How many times have I left a worship service raving or complaining about a particular song in the worship set? I’ve been thinking about how we consume certain elements of the worship service and the two most obvious elements are the sermon (covered in the previous post) and during the time of singing.
I remember a stretch of going to church with a consistent group of people where the entire worship service was under constant evaluation. The worship leader’s attire was discussed, “Stop wearing those pleated pants!” The back-up vocalists had a ranking system “She’s like the second worst alto. I literally can’t sing when she sings harmony” and of course, the guys would have a different ranking system “Who cares if she can’t sing, she’s beautiful and she loves Jesus – what’s her name??” Clearly we were here to worship.
The song selection began another conversation. “Not another Chris Tomlin song!” “I think they dug this hymn out from from the lost tapes of Charles Wesley. They should have left it there.” “Please stop singing ‘Second Worst Alto!’” and “Crowder’s ‘O God Where Are You Now?’ would have worked better here.” And on it went. As I look back, not only do I regret our lack of reverence and hate the thought of how distracting we must have been, I also regret how our cynicism might have shaped our understanding of worship and community for each other.
We were worship service snobs. We picked on the shortcomings and expressed how unimpressive the better moments were, “I’ve heard that done better.” Every sub-culture has something like this and it has more to do with cynicism, boredom, lack of substance and a disconnect of local church’s reason of why we worship.
Perspectives of elements of the worship service vary from, “I just love everything the worship team does!” to “They always suck at leading.” Worship leaders are put on pedestals by some and put on crosses by others.
Indeed some worship leaders are vein, indeed some are angry, and some have no place leading worship in a church. There will never be a shortage of stories of where the worship leader/pastor yelled at someone before the worship service and moments later announced to the congregation, “It’s great to be here in the house of the Lord – Amen!”
At the same time, some worship leaders have not only amazing musical talent but incredible hearts for God and people. I remember one worship leader telling me one of his favorite moments in life was watching a woman fighting cancer singing with passion and fullness as he led. He said to me, “It’s a little weird because you have some people who are clearly not enjoying being part of this and another finding the presence of God and you’re part of both.” And of course there’s a lot more going as everyone enters the sanctuary brings a different set of things in his/her heart.
These days I fear for the churches and worship leaders who are playing the game of trying to be the best worship band in town.” And my heart goes out to those who see the worship service more as a concert singalong then a time dedicated to bring our praises to God together. While its good to find a style of worship that fits us and community of people that we feel comfortable and desire to grown with, we ought to always remember the reason for our worship is to align our hearts with God in forms of giving thanks, building unity, receiving the word, and serving others.
While each worship team has a duty to bring their best to lead the church in worship, that best includes the heart and not just musicianship. Similarly we as worshippers enter not to evaluate but to commune. Our snobbery, pride and consumerism is what holds us back from drawing closer to God – not the pleated pants, song selection or a particular style, name and or brand of the contemporary worship scene. From those on the platform to those in the seats, the best worship services are the ones we bring our best offering to God.
Confronting the consumer mentality has been a good thing as I find myself raving and complaining less and enjoying the time spent with worshipping alongside others more. Frankly, I still have a long way to go on this as I try to find the balance of quality of service and the heart in the service as there is stewardship in both.
A couple more posts about consumerism then shifting gears a little, the turmoil in Egypt has been on my mind – would welcome your thoughts via comments or email at any time- thanks for reading.