation up by helping them exalt Christ together. This isn’t dumbing them down. It’s edifying them. Huge difference.
3. The solution isn’t to go back to the old stuff. The solution is to prioritize the exaltation of Jesus Christ above all things, in our services, through the preaching of the word, and the singing of “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with thankfulness in (our) hearts to God” (Col. 3:16).
This would be a good time to re-introduce a book that helped bring us into the new sound in the 90s, Ruth Ward Heflin’s book GLORY: Experiencing the Atmosphere of Heaven.
Thank You Jamie!
I agree with you. I am not a worship leader but have been involved with church music and worship for 30 years. In the last 10 years my current church has moved more and more toward a performance style of worship. Part of this is the that we sing more songs using few words, some with only 3 words which are repeated 10, 15 or 20 times. They state that we should praise God which is true but when I look at the Psalms and how David and others praise specific attributes and thank God specifically for all that He can do I am left saddened that; first, we are not honoring God fully, secondly we are not benefiting from the richness of praising and thanking God, and thirdly, we are not recognizing what He has done for us.
One of my friends actually learned the message of the gospel and how to accept Christ from the lyrics of some hymns. Those words lead him to salvation. He wouldn’t learn that from the songs we are singing today.
I look forward to coming to church for teaching but also for that time when I can worship through music and I recognize my responsibility to have an attitude of worship. Unfortunately it is becoming harder and harder to worship corporately on Sunday mornings because of the performance aspect and the watered down message of the songs.
There is only one solution to a shallow performance orientated worship leader.
Make him listen to this song.
Michael W Smith – Heart of worship
This is something I began to notice at least ten years ago. I pray we pay attention to the cautions the author brings out. It is supposed to be about Jesus.
A good alternative if it works.
“Be still, and know that I am God!” (Psalm 46:10)
Experiencing God Through Meditation
I think the lights should be turned up at the beginning of the praise time & then be turned down for the intimate worship songs. Also, I think senior pastors should let the worship leaders LEAD, & allow them to be led by the Holy Spirit, who is the true worship leader, & He is truth. Enough with ritualism!!! Every Sunday morning, 2 worship songs, call up the prayer teams, sing a couple more songs &, The End. This is disrespectable to the Lord! Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. Give people a chance to enter into the Holy of Holies. Worship shouldn’t be rushed!
They need to give lulls during worship in case God wants to speak to the congregation, prophetically. Quench not the Spirit. It’s getting to be so religious & too familiar for everyone.
Reblogged this on Sequoiarhian's Blog.
You have to take the culture into thought here. Kids live in a fast food, a.d.d, world.We all know that God is enough, but do they? The answer is “not yet”. These worship leaders are designed to lure those that are caught up in this modern day performance based lifestyle. Think about the old “Roman” days where there was not much to do other than work. Serving your church was something everyone would be looking forward too since it wasn’t work. There were no movies, no video games, no Facebook, no high speed internet, etc. The church was also very much involved in politics back then because they did have a major influence in power. Now we live in a world where church has no authoritative power and if a person does not agree with a pastor, they can just find another church that serves them better the next week.
does god fancy spot lights or reverence to Him?
Isn’t colorful spot lights and rock music of the world?
Is God following the trend of this world?
Do not conform to this world.
God sees our hearts? My people praise Me with lips service but the heart is afar.
What does God wants of our worship?
Satan has corrupted the worship service.today.
I think God is worthy of it all. If fancy spot lights, colorful spot lights, and rock music can be used for his glory, then the more the merrier. Our job as worship leaders is to use pastoral care and wisdom to discern if the means are leading to the ends, or if the means are becoming the ends. But God is worthy of more means than we can imagine.
Wow, with the number of responses you have obviously hit a chord. (pun intended) Whether we are preaching or leading worship anything we do that hinders or distracts people from Jesus needs to be eliminated from the way we does things.
I have to disagree here. It’s a heart issue and has nothing to do with performance or visuals. I’ve been a worship leader for quite a few years and I’ve also been a touring, recording Christian artist. Everything we do/create can and should be worship to God. I’ve been in churches that have extremely visual and fresh worship experiences and people are singing and diving in and you can feel the spirit of God taking over, it is real and genuine worship. On the flip side I’ve seen the same style of worship that feels forced and not genuine and the congregation reflects that. When reading the bible there are references that paint an amazing visual picture of heaven and worship! If we are created in Gods image then what we create should be a reflection of that, it’s more about the heart of our leaders. I personally believe Sunday mornings shouldn’t be the deepest part of our relationship with Jesus and I’d rather see a seed planted in the heart of a non believer who will grow deeper and get connected and begin a personal walk with Jesus because they sat through a church service that was everything but what they assumed church was suppose to look like and even more importantly that they left feeling a genuine presence of God and real fellowship with REAL people who showed love. That’s church. I’m not saying I disagree with your entire post, most everything you wrote I agree with. I just don’t believe that a visually appealing fresh, almost concert like experience is wrong and that we need to stop doing it. If God is in it and people are coming to know him through it then it is doing what God called us to do. Think about Hillsong, Elevation, Jesus Culture, Bethel, and so many others. These churches are being real and are evangelizing all over the world and making a really difference in the Kingdom of Heaven. I don’t think you have to be a mega church to follow in their footsteps. It’s not for everyone and there is a place for every style of worship but don’t disregard this one just because it feels or looks like a show, step out of your comfort zone and look at the leaders and the people there and ask yourself if God is in it. That’s what matters. Chances are if you are over 35 and grew up in church it just might not feel right but that’s an opinion. Let’s look at what Gods doing and let him be the judge. Just my 2 cents. I just wanna be real and see people have a lasting relationship with Jesus.
Thanks for adding the conversation. I appreciate it.
A few things:
1. I agree with you that it’s a heart issue.
2. You and I are absolutely on the same page about visuals. I have no problem at all with providing people a “visually appealing, fresh” experience on Sunday mornings. I suppose it’s the “…concert-like” description that I am afraid gives too many worship leaders/churches license to perform a show rather than lead a congregation. As I’m sure you know, those are two very different things. Performing a show isn’t a bad thing at all. But when it’s called worship leading, I get nervous. I think the blurring of those lines is happening more and more.
3. I (and countless others) are grateful for God using ministries like Hillsongs, Elevation, Jesus Culture, Bethel, etc. They contribute a lot of good stuff, and no doubt lead many people to genuine encounters with God. They also contribute some not-so-good stuff, and I certainly don’t want to as (you say) “judge” them, but I do want to analyze. I think that’s a good and wise thing to do, when it’s done in a spirit of graciousness, which I hope I’m articulating.
Thank you for a very thought provoking article. I agree with your concerns. I think our worship easily loses its focus. I actually just wrote an article about this myself on my blog. I appreciated what you wrote here. If you have a chance, check out my article. I would love hear your thoughts on it. Thanks!
Worship God with all your heart making Melodies even if you can’t cope with the song or worship leader/team. That’s what I do as long as the music is not metal rock or pagan music, I am fine. When the congregation is able to focus in worship, God will be present and the Holy Spirit moving in our life will transform us. Lyrics ought to be taken from Psalms and nothing worldly. God is in enmity to the world. Whoever befriend the world is God’s enemy. Do not conform to the world. These are God’s Word and His Will / Opinion which is in our bible and all of us must obey.
Let’s get the whole quote:
Eph_5:19 Speak out to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, offering praise with voices [and instruments] and making melody with all your heart to the Lord,
Col_3:16 Let the word [spoken by] Christ (the Messiah) have its home [in your hearts and minds] and dwell in you in [all its] richness, as you teach and admonish and train one another in all insight and intelligence and wisdom [in spiritual things, and as you sing] psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, making melody to God with [His] grace in your hearts.
The second quote includes the use of Song to teach doctrine…
The psalms of David were originally just ad-lidbed songs from the heart of a Worshiper, they were not declared canonical for centuries.
Now, if my genre is ‘Rock’ and I express Worship from my heart I guess that would be ‘conforming to the world’ to some. But, what if Jesus smiles on the offering to such an extent that the congregation enters in and people are spontaneously healed during worship, without out even a word from the pastor, or having an itinerant evangelist present. Oh, yes, I’ve heard that, too. If satan can put stuff on a person he can take if off…
Well, with no apologies I grew up listening to ‘Rock’, some of it not so good, too. And, I know Jesus and He knows my heart… ’nuff said… 🙂
Having said that, there are some phrasings, and presentations of current musical styles that, IMHO, have no place in God’s House. Guttural Metal, Gantsa Rap, and Lasciviously Sung anything…
And, yet… I heard of young people being won out of the Goth Lifestyle with some of the same styles that set my teeth on edge. Seeing God had redeemed them, I’d have to admit that He can redeem anything He so desires.
Sorry for the length of post…
As I reread the Quote from Ephesians… The Amplified says to speak out, not sing out, which is exactly what Christian Rappers are doing… Ouch!
Agree with you. HE can do the impossible. Win youth in many ways. Follow up to make them disciples. Teaching them and convert them to be Christ like. Forsaking the former lifestyles. No more worldly but Godly lifestyles.
Musical styles really are far from the topic, though. The original matter was the “performancism” that is taking over our notion of corporate worship. The worship leader who wows everyone weekly with his operatic interpretations of centuries-old hymns is just as deeply “performancistic” as the dude bringing the CCM in the style of David Lee Roth. You can have hymns with just piano accompaniment, and if the congregation is just totally mesmerized by the pianist’s skills, performancism still wins the day.
Others have commented on how this can come into play in the sermon as well. If the sermon primarily elicits thoughts of “how eloquent he is,” or “man, is this guy cool” or “wow, this guy knows his Bible better than any preacher I’ve ever heard” – performancism again.
In short, pointing to Jesus is tough, no matter how you are doing it, because your pointing can get in the way. It needs to be a primary focus, especially with a huge gathering. But for the most part – and Jamie’s blog report from an actual worship leadership conference certainly seems to support this – it’s seldom anywhere near the front of people’s minds.
Honestly, when evangelicals plan the “sets” for a worship service, we tend to be looking for new ways to engage the masses, to keep people’s attention, to sort of push them into something that looks like worship. Because to a galling extent, the congregation typically is not really into God, and doesn’t really want to spend any time giving Him honor and glory. It’s more complicated than that, but it’s at least that complicated. And it does go to the larger problem of the spiritual health of our churches, and our “church growth” mindset – if more is better, and you are trying to grow by being the most entertaining Sunday stop in the region, then we shouldn’t be too surprised if most of the “flock” doesn’t think much of God Himself. And no worship leader tricks are going to fix that. Only a new focus on discipleship and devotion will ultimately renew our churches, and that will take a church-wide commitment.
Let’s stop worrying about “hotness” in worship. Lead the willing into real corporate worship, in spirit and in truth, which will include all the elements we see in scripture, not just music. And let’s start letting Jesus direct His churches, now.
To worship God is to BEHOLD Him. When we as worship leaders or senior ministers in a local congregation make decisions that influence others to BEHOLD us, rather than God, we mislead the people God has entrusted to us. We miss God’s intent for us in giving us the gift of worship, and we lead others further away from the King!
Worship IS a heart issue. It is not relegated to what happens within the four walls of our church buildings…it is the attitude of our heart as expressed in every moment of our life. And we, as leaders, have “made” consumers rather than “disciples.” Consumers gather on Sunday morning to “receive” something, whereas disciples live their entire lives to “give” to God and to others. It requires intention, conscious effort to make “disciples.” When we, as leaders, feed consumerism in those we lead, we fail miserably at making disciples. Our metrics (what we measure is what we go for) are all wrong. We count bodies in chairs on Sunday morning, rather than counting disciplemakers. This is why we have consumers rather than disciples…spectators rather than worshipers.
And thus, this conflict arising in the body of Christ is not unlike the stark contrast that exists between the heart of Satan (who was jealous, as Lucifer, of the worship of God, wanting it for himself) and the heart of John the Baptist (“He must increase and I must decrease”).
That’s it! Well said! Thank you, Kevin.
I was on a worship team whose leader started to go down the performance road. Most of the singers hated it. I didn’t know the term for what was happening, but i knew it didn’t feel right. Fortunately that leader left. We floundered for a couple years, but now we have a pastor heavily involved in the muaic and we are no longer “performing.” We are back where we should be, leading and drawing in the congregation. We recently hired a worship pastor who shares the same vision.
Performacizing is wrong.
What do you expect, when you have people like Kirk Franklin that are onstage dancing, and not in a praise-sort of way, but just moving their hips with the occasional “oh yeah”. People emulate what they see, and this is the norm with big name Christian music.
That reminds me of this gem: http://old.shipoffools.com/Signs/movies/hello_pastor.html
Great blog. I think it goes beyond worship though. We have found that the conventional church, in general, has moved into a consumer-centric model that is one-way in communication and participation as well as elevating some preachers/ministers (pulpit performers) to celebrity status. It makes me think of the passage of scripture where John’s disciples come and ask Jesus if He’s the one or should they look for another. Unfortunately in our short attention spanned lives these days, we have tired of looking and watching for Jesus and have decided to follow the latest speaker with the catchiest book title or most controversial quote.
The best worship leaders are the ones that become “invisible” in their worship (ie. John 3:30: “He must increase, but I must decrease). Matt Maher is someone who does this masterfully.
Your article was so well written. I truly feel sorry for those whose comments show that they took offense. In my experience taking offence often shows that you hit me where it hurts!
I was a professional singer for years. Long before I ever led worship. When I am performing, I perform to the glory of God to the best of my ability. When I am leading, I set the performer aside. I choose songs and keys to suit other’s gifts, not my own. (Not many congregation members are trained sopranos, so kill the high notes and leave them for performance time) You can worship in many different ways. I do worship as I perform. However, my job as a “worship leader” is to enable others to worship. If you are “leading” worship and very few people are singing along then you are no longer leading. My worship leading mantra is this: “If no one is following, I am not leading”. Furthermore, if I am not following the prompting of the Spirit of God, I am in danger of straying out of my role as well. When I practise with the team I always tell them that I may change up the order or repetitions if the congregation gives me the cue. I even encourage my team to watch with me so that if I miss the cue that we are no longer being followed they can pass it on to me.
I think that singing songs that people know is advice well taken, and I can understand what is meant here, but to get into a prophetic flow where everybody participates, we are also going to need to learn to sing new songs prophetically unto the Lord and to the congregation which flow out of singing together in the spirit, and worshiping in the spirit, rather than simply worshipping out of the mind, based upon the mental knowledge we have of songs already learned. It is even more vital that the congregation learn to sing out of their spirit instead of simply out of their mind if our goal is to get into the realm of the shekinah glory which transcends everything that we know right now, including the songs that we already know.
In 10 years at my current church I’ve learned lots of things. Two of these things, having to do with the Holy Spirit, are: (1) You can’t predict what the Holy Spirit is going to do on a Sunday morning, and so it’s always wise to be open to his leading, as you encourage. (2) The Holy Spirit is happy to give us a heads-up during the week as we plan, and very often our prayerful planning, relying on the Holy Spirit’s direction, ends up coming back to serve us well on Sunday morning! God doesn’t always give us a heads-up about how he’s planning on sovereignly moving days in advance, but sometimes he does (and I appreciate it when he does)!
Another theme which is problematic, is the idea that worship is just the musical portion of a service, when in fact, that is not the case at all. Music is just one form of worship, one component of a service. While I do agree wholeheartedly about the performancism and lack of theological substance in a lot of the music being “performed”, we all need to step back and come to grips with the fact that every part of a worship service is worship, from the offering to the sermon. Too much focus on the music is unbalanced whether it’s good, bad or indifferent. The one post about preaching being similarly out of balance in terms of performancism is also accurate, there is a lot of performance from the pulpit as well. To be honest, I find church in North America to be more of a “Christianized” expression of the American dream – “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness” than a theologically grounded body of sacrificial Christ followers. I’ve had the privilege of engaging with churches around the world, and have experienced worship in remote villages with poorly performed music and stumbling preaching, but where the Holy Spirit was moving powerfully in the lives of the worshippers. Contrasted with my experiences in North America, and even parts of Europe, I have to say that I’ve truly experienced God there, and not so much here. Evangelical Christianity in the West is in need of a radical transformation.
Thanks, Dale. Good thoughts.
Sigh – a post on Worship Leaders needing to check their egos, and the response from many is to argue and defend how much self-written material they are using. I submit that self-examination for repentance would be a better reaction than finding some particular aspect to debate. And I am amazed that so many (thankfully not all – praises to Him) talk as though Worship = (only) Singing = What (only) we Worship Leaders lead. Perhaps a new name for the role would be helpful…
(For clarity sake – note that I did not say anything about what the right amount of self written music is appropriate, ie who was right on that particular detail. Nor on contemporary vs traditional, or loud vs soft, or high lights vs low lights, or… Just that the first response for many (again thankfully not all) was to start to debate and justify. As opposed to saying thank you for the warning from a friend in Christ, or even a simple “How can I tell where my ego is wrecking things, since egos are notoriously good at protecting themselves?”)
My church had a problem with quality. It is a problem we spent about 3 years working very very hard to address. We were quite proud of the effort we put in to give God the effort and skill he deserved to be worshiped with. We were ecstatic that our mistakes were rarely distracting from people being able to worship anymore.
And then we began to hear comments…”we’re just worshiping the music now, its not really about God” and such. And it broke my heart. seriously. And anyone who knew the people on my team well enough to take the time to talk to them would know that we simply desired to worship with the quality that He deserves! For our mistakes to not be in the way of peoples attention to Him!
But nonetheless, the perception was there. So issue real or perceived, in the minds of those who were commenting it didn’t make a difference. We had some success in breaking this barrier by talking about what we were doing and why, but not everyone was convinced. I’m not sure if the perception will ever totally be erased.
Now my wife and I are planting a new church. Part of what we want to establish from day 1 is that there is no concert. There a group of people worshiping together, some just happen to be playing instruments and doing the planning. We’ve actually taken the whole band and put them beside the people in the congregation. “Why?” you might ask? And that is exactly the point. We want people to ask why. We want them to know that there is no worship performer and observer. We want them to know that we are ALL the worship team. We want to tell people that God and God alone gets the stage in our sanctuary.
As I read your reflections on the Worship Leaders conference my thoughts went to a Michael Card “concert” I went to oaver 15 years ago. It was not a concert but a Call to Worship. Though he was the only one on the stage Michael Card did get himself out of the way and call our attention to the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Also, as our worship is shaped by traditional liturgy and we affirm our faith each week in the Creeds, I strongly believe our worship should include singing hymns, century old hymns (and also classical music of the Church) to stay rooted and grounded in the foundations and rich heritage and traditions of our orthodox Christian faith.
Just a few comments. I too love worship – it’s my ‘core of my soul’ .
My concern is that worship songs now are so music driven. If we were to have real persecution – what songs would we sing then – with no big music driving worship. Don’t get me wrong I love Hillsong United and other great worship but I am not singing Oceans by myself in my prayer closet.
One thing tho I love lights down so as not to be distracted by your neighbor.
Pretty much all that’s being said in this article is that you should be careful of letting pride enter into your ministry; thereby, making it about you instead of God. There is nothing hard to understand about that. If you’re having to nitpick the article to death, then maybe you’re feeling a little defensive because you felt conviction??
Was this the conference just west of DC? I have friends in that church.
Yes, it was. Centerville Baptist Church hosted the conference, though as far as I know, other than its amazing tech crew and support staff, its musicians were not involved in the sessions.
I’m so glad that as I “grew up” in Christ (as an adult), the worship leaders didn’t take the advice of those here who insist on singing songs that the people already know. I’m so glad that they didn’t become discouraged because “no one knew the songs” and didn’t have mentors who told them – like some folks here have said – “If no one is following you, then you’re not leading.” What a bunch of hogwash both of those remarks are.
Hey … Moses had a couple million people “following him”, right? But then God said He was going to wipe out the whole group and start over with Moses alone. So if Moses hadn’t interceded, and if God had done it, would that mean that Moses – now alone – would not be a leader?
Hey … *everyone* deserted Jesus Christ at the cross. Every last one. No exceptions. Does that mean He was not a “leader”?
The reason this point is so important is this: some of us (I’ll speak for myself) *do* have our congregation’s “best interests at heart”, and yet we find it amazingly difficult to get them to participate. Does that mean we’re not “leaders”? I guess some of you have already cast your vote on that.
Or … does that mean we should change our song list? Should I now sing only top-10 songs, like “How Great Is Our God” ? Surely everyone will know that one and sing along, right?
Well, I would like to say to you: before you take on that kind of mindset for worship leading *you better have the word of the Lord* for it! Because that is *not* the way heavenly worship works, sorry! No sir! God wants us to *seek His will* for each and every worship set. And if that means that your song list is completely unknown to everyone in the audience … then you had better go with that (!!) unless you want to “go it alone” using your own wonderful musical abilities. Remember, all of your musical abilities are *trivial* compared to those of the “least” in heaven. Trivial, I tell you. God is looking for our *obedience* to *His leading*.
And that brings me back to this issue of playing songs that no one else knows in the congregation. Our job as worship leaders is *not* to be a “song leader” as in some kind of a “sing-along” session. It is to be something akin to a “woodsman” who knows how to lead his “party” through the thick and dark woods — which have no trail marked — and arrive to the desired destination … which in our case if the throne of God. All that matters is that we get them there. They don’t have to know the songs to get there. And if they don’t want to sing along, that’s not your fault. And it’s not an indictment of your leadership abilities either. Our job is to *hear from God* and do it. It’s that simple. If folks out in the peanut gallery want to say we’re “performing”, let ’em. If they want to spend their time “texting” their friends, let ’em. They’re simply not going to “make it through the woods” to the “designated destination” with you. But that’s not your responsibility. Just like it wasn’t Moses’ responsibility when the people didn’t want to enter the Promised Land with him.
God bless and love!
Thank you, David S., for showing me what some churches must be dealing with. Tell us, please, where in scripture you see this forest woodsman metaphor? And what makes you so sure that God speaks to you and you alone about how the congregation ought to worship? How would you handle it if others of the congregation would come to you, letting you know what God is laying on THEIR heart regarding corporate worship – isn’t that one of the ways the Lord might lead you in how you serve the fellowship? Maybe one or more of your fellow church members knows better than you where the church as a whole needs to go in corporate worship? You know, each of them bears the Holy Spirit in exactly the same measure as you do.
You compare yourself to Moses – well, Moses was a reluctant leader, even deep into his mission. In Numbers 11:29, after Joshua’s expression of concern that the Spirit of God was leading others to prophecy, Moses said “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” And now He has – please keep that in mind as you think of your role as a Christian leader.
Maybe you should step away from the planning of these “worship sets” and commit yourself to interceding like Moses (Ex. 32) for the people in the congregation. For the sake of the Name of the Lord, pray that both you and your fellow church members may be revived in your passion for God, and freed to worship and witness and disciple and love and rejoice together in the splendor of His holiness (1 Chronicles 16:29). And I will do the same in my own local church, for me and my brothers and sisters.
To David S. Perhaps I should have been clearer: If it does not appear that many are worshipping, am I leading worship? Furthermore, I do not recall saying that there should be no new songs. There is a season and a time for all things according to scripture so that would clearly indicate new songs as well. In fact, the psalmist encourages us to “sing unto the Lord a new song”. As to your “woodsman” illustration the Old Testament gives us very clear directions on approaching the throne of God. It is not an unmarked pathway. In the New Testament we are encouraged to come boldly. That is not an unmarked, dark or dangerous path either. I am afraid that I disagree with your attitude about the responsibilities of a worship leader as well. You sound very harsh towards your congregation. “Peanut gallery”? “let ’em”? I see little of the love of the Lord in those statements and it saddens me deeply. Jesus left 99 in order to seek out the 1 that had gotten lost (or did not follow….). We should all be able to set aside our preferences and egos in order to chase after God in a way that inspires others to follow with joy.
I would like to encourage you to think about the role of a worship leader not so much as a “woodsman” leading a “party through the thick and dark woods” with “no trail marked” to the throne of God, but more as a servant, leading people in seeing and savoring Jesus Christ in song. I think you might be complicating things a bit too much. And I think you and the people you have the privilege of leading would have a better experience if you approached it from a different angle, and sought to serve them by choosing songs that might more effectively facilitate their singing. There are hundreds of songs and hymns, not just the top 10 CCLI songs, that I’m sure you could spend years drawing from with great joy, and that the Holy Spirit would be glad to lead you in selecting the right songs for your congregation.
And I’d also like to encourage you to take the pressure off of yourself to get people to the throne of God. Jesus has that job taken care of pretty well!
I don’t think it’s “hogwash” (that’s a great word, though, and I should use it more often) to seek to lead in a way that is easy for people to follow. No, not everyone will, and that’s OK. But to use your analogies of Moses and Jesus, I think Moses could teach worship leaders something about longevity, and Jesus could teach worship leaders something about washing people’s feet.
Faithful, humble service to God’s people will never mean a 100% follower success rate, but it will mean results of some fruitfulness. In our case, as worship leaders, my prayer is that the results of our leadership will be people more enamored with Jesus, and less focused on our woodsmenship.
Good word, but I think this article only scratches the surface. As long as we keep referencing worship as the thing that happens on Sunday mornings, we’re going to have the same performance-based problem. The totality of Romans 12 or Ephesians 4 do well in describing the breadth of what worship really is. Yes, we worship corporately, but it’s not just about singing corporately; it’s more about corporate living – corporate holiness. Worship is so much more that what the western church has pigeon-holed it as. But as you know, that surely won’t be popular for the seekers or the leaders who like the Sunday morning lights.
People have been saying this for years, the non-muso’s, but we get shouted down and/or pushed out. Here’s an idea, get rid of all music for a month and exegete/handle/divide the written Word of God correctly.
So much agree, it seems the church is looking for the dessert table and not the nourishing food , the WORD of GOD
Well said. I always like to give a very simple example. A simple song like “God will make a way.. where there seems to be no way… ” A song that has ministered to me for years. Not particularly fancy, or upbeat or ultra-worshipy… but clear and precise declaration of God’s abilities in context of my circumstances. And I have come to hunger for music that has both reverence and reference of God in it. Reverence is unmistakeable. I can throw some fruit loop beats together and add the Phrase “God is good all the time and thats His Nature”, but If there be any Reverence for God in it, it shines through. I usually call it the Spirit behind the Song. Every Song is written with a purpose or concept or “Spirit”. Not to loose you… by Spirit i mean energy or motive behind it. If you dream up a lyrically sound song but with you as the centre piece, the “Spirit” behind the song is selfishness. Its about how good I sound or how well I’m keeping up with being relevant… and as a result God really is just a phrase in the song. And this goes right through the design, promotion, execution of our music albums, music videos, and services. There is an undeclared race to be “cooler”. It boils down (in my humble opinion), to Christian Musicians trying to be “better” than secular musicians so that they can “attract” people to Christ. Sadly there is no Competition in the Journey of Faith. So whenever you find yourself competing in Ministry…. something has gone wrong. And when we loose ourselves to the “race” we take the turns the competition is taking, we dress like the competition, we talk like the competition, we “roll” like they “roll”. So you end up with Christian music videos with all the bells and whistles of Secular music… and the message is completely lost… especially… the HUMILITY of the Christian Faith. We all acknowledge the lowly birth of Christ, scriptures affirmation that he was a Man of sorrows, nothing to desire of him (attract), and how God uses even the most unlikely sources (prostitutes etc) to bring about change in society, but … our music… thats gotta glitz to sell. Its about the volumes, the records, the albums the genre, the beat, the cool. At this point many would interject with the good old saying “should Christianity then be boring”… NO. But who said Christianity has to be the hippest thing on the block? No one. Christianity is a journey of Faith, where the broken, wounded sinner, acknowledges his/her sin in the eyes of the Maker, and receives the free gift of eternal life through forgiveness of sin, upon repenting and believing and confessing Christ as Lord and Saviour. The message remains the same and must be heard.
I HAVE to share this model of worship. I attended a church in Baltimore that was very diverse – in race, in education, in income. To make that work, the church had three music leaders and three styles of music every service. The African-American guys led some songs in a black gospel style. The white guys from the nearby medical school led some hymns high-church style using the organ. Then a college ministry-type young couple led some contemporary music. It worked. It said “We recognize that we come from different cultural backgrounds. Let’s use them all in worshiping the Lord.” And I loved experiencing the different styles, knowing that I didn’t have to abandon my own cultural background.
Worship is a lifestyle not a sing-along. Praising God in song and with music is great, as long as our focus is on HIM and not people! And BTW, you can’t have a “worship practice”. You can certainly practice your instrument, but you either worship the Lord or you don’t! (He is always listening!) Singing songs that the congregation knows? Here it is again: Focus on people rather than God. How do we think God feels when we sing the same song over and over and over and over… After 568 times, who in their right mind still means the words he/she sings? Are we really that un-creative? “Sing unto the Lord a new song!” (Ps.96/98;Is.42) Don’t worry about people, what they like or don’t. We are here to please God, not people! “Am I now here to please God or people. If I still please people I should NOT be a servant of Christ.” (Gal. 1:10) And when you sing:”I fall on my knees,” remember, God is watching! Don’t say/sing stuff you don’t really mean!
This is a great article! I have seen this coming for many years – this performance mindset. That’s one of the consequences of taking our eyes off the object of our worship. Sometime senior pastors are responsible for this performance mentality. I understand wanting the best possible musicians and for the worship service to be perfect, but when worship is right-focused it is perfect. I’m having a difficult time expressing this, but thanks for the article.
It’s simply a symptom of a greater problem. We are wholeheartedly stuck on ourselves. Narcissistic and impotent; therefore we must manufacture a “moving” experience without The One who moves us. The real problem in the church is that Jesus has all but left us to ourselves. We have become an American Idol production and the Holy Spirit isn’t interested. We look good, sound good, smell good… but we are oh so bad. A form of godliness yes… but no power. No power because we cannot serve anyone or anything but God. He is jealous and won’t permit Himself to occupy a sewer infested with “a little of this and a little of that.”
Good words my brother…good words.
Reblogged this on Ronnie Murrill and commented:
Finding your voice in worship. An interesting view about the state of worship in the 21st century.
Worship is a lifestyle not a sing-along. Praising God in song and with music is great, as long as our focus is on HIM and not people! And BTW, we can’t have a “worship practice”. We can certainly practice our instruments, but we either worship the Lord or we don’t! (Uh, don’t listen right now Jesus, we are just practising. Why don’t You come back on Sunday. Really??? Isn’t He is always listening!) Singing songs that the congregation knows? Here it is again: Focus on people rather than God. How do we think God feels when we sing the same song over and over and over and over… After 568 times, who in their right mind still means the words he/she sings? Are we really that un-creative? “Sing unto the Lord a new song!” (Ps.96/98;Is.42) Don’t worry about people, what they like or don’t. We are here to please God, not people! “Am I now here to please God or people. If I still please people I should NOT be a servant of Christ.” (Gal. 1:10) And when we sing:”I fall on my knees,” we must remember, God is watching! Let’s not say/sing stuff we don’t really mean or do!
When we intend to help people our focus is on helping and loving them. When we intend to worship God through music our focus is on Him, not people, what they like, dislike, feel comfortable or uncomfortable with etc. If the congregation looks to the worship team instead of Jesus, then they have a problem! As a leader are we guided by the Holy Spirit or by what’s popular?
One of my songs: No Religion only Relationship
My book: The Church and the Road to Revival
Reblogged this on Pastor Joemel and commented:
This is part of the reason why I’m not a big fan of “Praise and Worship” in church. Here’s some good thoughts to ponder upon for those of you who might be.
I ‘spose this is just a teensie squeek in the endless wilderness, but here goes …
American evangelicalism ~everywhere~ today is exactly where the Medieval Western church was at the end of the Baroque period — “worship” was all the stuff that went on up in front, and those who attended were there merely to observe it all going on. Congregational singing was nonexistent. Indeed, anything (other than purely passive observation) behind the altar rail was nonexistent.
The Protestant Reformers, after making allowances for the differences in musical idiom and technology, would look at today’s evangelical meetings on Sunday morning and find them exactly what they were used to seeing in their Roman cathedrals when they were wee lads — the cognoscenti doin’ their thang while everyone else just watches.
Love your thoughts here. Thank you. Just want to throw out another side to this trend. As a worship arts pastor my heart is deeply disturbed when I am sensing my fellow congregation members WANT to be entertained. On an occasion or two their comments would indicate they were sitting back, waiting for something special to happen that would engage them in worship instead of coming ready and prepared to worship. I realize “coming prepared” is something more mature worshipers are apt to do, and I realize my “job” is to provide entry points for as many people to enter in as possible, I often wonder how we can all work together to grow and mature as worshipers, worshipers who refuse to entertain or be entertained. I too am disturbed by this trend and believe God’s heart is deeply burdened or perhaps even bored by the “worship” we “offer” him in our services. Holy Spirit INVADE!
So very true that above all a worship leader’s goal is to lead the way to the foot of the throne. And there are many challenges along the way primarily because it is Satan’s #1 goal to prevent the worship of our God. So the spiritual battle is fierce from all sides! We all know that very well. But to avoid new songs isn’t scriptural in the least. Worship leaders definitely need to be careful about the frequency at which they introduce them. But we should teach our churches the Biblical basis for doing new songs so they can celebrate and embrace the new works God is doing. (And yes, intimately worship at the same time. It’s possible!) My newest post on my worship blog happens to be on this very topic – “Why Churches Still Need NEW Songs”. Check it out: http://pamelahaddix.com/
Thanks for the post – good warnings!
Reblogged this on MCNOMAD.
Mario, Christ’s word to the Church was to come out of the World and RETURN to Him. It wasn’t to individuals. It was to churches. And, all but one of those churches was failing miserably except one. Yet, He loved them enough top warn them, rebuke them and He still loved them. Of, course without elaboration or buying and reading your book we have no idea of which ‘her’ you expect us to come out of… 🙂
Michael: Many Scholars agree that the “coming out of her” refers to a religious system, i.e. organized (man-made) religion. When we look at today’s church, very little resembles the early church. One of the biggest problems is that we have turned a “calling” into a career choice with a paycheque. When Jesus called the 12 out of a large group I am sure we can assume that many in that group raised their hands to volunteer as His disciples. However, he handpicked the 12 for a reason. Today we see young people pick the career to become a pastor (not necessarily called). With a regular paycheque comes the pressure to perform in a way that “pleases” those who pay. This means the focus becomes the congregation. The early church looked very different! Jesus didn’t come to give us entertainment, business opportunities or careers, nor did He come to give us a new religion–He came to give us life.
Mario, in your reply to me you make many valid points. However, times change. And, the world is quite a lot different today then it was in Jesus’ time. And, church history shows that a ‘paycheck’ has always been somewhere in the picture. Even Jesus had someone ‘carry the bag’. 🙂 While we are somewhat off topic, Worship. A heart call from Jesus is essential to ministry. And, I too, decry the tendency for familial dynasty’s in ministry. But, if all of us who are still salt leave the church as we know it today… Where will we go? Start another church? Which may well devolve like all the others. Or, do we stay, pray and contend for the Faith? Of course if we are the Salt, we are to be, we may well find ourselves cast out as our salt may sting a bit more than they appreciate. 🙂
Michael: As far as turning a calling into a career with a paycheque… Yes the disciples were supported when asked to keep on teaching instead of moving on to the next place God showed them. (They did live a simple life, however, as their focus was never on earthly possessions! They did live by example!) Paul made tents on the side. He said he never wanted to owe any man anything. Once in a while he was looked after by those who asked him to stay a little longer and teach. (And how many paid leaders should a congregation have, according to Scripture?… while the single mom in row 27 can hardly pay the rent and buy food that is..? Hmmm…)
The Scriptures tell us that WE are the temple now. In other words: no need to spent hundreds of thousands of $ on buildings and (most days) empty parking lots. The idea to meet in church buildings rather than homes was introduced by the catholic leaders who then began to build their Cathedrals. The church that I and my family attend is a community centre, which is used for all kinds of community events and therefore does not place a financial burden on the congregation, and neither does it pressure church leaders to ask for money, or worse yet, enforce un-biblical tithing.
Why do we not see any power in the church? Where are the called leaders who are indeed empowered by God?
Mario… I think we see the same issues through different eyes and life experiences. 🙂
I have always had a problem with the strident teaching on tithing. But, I have never had a problem giving my all in a church where I was made a part of the whole.
A person is in full time service should be supported as stated in: 1Co_9:14 In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel. I believe this should be free-will and voluntarily. As Paul said earlier in 2Co_8:13 Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality.
In a certain sense volunteer staff should receive a higher honor because they are taking their spare time and sacrificing it for Ministry.
As regards to not seeing power in the church there are manifold reasons. Our lack of unity in Worship is one. When on Guam I remember being in services where there was great unity of Worship. (It’s an interesting story if Jamie will let me share it.) One or more times the building was shaken and there was no earthquake. The opposite was also true. Earthquake during worship we didn’t feel. Or spontaneous (medically verifiable) healings among the congregation during worship. There is no unity on prayer in many churches. There is a false faith being taught that we are lone rangers and should be able to speak faith all on our own. We do not honor The Holy Spirit. I, as a lay person have been driven to the kind of prayer spoken of in Rom_8:26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. during times of crisis and seen miracles. Of course as a Pentecostal I had a better understanding of The Holy Spirit’s ability to create passion in prayer where there was none, Jas_5:16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
Lastly, there is no power because we don’t really want it, as it would upset the apple cart, the sick and infirm don’t really want to lose the sympathy, and some of us are afraid that if we allowed Jesus to do such things through us we would become puffed up.
Sorry I am so long-winded. But, I really do believe in comes back to unity. And, fr unity to really happen we really have to take an interest in one another, which is very hard, if no properly nurtured in a church of greater than, say, 250.
Compassion and Passion… What would you get if a parishioner called you at midnight invoking Jas_5:14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: ?
What with all the teaching on being self sufficient in faith they’d tell you to make an appointment. And, you still wouldn’t get prayed for effectually and fervently.
Two of my favorite books are Faith Crisis by Ron Dunn and The Power of Desperation (breakthroughs in our brokenness) by Michael Catt a local pastor. Both non-Pentecostal.
When Jamie started this thread I doubt he thought it would last this lomg and go this far. But, our lack of unity on Worship is highly indicative of where the church is at and how far it has fallen from it’s high calling and place in Christ.
Senior Pastor’s are not the problem, large congregations are not the problem… They are a symptom. It’s in the heart!
BY and large we’ve been distracted away from our First Love. We can blame the distractions, many of which are really great things kept in their proper place.
Or, we can admit where we are, and like the Jesus People of the 70’s claim 2Ch 7:14 If My people, who are called by My name, shall humble themselves, pray, seek, crave, and require of necessity My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land. As our proof text.
I apologize for being long winded and I sincerely hope that I have been led of The Holy Spirit in my sharing.
Where to begin? After reading your article I found many things I disagree with and many I agree with. I can sense your passion and sincerity in your concerns as to where modern worship is heading. I agree that in many ways we need to get back to songs with some meat to them. I often look at some of the old hymns compared to the songs we sing today and in many ways it makes our generations music look far too shallow. But I have seen just as you have that modern worship has been and is today taking a shift towards what you call “performancism”. I can see where you would be concerned. I have been to a couple of mega churches here is south texas(Will not name names) but it seemed like a show, I was a spectator, and I was seeing a great concert. It turned me off in many ways and I vowed as a worship leader to never become THAT. I never want to see blank faces staring back at me, I want to see a congregation engaged in worship as they soak in Gods presence.
But saying that I have been told by some that are worship services look like a concert, just a big performance and according to them that is NOT what God wants. I just smile and say “its not for everyone”. Because in all reality if they dont like what we do then I am sure there are plenty of churches down the road that will suit them. We have the lights, we have the fog machine, we dont apologize for the distortion, or even throwing in a secular song if it ties into the message.YES WE DO!! (last week we did “saying something” by A great big world). Thats what I love about my church, We dont apologize for being geared towards the unbeliever and finding new methods to connect them to God. What some might say is a “performance” I would say that worship can be used as a tool to reach the lost. Can worship not be evangelistic as well? Is the purpose of worship solely for the believer or can we reach that person that has no remote idea what “worship” is through the songs we sing? When I pray and seek God about the set list for the next month I don’t think “ok now i need to pick songs that the congregation knows.” But instead I look at the sermon and tie each song with the theme of the message so that the whole service from begin to end is “worship” with one theme stringed throughout. Will there be a couple of the songs that the congregation knows and sings there lungs out to in worship, “YES”!
One thing that my pastor always says is, “A good sign of an unhealthy church is a church where everyone sings along to every song”. Why, because an unbeliever more times than not isnt going to know any songs you sing. So if thats the case than if you whole congregation knows every word to every song than who is being reached? Performancism or not, what I see is that many churches that are being labeled as “performers or performance based” are the ones that reaching those that we are called to reach. And the ones pointing their fingers are then ones who are struggling to keep their doors open. We all know that more and more churches in america are shutting their doors because they are not reaching.
I know this was long, but coming from a worship leader who has had my share of “Your worship looked like a performance”, methods will always change, but the message stays the same. Some might see our sundays as “showy” a “performance” but I have not seen one sunday where God hasnt moved in a mighty way! All Glory to HIm! And when a new face comes up to me and tells me how they never thought they would be coming to church but they loved the music, so they decided to give it a try….well I know that we are reaching, just like every church is called to do and we let God do the rest.
Reblogged this on Just Megan Sure and commented:
I have some thoughts on this. I was raised in contemporary evangelical churches. Since then, I have become Anglican, largely due to the liturgical nature of Anglicanism. http://comeletusreasontogetheris118.blogspot.com/2013/05/my-retreat-towards-liturgical-worship.html
Enough chatter! Hit your knees and pray for the Church, pray for our worship leaders, the pastors, musicians, singers. Pray against a spirit of performance and pray the Holy Spirit will be in charge of every worship decision and every ‘performance’ in which your worship pastor/team participates. Chatter satisfies our desire to express an opinion, but humbling ourselves before our Father in Heaven and praying He will intervene satisfies His desire to hear from us and brings the Church in line with His purpose. We can continue to chatter or we can pray!
A simple fisherman with a calling from God would hardly qualify in today’s professional church. That is why there is NO power in the church. We learn how to be eloquent speakers and how to do a professional presentation etc. Here is what Paul had to say about eloquent speaking. (Let’s remember that Paul was highly educated before he met Jesus): 1 Cor. 2:1
Dear Beloved, Whatever we do in worship as the Body of Christ. Let us all consider our worship if any of us transgress the Commandments / Law with our cultures/doctrines, if our hearts is not obeying Him (obeying His doctrines) or if we are holding/teaching doctrines of men and our own doctrines, lest we worship Him in vain. Mat. 15:8 – This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with [their] lips; but their heart is far from me.
15:9 – But in vain they do worship me, teaching [for] doctrines the commandments of men. 15:3 – But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?
Yes really agree! Please lead us into the presence of God. It’s not a show and it’s not entertainment, it’s corporate praise and worship focused on Him and also declaring his righteousness in the heavenly realms too.
Teachers of worship beware of the difference and the compromise. Allow the Holy Spirit to convict all those in pastoral leadership and the elders and those mature in their faith… Glory to God in the highest!
So On Point.
God bless You Sir.
Herein lies the coming crash. In order to make church more appealing to the young, the church must embrace the music that appeals to them. This means they have to forsake the music that does not appeal to them, which alienates the older, yet foundational, members of the church. Maybe the word “forsake” is too strong for this context. I apologize for lack of another word. In an attempt to appease both sides, they try to drag the older folks kicking and screaming from the service they know and love into the modern concert style service of today. It’s either that or alienate the young and drive them away by making them endure the “old fashioned” service of time gone by. As stated, in an attempt to appease both sides, they alienate both sides. Don’t get me wrong I can listen to modern songs, but don’t ask me to sing them…and mean what I’m singing about. There are a great many that I do sing, but they are simple, predictable and easy to follow. Most modern songs are “performed” as they hear it done on the radio day after day, not even as written. Look, if a person does not like a certain style of music, it stands to reason they are not listening to that style of music on the radio and on their various electronic devices, right? Therefore it also stands to reason that the only time they will hear the song is on Sunday morning, right? How long do you think it will take for this person to really “know” this song? I’ll tell you, A LONG TIME! This means they will have to be exposed to it for more than 3 or 4 Sundays to be expected to “sing” this song with any sort of confidence. This goes both ways. Somewhere along the way we will need to come to the realization that the latest and newest songs of the day may not be the best worship songs. Songs sung in corporate worship must be simple, predictable and easy to follow. This is what will make them easy to learn and hopefully be easily accepted. Look around during the singing and see who is singing and who is not. When the band plays an older chorus or hymn, eyes close, expressions on their faces change and almost everyone (even the visitor!) sings. Hmmm, interesting, no? Most modern songs are way too loud and way too high for most voices to sing comfortably, especially voices with a few years on them. It’s really hard to worship when your ears and voice box hurt. I get the mood lighting, but when your eyes get older, the low light reduces your visual depth of field. This is a mechanical fact of getting older but further feeds the insecurity of the older folks. Wait until you are in your 50s and 60s and you will understand.
If the congregation follows you in worship, you ARE a worship leader. Otherwise, no matter your intentions, you become just a performer.
Well said. Perhaps the worship today is a reflection of the depth of the worth we have for the God we worship? When we gather the song service should celebrate and express a daily walk with a living and loving God!
I’m concerned with your comments about sitting down, tweeting, texting, and giving up during worship when you weren’t familiar with the songs. I understand what may have motivated this in you, but it seems a bit spiritually immature. Your entire article is a condemnation of the way the current evangelical church seems to make an idol out of worship, worshipping the experience over Jesus. I’m with you and understand that this is a problem that needs wide-scale addressing. But how is the church’s propensity to exalt the experience of worship any different from the idol you made out of your experience of worship when all of a sudden it didn’t align with your preferences? Instead of making the conscious choice to worship God through the unfamiliarity (sometimes there must be labor in our offering), you chose to exalt your preferences and the fact that you didn’t know the songs over the worthiness of God. Is he not worthy of worship all the time, in season and out, whether we feel it or not, whether the songs are familiar or new? Like I said, great, thought provoking article. I appreciated reading it. Just be sure to check on the condition of your heart and ask yourself whether this is motivated by a true desire to see reform in the way we do worship, or if it is motivated by a jaded and emotional reaction to a worship experience that didn’t suit you.
Quote:[I’m concerned with your comments about sitting down, tweeting, texting, and giving up during worship when you weren’t familiar with the songs. ]
It’s not allowed at Movie Theaters… So, why shouldn’t it be addressed for a Church Service?
Quote:[Your entire article is a condemnation of the way the current evangelical church seems to make an idol out of worship, worshipping the experience over Jesus]
Honestly, I did not see the entire article as a condemnation at all. But, a heart felt please for those of us who are part of a worship team to examine ourselves…
Quote:[Just be sure to check on the condition of your heart and ask yourself whether this is motivated by a true desire to see reform in the way we do worship, or if it is motivated by a jaded and emotional reaction to a worship experience that didn’t suit you.]
I am sure Jamie can defend himself… But, I would advise you to take your own advice as well…
Sorry, Jamie, But, this one… I guess it’s a good thing I don;t have a blog? 🙂
PMJI, but having found myself checked out like Jamie was, my take might help you understand. If in fact you’re seeking to understand – maybe you’re just meaningtogether to provide a check on a brother with heart problems. In that case, call me jaded, but I’ve attended enough of these worship shows toknow that generally I’m not really even part of the equation. The experts have prepared their worship, and it’s on me and the rest of the “peanut gallery” to just follow where the leader has been specially shown by God to take us. And most of the time, nobody even cares whether I’m participating – so I might check out. Usually, BTW, I check out more profitably, worshiping quietly in prayers of adoration, alone in the crowd, it’s just easier than trying to maintain my heavenly focus through all the unpredictable two-bar pauses and the soaring background ad libs, and the occasional 16-bar axe solo. Many times per “set” I am stuck by how unnecessary I am, and how skillful and polished the band is.
It used to be so easy in the late 70s and early 80s, when we actually would lift up our voices together and pray together and treasure God and His Scriptures – together. It’s time to move concerts to weeknights, and let our weekly worship be simply a gathering of God’s people – the worshiping church.
So no, I doubt Jamie and I are simply not properly worshipful. I for one am just done with comments in place of corporate worship.
Thanks, David. I appreciate you stopping by.
Two quick things in response to your uplifting comment:
1. One of the benefits of going to a worship conference is that worship leaders can experience the other side of congregational worship, from the congregation’s point of view. I experienced some lovely times of heart-felt worship, some wonderful times to sit, be quiet, and pray, and also some enlightening times to choose to sit down, rest, check in with my wife (putting 3 girls to bed on her own), and observe what was going on. If I made a regular habit of this, perhaps I’d accept your brotherly admonition, but in this case, I’m grateful that I got to see things through the different lenses that I did throughout the conference. But thanks.
2. I’m praying, hoping, working, and ready for some worship reformation. The conference suited me fine. Some of what it showcased, not so much.
God bless you,
I agree with most of your advice, but I think this theme has been around for ages. There’s a lot of performancism in the traditional service that many of us grew up with, from the pastor’s sermon to the special music performances. And, I have often struggled to sing an unfamiliar hymn from the hymnal. I enjoy a service that is interactive and allows me to be a participant, rather than a drone. I think a worship team, rather than one leader, can reach out to more people. And, yes, keep the lights up!
I respectfully disagree with this viewpoint, because it seems based on this idea that our pride somehow outshines the light of God. If that were true, nobody would be able to preach Christ effectively, because we’ve all dealt with pride since the days of Cain and Able. I think people can worship God even if the leader up on stage has pride issues, exactly like people can still hear the gospel if the preacher has jealousy issues (see Philippians 1:15-18 for this concept).
I noticed you mentioned you “gave up” during a worship service and blamed it on not knowing the “new songs.” I’m not trying to be rude by saying this, but your comment is a major cop-out. If you were aware of your need for Christ, you wouldn’t “give up” on worshiping him simply because you were unaware of the song. The problem is not with a prideful worship leader, it’s your own pride which says that you are not in desperate need of God right in that moment, regardless of what is happening around you.
I do not mean to say these things as an insult, or to devalue you as a person (because you are, indeed, very valuable). I think you simply missed the mark on this one.
Thanks, Daniel. I appreciate you stopping by.
You’re right, we can’t outshine God’s light. But we can distract God’s people. That’s what I’m addressing.
And I’m glad you feel comfortable to speak so freely. In return I’m praying that you break a lot of guitar strings this Sunday 🙂
I agree a little bit with Daniel. Out of everything you said, you giving up during worship stuck out to me the most.
Though, I wouldn’t say it was a cop out. Sometimes, if we’re out of our usual setting, trying to worship can become awkward. I went to a big church in Phoenix one time, and the music didn’t jive with me. Certain older songs, I just can’t sing along with. There’s one that we do at my church on Wednesday nights that makes me throat hurt–with every single syllable! It’s just in this weird key.
I’ve noticed several new songs that aren’t necessarily “written.” The verses have no rhythm or melody, it’s like the leader is just talking. Then again, I don’t give up if I find that weird or decide to be careless and not learn the lyrics. Worship leadership doesn’t always lead me in a song, sometimes it just gives me a time and place to worship.
I find it difficult to worship in song with a congregation if I’m in a bright room, if the music is too low, or if others aren’t giving their best to praise God. There is a non-definite line of where worship becomes more about the performance, but it’s one that we need to be cautious of. Thank you for bringing a sense of caution to worship leaders who will read this! In any sense where we lead the body of Christ, it’s important to stay humble and consider the intention of one’s heart.
Oh my!!! I couldnt agree more with this article!!! We gotta get over ourselves!!!!
I’d love to hear the any form of biblical support in this article. The Bible clearly says “whatever you do, do excellently before the Lord.” It also says to sing a new song before the Lord. So how is singing originals in Church an issue when I am obeying a command from God in His Word? God does not disdain excellence, He loathes tradition. Are you worshipping the way you worship because that is how it has always been done? Because that is what the pharisees did as well!
I used to think a lot like you do, but then I woke up. I realized my opinions were based simply on personal opinion rather then spiritual fact. While there are plenty of “cutting edge” churches that do not follow a biblical stance of worship, there are plenty of conservative churches that do not follow a biblical stance on worship as well. We make this an external issue when it is an internal one.
Cain gave a mediocre sacrifice before the Lord and was disdained before him for it. Able gave a pleasing sacrifice, the first born of his flock and the best of what he had to offer. If i am going to offer a sacrifice before the Lord through music and as a way of leading his people, I am going to do it excellently. If that means making the lights dimmer and giving the light tech an opportunity to worship with his craft, then so be it. If its to make loops so my musicians can focus more on praising God then being musical in the moment, then so be it.
This philosophy that is expressed here is not one that matches up with a godly attitude of worship. It is too often used as an excuse to coast. You don’t have to practice or do research with the mentality if one believes the mentality that is expressed here. it is an excuse to be mediocre like Cain.
also this is a valid point on the whole matter.http://www.davidsantistevan.com/evangelical-worship/
I’d like to encourage you to take a step back from making Cain comparisons. My brothers might start getting a little nervous.
But seriously, if this comment thread weren’t already a bazillion comments long I’d go into more detail, but suffice it to say that I’m all for original songs. I defended the use of new songs in a post a few days ago. And I’m all for excellence. I defended that in this morning’s post (and the last five years of blogging, but that’s a bit much to sift through, even for me). And I’m all for lights and loops too (but not at the expense of the centrality of the gospel).
So I’m glad we agree on so much!
My apologies Jamie, the article did not come across that way towards me. No accusations were trying to be pushed towards you or anyone, just trying to point out some other scenarios this could be compared to. I am sure there are many times where I fall in the “Cain” category, I just wanted the weight of complacency to be understood no accusations levied. 🙂 I totally agree with those statements. The focus is always glorifying God and confirming His Gospel. All we do should be focused on exemplifying that. thank you for your patience and willingness to explain further.
No worries, Zach. I think we all fall into the “Cain” category at times. Especially when we grow up sharing bedrooms. Thanks for your good contributions to this conversation.
Have you discussed this with Worship Leader magazine? I’d like to know their response.
Thanks for asking.
I’ve exchanged emails with Chuck Fromm both before and after the conference, and actually just had an hour long conversation this morning. Very encouraging.
In the past few years, I think worship leaders have focused on getting the worshipers emotionally thrilled while leaving them spiritually drilled.
I agree God deserves the best sound, singers and instruments however too much emphasis on these can take away from the core of our purpose – worship for God’s pleasure.
We go to church to worship God. We are performing for Him.
So … I’m new here. Not sure I’m totally in agreement. Performancism is a thing, yes, but I’m not sure it’s as big a thing as people say … or, maybe it’s just a symptom of a bigger issue. Been thinking about this article and a few others for a few days – more thoughts here: http://randomthoughtsbychris.blogspot.com/2014/05/vision.html
Chris, I *think* I agree with the link you supplied. A Worship Leader can do ‘everything’ right in the eyes of The Lord, and still have a non-spiritually responsive congregation.
I think, though, that posts like Jamie’s gives us fodder to see if there isn’t something we can do to improve our serve. Even though this blog, this particular post, is targeting Worship Leaders, I am sure that most would agree that church is a cooperative undertaking.
And, no matter how strong the Worship Leader is… A weaker link can always break the chain… We pray not… We work hard…
But, while God makes all things beautiful in His time. We are still dealing with people who have free will.
And, while Jesus is more than willing to lead us around in the wilderness until we are thirsty enough to drink from His Fountain… He will not force us to do so.
The quest is for each of us who are ‘blessed’ with leadership to make the water appear as crystal clear and tasty as possible to entice folks to taste and see that The Lord is GOOD.
Improving our serve… Helps us not to make the ‘Water’ appear muddy… 🙂
The problem I see with this article, is that it was obviously written to get worship leaders to cater to the whims of what congregation members desire. Have we forgotten that the job of every single being is to worship the Heavenly Father? Worship leadership has nothing to do with the congregation.. Not even a little bit. Worship leadership is about being an example to the world of what worship is. And it’s not a position that a “select few” are ordained to fill. It’s a position that every single person who claims to worship the one true God are called to. It means that our bigoted and ignorant definitions of worship need to go. Worship is not a “Sunday morning routine”. Worship is the decision to daily surrender yourself before God. Who cares if some people don’t express it by singing, or clapping, or raising their hands. You don’t know what everyone’s life is like. The worship leader’s job is to offer up the BEST of their talents for GOD, not to become a house-band, serving up weekly favorites for a congregation. Newsflash! If people aren’t worshiping, it’s not the worship leader’s fault. Any decision not to worship God is solely personal, and no amount of music/presentation modification can change that. As my parents used to tell me, “If decide not to worship God in Church, where it’s easy, you’re certainly not going to worship Him in the world.”
Serving a congregation by helping them sing to Jesus isn’t catering to their whims. It’s feeding their souls. Catering to whims isn’t our job. Pointing to Jesus is. “Being an example to the world of what worship is” leaves an awful lot of room for a worship leader to embrace a “who cares” mindset. I care. And you should care. If people aren’t singing it should bother us. Sure, not everyone will sing. Sometimes maybe no one will sing. And sometimes, sure, it’s for a reason totally outside of us and our leadership. But sometimes it is our leadership. Because sometimes the person we’re catering to is ourselves.
I’m so tired of songs that have no memorable melody, no memorable sentences, and seemingly no place to end on a downbeat. I call a lot of what’s out there today nothing more than bad poetry set to music.Your last sentence here Jamie, pretty much says it like it is. Congregations are made up of individuals, not a one-size fits all.
What an insightful comment, Lee! You are demonstrating one of the things that might underlie the performancism noted by Jamie.
Sounds like you see worship leadership primarily as leadership by example. Sort of a “Here I am doing it right – do it this way.” Whereas I have always thought of worship leadership (or any leadership for that matter) as primarily facilitation of the success of the group effort.
See the great difference? Your approach is inherently “look at me as I look at Him, and learn how best to look at Him” – whereas mine is inherently “let me help all of us to look at Him as best we can.”
Assuming that any given worship leader wants to see God glorified to the absolute max, I think the collaborative approach has many advantages over the “show ’em how it’s done” approach. Including a reduced tendency toward performancism. It might be more complicated than one guy seeking God and doing what he believes God is telling him to do, but actually, the collaborative approach has the awesome upside of greater demonstration of humble unity in the church, which brings undeniable glory to God.
You are right. What some Christians tend to understand as Worship, is singing praise songs.
Worship is about our whole lives to God. It’s about what we do for God to try to live like Jesus 24/7.
Too often i hear people say the worship was great God touched me. But, it is what we give God in the singing, not what feelings we had.
I get those feelings when watching secular bands perform great music.
Worship is not about songs, and the sooner this message is preached, the better.
I agree with many points in the post, except for the tuning out part. Worship should be a part of our everyday lives. If people “can’t”, “don’t”, or “won’t” worship and tune out just because they don’t the lyrics then something is wrong. We don’t worship lyrics. As long as God is in it, then we should be as well. Overall though, I agree with many of the points.
Wow. Have you been in our Church? This is exactly what is happening here. Sunday worship music is slowly and painfully dieing, week by week. Pray for (church name removed by moderator).
Music is a powerful thing. It can be very spiritual and it can touch the soul. It can be used to inspire and it can be used to manipulate. it can be used to stir emotions when it is the WILL that needs to be engaged and it can be anointed and transcendent at times. It can be used for praises. Remember it used to be called Praise Music…It can be used to assist in worshiping, but songs the focus on “ME” are not taking us anywhere near worship. It can be used for evangelism and teaching. Ask anyone from the Jesus Movement about that and then ask yourself whatever happened to music being used to engage the unconverted? However – Worship is not music. Music is not worship. Performance is not sin. Pride is. If a musician thinks he’s “all that” then he/she has a problem. If a pastor thinks he’s “all that” he also has a problem. If a plumber thinks he’s “all that” he has a problem. Specials are not evil. Bad music is not Holier just because it’s mediocre. Musicians are not holier just because they shun excellence. Worship is obeisance (same word in scripture as obedience)…also worship is actually physically bowing down (as in prostrate)….and/or serving (as in waiting on or acting as a butler). Don’t believe me? Do a word study. Listening to or singing worship music for 5 hrs does not necessarily = worshipping for 5 hrs no matter how emotionally amped up you get. We aren’t headed for a crash. We crashed a long time ago. Now we have different, evolved definitions of words that have become filters, blocking the truth that God wants us to experience. When someone says worship do you think sing-a-long Christian music? This is NOT what scripture means when the word worship is used. Nothing wrong with singing praises. All good. It is VERY wrong, however, to change the meaning of a word for a whole generation…especially when that word is worship. Don’t worry. It’s not the only word that has been done to.
This is NOT what scripture means when the word worship is used. Nothing wrong with singing praises. All good. It is VERY wrong, however, to change the meaning of a word for a whole generation…especially when that word is worship
I guess then that David wasn’t a man after God’s own heart and that the psalms were just ancient poetry? That David did not institute and maintain a choir.
While Music and Singing isn’t all there is to Worship… It was an integral part of Worship in David’s time… The reintroduction of Davidic Style worship to the church was a great moment, IMHO…
But, we have gone from using Music and Singing as vehicle to Worship through to an event to attract a crowd. In that respect I agree with your comments.
While people have abused the work there is an excellent book on the subject. “The Power of His Presence” by Graham Truscott. And, it was written in the late 1960’s in and out of private printing.
Lastly, while it is possible to Worship Intellectually through duty and voluntary sacrifice. I firmly believe that True Worship requires the Heart and that involves directing and use of the emotions of the heart. It includes passion.
For good or ill Music is one of the few things that can evoke and involve the emotions and passions of the heart like none else.
This is why the “Spiritual Calisthenics” we see in many churches fall far short of Worship. 🙂