Friday, September 23, 2005


This post, entitled Earl & the AG Pastors, describes Earl addressing a group of pastors and challenging why and how they go about the various elements of church.

These were some of the questions he raised concerning worship:

WORSHIP - why is it always music? why the same songs?
why only pretty people on stage? why all the lights?
why do people have to audition to worship God?
why is there no creativity in your times of worship?
do not tell me what to do (raise hands, etc.)
why is everyone wearing the same color clothes?

Worship is our entire life offered in sacrifice to our Lord. Yet often when we discuss worship, we mean the musical portion of a church service.

In sharing my thoughts, let me qualify that I am not a worship leader or musician.

Personally, I love quiet, private, secret place worship. I enjoy music, and it helps me enter in to the place of inner sanctuary and fellowship with God. I love how a song can bring you to those thin places in the spirit where God's presence is suddenly tangible and His breath opens up your heart.

The Lord is teaching me to live in fellowship and communion with Him amidst the noisiness of my regular day also, to not separate the sacred from the ordinary. To learn worship in this aspect of my life is wonderful because it is a much larger part of my schedule.

There are times I have enjoyed corporate worship. For me it has more to do with the corporate response of the people in genuine worship than it has to do with the quality of the musical performance of the worship team.

I'm burned out on watching the performance of a band rather than being led by a person or group of people who are truly worshipping.

Don't even get me started on auditions for worship team and the idea of excellence in music. I don't think the focus in worship should be on the quality of our performance, and I don't think that excellence is what the Lord is wanting from us.

I'm also burned out on worship leaders shaming the congregation into participation. Why can't they understand that this will shut down a true response of worship from the heart?

What should worship be in church? I would rather see a short time spent truly worshipping our Lord than an hour spent singing songs. Could this happen? Some churches might not want to change if they are attached to their musical program.

If a worship leader were to lead in this manner, I think it would take time before the people following would switch over from the old way of doing things. However, given the freedom and example to truly worship, I think the people would eventually follow.

Anyway, these are just my thoughts and opinions thrown out there for discussion. Don't feel like you have to agree with them. And hopefully I haven't stepped on any toes.


Cindy said...

I appreciate your comments. As you know, my husband and I lead music in a service at our church. I feel the same way you do about auditioning for a place on a worship team. It's certainly not that way where we are. However, I've known other worhsip music directors who have had the problem of way too many volunteers who want to get up and sing on Sunday morning. It would take more time than a staff person has to try to work out a schedule rotating 30 people through a 5 person group- getting them all adequately rehearsed etc. The worship leader's job turns into that of volunteer coordinator, rather then actually spending his time seeking God's will for worship music. I don't know what the answer is, though. I said up front when we started that I'm neither qualified, nor interested in trying to lead a team. It sounds selfish, I know. But I've seen how the whole team thing so often breaks down into a competition of egos. I'd have no problem if our church wanted a team, but somebody else would have to lead it.

And if, by chance, someone out there is thinking it's an ego trip to do it all by ourselves, please think again. We never get to do anything on Saturday night except practice and build a slide show for the lyrics, we show up to a virtually empty church on Sun. morning, set up all the equipment, often clean the mess somebody else left behind, then lead our 3-4 songs in the service. Afterwards, we take it all down by ourselves and rush to get out of everybody's way, then hurry off to teach Sunday School. I don't mean to sound like I'm complaining. (I did that for a while, but I'm done for now.) My only point is that there's no ego thing going on. When you're the only one up there, no other voices or instruments to blend with- EVERY mistake we make is amplified and clearly visible. I leave each service reminding myself that God can use the songs for His glory, even if I screwed up the words and my husband played several really wonky chords :-) It's more a weekly excercise in humilty than anything else.

Again, I'm with you on the endless songs and repetitive choruses. I've never gotten that. It seems to me that- that is usually a device of the musicians that does litttle but let them bask in the glow of their own egos. (too harsh?)

I will have to say that I do think that God wants excellence. In the OT ritual sacrifices, He required the first fruits of the harvest, the fattest calf, the best bird a family could afford... He rejected Cain's offering because it wasn't the best he had. Now, comparing one person's best to another is different. But, I believe that God expects me to offer the best I have to Him in worship. Think about the outrageously expensive perfume the sinful woman poured on Jesus' feet...

That said, let me say that excellence, to me, does not equal performance value. I really don't care if I'm entertaining. That's not what I'm up there to do. My job, as I see it, is to be so good that the congregation doesn't notice me, and are led straight to God by the music. I blogged on this not long ago Aug 4 & 10, in case you want to take a look:

sorry to be so long winded!

Linda said...

I'm sure your understanding of this as a leader is much different than my "view from the pew."

With so many people wanting to be involved, it's too bad they can't get a "team" together to help with set-up and tear-down.

My experience has been from the opposite end of the spectrum, listening to the well-rehearsed band perform their set on Sunday mornings. I often wished only one or two folks were up there worshipping.

I haven't had to carry the responsibility of leading worship, so I don't want to come off as harsh or critical of that role.

My gripe for all of us, leaders and pew-sitters, is that we would focus less on the performance and not make an idol out of the music.

I bet you and your husband are great at what you do, and I wish you had more support. When it feels thankless, the Lord knows your faithfulness to serve Him.

Cindy said...

thanks, Grace. I'm not feeling unappreciated at all right now. We are looking to un-involve in other ways, though, so we can focus more on the worship music without being torn in other directions. (We've asked for some help with the set-up and tear down, too; i'll let you know how that turns out!) I may have mislead you - the "so many people wanting to help" was at another church I'm familiar with. We have to practically pull teeth just to get someone else to come do a special song for us occasionally, and only once in 16 months has anyone filled in for us for the whole service. We are definitely not overrun with folks who want to help in that regard. That's okay, too. I'm honored to have been asked. And it's an honor to sing to God in worship each week. For several years I had to shut down the musical part of me because there was no outlet for what we do in our church until a year and a half ago.

I know it wouldn't work for every congregation, and we honestly need a backup team so we (and the congregation) can have a week off (from us)every month or so, but, I do think that only having the 2 of us eliminates a lot of headaches and grief. First off, it's just not going to be a big production with one voice and one guitar. I don't have to worry about whether the others are all there "for the right reason..." etc. If the church wasn't pleased with what we do, they'd tell us, and that would be okay. We'd either change, or step aside. Tell that to a group of 5 or 8, and watch the fireworks!

As for the idolatry of the music,I agree totally. Maybe i'll be able to work that into the re-write on idolatry that I'm posting now. About 12 years ago I felt deeply convicted that when I sang in church (at our previous church also known as CLB by Bro. maynard)that my heart wasn't right- I was in it to get compliments and that's about it. I was so deeply convicted, I stopped singing in church altogether for 1-2 years. You could call it a fast of sorts. It did me a world of good, but it hurt so much. After that, I felt honored and priviledged each time I was able to sing in worship. That feeling hasn't left me. I hope it colors what I bring to worship.

the main reason I take the time to write all of this here, is that I don't encounter many worship musicians involved in these conversations, and i hope to add a missing element of perspective to the discussions about worship. thanks for that opportunity!

Linda said...

Your perspective is very welcome and appreciated. :)

Have a great weekend!

Tammy Jo said...

I just left the church that Earl was questioning. . i'm sure of it.

I LOVE this post Grace!! It articulates well things I feel. I've had it with the weekly American Idol in the name of God.


Pam Hogeweide said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Pam Hogeweide said...

Hey Grace and Cindy
Have you guys seen the book by worship leader Matt Redmon called The Unquenchable Worshipper? In this gem of a book he tells the story of how he was inspired to write the song "I'm Coming Back to the Heart of Worship". Matt says that his church in England had a big worship department, different teams leading worship sets each week. Eventually the pastor noticed how people would come to certain services because of certain worship teams they wanted to hear. The pastor was grieved that worship had become a musical production, a mode of religious entertainment, so he put an end to music on Sundays for a season. He wanted his congregation to get back to the heart of worship, to Jesus. (Great book if you haven't read it)

My husband is a bass player, and a damn good one. He has been on many different kinds of worship teams for over 30 years. He has seen the egos, the self-promoting, the idolatry of music and everything that you are saying here. He has felt the power of praise when his skill and talent is applauded and he's also known the agony of rejection when he is not invited to be a part of certain worship events. We all can identify, I'm sure, with the range of emotions that surface when we are exhibiting our gifting.

Jerry and I have talked about how easy it is for folks to focus on the worship team, especially at big churches where it's an entire production. I have daydreamed about various solutions to this. What if, for example, there was a curtain drawn and the congregation could not even see the worship leaders? I heard of one worship team, from Brazil I think, who have their backs turned to the audience, they are leading people to the Presence of God so there very posture and stance is one of leading. I've also heard of worship teams that set up in the back of the church or on the side, rather than upfront. These are all intriguing approaches to me.

I remember once a visiting worship leader was leading our church in song, the overhead beaming the words. In the middle of the song he just stopped, had the musicians stop playing. He asked for the overhead to be turned off. He told us he felt that it was distracting us from Jesus, that we were to focused on getting the words. He resumed the song, no overhead, and as we sang there came a wonderful Presence of the Lord. I've never forgotten it.

I love music. It inspires me. A worship leader I know says he thinks people get anointing and talent mixed up. I think he's right. I must ask myself what I am about, do I worship Jesus no matter the skill of the musicians or song choice, or am I looking for an emotional experience with music moving me, instead of the Spirit of God? I know that music can be a vehicle, and of course there are different styles of music to move us just as there are different kinds of cars. But it's not the ride I want to be all excited about, it's the destination, and that is into the presence of God.

I know that some churches audition because of the reasons Cindy gave, to create a sort of boundary to preventing too many people jumping in, some who ought not to jump in. I don't think I have an issue with auditions or interviews. Some people sing very badly, like me,and if I was armed with a microphone on the platform it would be a terribly, noisy distraction to worshipping God! We know the reality is that some folks seek to be on worship team like some folks seek to be on American Idol.
I appreciate the challenge to worship leaders to discern who to turn loose and who not to. At the church we attend now my husband had to audition, interview and they checked all his references. In thirty years of worship ministry this was a first. But he understood it, they have a high bar of musicianship at this church. And integrity is a part of it, too. NOt that you have to be perfect, but obviously being on a worship team is a public ministry so there is reasonable expectation that your musicians are not getting drunk on Saturday night. On Friday nights it's ok, but not the night before the gig (smile, I'm trying to lighten this up!).

I'm starting to ramble here. Let me end by saying that I think it's great you are talking about this. It indicates to me, when I hear these kind of discussions, and I've been hearing them for a few years now, that there is a genuine hunger in the people of God for Jesus, not for an emotional, musical extravaganza, but for the Living
God, no matter the song, or the worship team, or the talent or whatever. There is a growing intensity of desire in the bride of Christ for the Bridegroom. Wonderful.

Linda said...

Tammy Jo, "weekly American Idol", very descriptive.

Pam, thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience. It is interesting hearing others' feelings about this, especially both the views of worshipers and musicians.

It amazes me that people who can't sing would want to be on a worship team, but I guess one only has to watch the American Idol tryouts to realize that peoples' self-perception can be way off.

Cindy said...

Pam, I haven't read the book by the Redmons, but I'd like to. Thanks for your thoughts on this.

Cindy said...

Grace, after reading your most recent post about preaching and teaching, I think I understand better what you were talking about here. I think that we may be working from 2 different definitions of excellence. I see excellence as giving the very best I have for God, regardless of how it measures against somebody else's best. If the church sets some external standard of excellence, then it is most definitely idolatry. I wrote this about worship musicians, but I think it may also be relevant to the discussion of preaching/teaching:

What a task we have, as worship musicians:
To worship in spirit and in truth.
To settle for nothing less than excellence, yet never let excellence alone be our goal.
To allow emotions to enter in without manipulating them.
To never confuse the power of music with the power of God.
To lead, without being followed.
To glorify without glorying in.

Linda said...

Cindy, that is beautiful and right on in my opinion. I have saved it for future reference.

Anonymous said...

The Redmanns book IS very good. Sometimes we have to put our best on the altar of God -as a sacrifice - for him to burn what is NOT of Him and so he can give back the pure gold.

worship is like that.

I just blogged on this same piece. I'm way behind you Grace, but ponderering this myself and then looking at your observations and enjoying the comments you got too :)

be blessed!

Linda said...

I am really enjoying reading your perspective on this same piece also. I've been following along.