Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Worship Music is Not For You

I had begun to feel uneasy in the worship service for quite a while, never quite being able to put my finger on why. Two events helped. Once, as the "worship team" performed to a passive, spectating crowd, one of the "leaders" announced, "It's the Sally and Betty show!" (Names changed to protect the guilty.) I thought to myself, "Hm. At least they're admitting it now."
Another time, the "worship team" was trying to lead the congregation in an adapted version of a pop-folk song, the lyrics of which included, "I can change the world with these two hands." It dawned on me: Just who are we worshiping exactly?
"The worship God is seeking relies completely on His initiative, knowing that the only true expression of worship is through the abandonment of all our agendas for His, as we trust in His sovereign power and unlimited grace. It is from this heart posture that true liturgy flows, that music and arts find their highest calling and that the light of a worshipping community shines as a beacon of hope to a suffering and searching world."
-- David Ruis
This is why marketing a church's music in terms of "moving" people or "impacting" people is stupid.


Jason Wert said...

One time I was part of a worship team and I wasn't in a good place with God. So I told the worship pastor that I needed to take a week off because I wasn't in the right place to lead folks into worship. He completely understood and we worked through the issue.

The problem was the rest of the team. They were TICKED that I took a week off and they had to go a week without drums. One of them said to me "what, you can't fake it?"

Pretty soon the worship team was just me and that worship pastor.

cjbooth85 said...

Sometimes I wonder if we are worshiping God or worshiping worship.

Beach Mama said...

I love contemporary Christian music. We have a Praise Team that does a wonderful job. They work hard to prepare for Sunday. However, I can't help but feel sometimes that our focus is not where it should be.

Matthew Johnson said...

There is not one single area of church life that has caused me more grief or frustration than worship; specifically, contemporary worship.

"It's too loud!"

"It's not loud enough!"

"I don't like the songs!"

"Why do we have to learn new songs!"

"It's not a concert!"

"It doesn't move me!"

Oftentimes, this pastor's mind forgets that I am to worship and instead anticipates the half-dozen or so complaints I'll get during the week.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

Wow, I could write so much about this topic and about how I have come to believe that the fault of passivity in worship is rarely ever about the flock. 9 of 10 times I've seen a passive congregation it was not because it was their lack of love for the Lord as it was a case of "musical excellence" being obtained at the great sacrifice of liturgical viability. I've seen a few cases where rather than examine if the problem was the musical team leaders circled wagons and decided the congregation was at fault rather than conceding that the musicians had developed an insular and counterliturgical approach to music. I'm friends with a few church musicians and they've told me that on "our" side of the divide there's a huge amount of humility we have to maintain as we pursue music that serves the congregation rather than our own musical ambitions. This is something the more traditional and mainline churches have worked out over millenia that a lot of the missional churches, megachurches and newer plants often fail at, in my admittedly limited experience.

Dustin said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jared said...

Dustin, I don't publish comments that are merely links to a commenter's blog. If you'd like to contribute to the comments, please leave some thoughts, reflections, questions, etc., not an advertisement or a redirect.


Phil Cotnoir said...

This is a tough area right now. The worship music industry has just made things weird, and I don't in which direction sanity lies. I'm so tempted to cynicism, especially when the band is trying SO hard to sound like Hillsong, with all the same little musical and vocal details and non-verbal "oh woh's" as the original CD.

I know cynicism isn't right, but then the other option is heart-felt praise every time which in my experience is just impossible.

Recovering Sociopath said...

It's true, it's true! There is such a deep irony in "Om coming back to the heart of worship..." Oh? Then why is the first word "I?"


Anonymous said...

Jared, what would you say regarding churches that offer multiple services, each with a particular style of music? The argument is that we should appeal to as many peoples' preferences in order for a greater number to connect to God.

Do you see that s being the case, or would you call it a ploy for trying to build numbers?

Jared said...

Patrick, I share Skye Jethani's thoughts on that practice in The Divine Commodity. And Ed Stetzer's in a recent worship discussion he hosted on his blog.

In short, I think that turns both worship and church into a marketable commodity for consumers, not disciples. The obvious reason to do that is to appeal to and attract different demographics, which is the opposite of the hope of Jesus' prayer for the church (unity) and misses the whole point of what worship music is and who it's for. It takes a neutral approach to contextualization and turns it into a product.

nhe said...

Jared I agree with everything but your conclusion, though maybe we're saying the same thing. You said:

"This is why marketing a church's music in terms of 'moving' people or 'impacting' people is stupid."

If the people who are "moved" and "impacted" are also redeemed image bearers, isn't their heart's resonance with the worship music (at least often) something that glorifies God? Marketing what resonates thus seems fine to I missing your point here?

Ted said...

Great Blog! First off, true worship is an attitude of total committment and surrender to God (Rom 12:2, Eph. 5:18, Col. 3:16), motivated by the Glory of God and the expansion of His glorious kingdom, not the singing of songs. Second, in the Scriptures, the worship of God was the celebratory result of a congregation faithfully serving him through the course of the week, and was a means to an end, not an end in itself (like today). Therefore, my attitude on Sundays should be, "wow, I have the priviledge to worship God corporately with my brothers after doing so alone all week or just with my family, and to also celebrate His goodness and all he has done in the life of our congregation this week!" Oh, how we have the cart before the horse!

Jared said...

nhe, sort of.

I don't think there's anything wrong per se with people being moved or impacted in the music time. In fact, I'd think there's something wrong if a person never "feels anything" while they are exalting God.

My point is that that isn't the point, so while feeling something is fine, marketing a church's music in those terms misses the point that it is a byproduct, not the purpose.

Kimberly said...

One of the loveliest aspects of faith in Jesus is that there are so many ways to express it, and to learn. Though I know there are important theological differences in denominations, I have often though of denominations like personalities. Some of us are more gregarious, some more reserved. Some like experiences and some prefer thinking.

I think of music like that. We have to be careful how we approach our particular form of liturgy, and we can be open to other approaches, but in the end, we can't be all things to all people. I JUST talked to a woman today who happened to have attended our church in the past. She stopped going b/c she couldn't get used to the common cup at communion. Huh. Ah well.

The Blainemonster said...

I concur with what Chris said: "I wonder if we are worshiping God or worshiping worship."

As a youth leader AND worship leader, I've spent a good deal of time trying to remind folks to be careful that they aren't worshipping the "experience". I become emotionally moved when proclaiming bedrock Truth in song, as do many others. The problem is that we're so prone to remember the "tingle" and not the Truth.