Someone said it was my time to weigh in on my own question about worship. My response below started out as a comment on my worship post thread (“A Little Bit Lighter….“) and ballooned into a full-fledged post.
It’s been a long weekend (see my post “Running a Little Behind” today for the explanation), so I’ll finally try to address some things here.
Gaddabout starts with the basic in his comment: God is meant to be worshiped. Everything starts there. If we are blessed in the process, great, but this does not change the fact that God made us to worship Him.
With that basis, I think that a modern worship team needs to address the following:
1. Practice. It makes perfect. And while perfection is not what we are aiming for lest we exclude the less-than-perfect musicians from the team and create another church club, practice makes everything better. I can tell you from my own experience that the sets that are most practiced almost always lead to a better worship time.
2. Music selection. People think they can just choose songs and hymns, but I don’t like that. I think a worship band must have about two dozen options for music that can be played as the Spirit leads. I think music should reinforce the message, if possible, and that all music MUST be God-centered and edifying to the Lord. I prefer music with some depth and would like to know why there is so little effort being made today to set some of the great lyrics of older hymns to newer music. Most people today do not sing songs in 3/4 or 6/8 time. And because those lyrics to older hymns were typically written without a tune in mind, I see no reason why those lyrics cannot be used with new tunes. Honestly, I find the lyrics to most of today’s worship songs to be vacuous, while the older ones are sermons in themselves. Maybe writing new tunes is something I should start doing myself, come to think of it.
3. God honors mature worship leaders. I’m at a loss to understand why so many churches have such young worship leaders. It’s as if they need to put someone on stage who is 25 just to let people know the church is hip. And I speak of spiritual maturity, too. If your worship band members are immature in the Lord, it reflects in the music, it truly does.
4. If you have good music, repeat it. There is a tendency among worship leaders to always be trying new songs, relegating the old ones to the closet. But people like the familiar. There’s no need to debut two new songs every week. People want to be able to sing songs from memory and nothing fouls up a good worship set more than too many unfamiliar songs.
5. The worship team’s attitude sets the stage for worship as much or more than the music itself. If your team members are burned out, depressed, phoning it in, or merely not showing any smiles on stage, then it dampens worship, no doubt about it. If they aren’t enjoying playing, if they don’t have a worshipful attitude when they play, then they need to take a breather in the seats and not be on stage. If people’s hearts are far from the Lord, then they are giving lip-service to Him. That’s not going to work in worship.
A few things I’d like to see:
a. More kids being trained to lead worship at a young age. In fact, I’d like to see a focused church directive aimed solely at equipping people to worship, be it sung or otherwise. You can’t throw a rock and not hit a church where the mantra is “We’re all about worship,” and yet nothing is done to develop that beyond having a hip set selection on Sundays. That’s a grievous error.
b. More unusual instruments. I attended a church whose worship band had mandolin and electric violin players and those two instruments brought a compelling sound to worship. I personally think that we need more cellists playing in worship bands since most music today is weak in that range of sound. All acoustic stringed instruments are visceral (no pun intended) and what they bring to the sound of sung worship is important—and I don’t just mean guitars.
c. Giving people a chance. Too many churches have a botanical sprout inserted firmly in their rectal areas about allowing people to develop their musical skills. The old Lutheran church I attended in my teens gave me a chance to sing and play guitar for special music. But too many churches today have a rule, mostly unwritten, that you must have graduated from Julliard in order to get on stage. That’s a huge mistake. If we can’t draw alongside people to nurture a nascent gift, then we are diminishing our worship futures.
Hope this answers the questions and stimulates more.
3 thoughts on “Answering the Worship Question”
When I was just a sprout, I was taught to play the piano by the church’s pianoist. Thruout my teen years, I sang in the teen choir. Following along in hymnals, with a little insightful instruction, I developed a working knowledge of ‘reading music’.
I am appalled when worship leaders do not even know how to read music. If we do not have the knowledge, we can not pass the knowledge along.
The big picture here is: The attrition of knowledge and skill.
You talk about the need for spirirtual maturity in worship leaders. Here in the UK I think we overlook this far too easily.
I can’t think of a single musician being told, wait a while, give it time, get alongside someone older and more experienced to disciple you. (When an element of mentoring is introduced you can bet they’ll be up the front within a month) Compare this to leading services (how hard is it to say ‘welcome’, ‘ stand for song number whatever’ and hand round some baskets.) or preaching (you have to be ordained or employed.
I also think your comment on the need for spiritual maturity is insightful.
I like your idea of introducing unusual (UNPLUGGED) instruments is a good one.