I had to share this post. We should all put this to use – J.S.
What Is The Real Problem With Today’s Evangelical Worship? – David Santistevan — May 27, 2014
There’s a popular article floating around about the current state of modern worship.
Many of the points I would agree with. I’m thankful that Jamie is addressing these hard questions and fostering some great conversations.
But at the same time, I also want to present a perspective that I feel is missing.
None of this is new. None of these problems are new.
I don’t believe we are headed for a worship crash because these conversations and wars have been going on since the church has worshiped together in corporate fashion.
No, we are not headed for a crash. We are going to be OK.
But there is still a major problem.
The Real Problem
The problem with modern worship isn’t the lights.
The problem with modern worship isn’t the writing and singing of original music. Matter of fact, I believe we need more songwriters writing more songs…better songs.
The problem isn’t the dimly lit room.
The problem isn’t the big rock band and creative music.
For starters, let’s consider the alternative. We could install more bright, fluorescent lights in our churches. We could take away the band and have acapella worship or a simple piano.
We could even remove the stage, placing the musicians on the floor with the congregation. We could do away with all creativity in the gathered church.
This may help for a season, but the core issue would remain untouched, unexamined.
What’s the real problem?
Our hearts don’t know their need for Christ. We are not desperate. We are not broken. We don’t approach Sunday with expectant, faith-filled, repentant hearts. We aren’t hungry for Jesus.
I know these are general statements and don’t apply to everyone. But this is more of our problem than what types of tools we use in the worship of God.
I am too satisfied with this world. My eyes are filled with everything but Christ. My heart longs for influence, power, money, and earthly security more than the treasures of heaven. That is my problem. That is our problem.
Pastor Your Creative Expression
So rather than a bashing of the fog machine, let’s repent and look to Jesus. Let’s allow our eyes to be filled with His brightness, his beauty, His truth.
If anything, when done well, music, creativity, lighting, projection, and fog machines can help us visualize the glory of God in new ways. They can help us see what heaven may be like. Heaven will have sights and sounds that are unlike anything we’ve ever imagined.
It’s all how you use these tools, explain these tools, and pastor your creative expression.
Distraction in worship comes from a distracted heart, not from creative ideas. My distracted heart will always look for something or someone to blame rather than facing my own apathy. I see this in myself all the time.
Think about the most inspiring worshiper you know. Believe me, they will love Jesus no matter what form the expression takes.
Is Performance a Problem?
I’m not sure performancism is the problem either. When I go to church, I want to hear from a Pastor who has studied, rehearsed, prayed over, and developed his sermon. His excellent performance of the sermon will help its truth speak louder to all the worshipers.
Same with a worship leader. Sure, I don’t want a worship leader who just performs worship songs for his own glory. I think we can agree we’re not into that. But I do want a worship leader who is conscious of his excellent performance so the gathered church can worship the Savior without distraction.
I don’t think performance is such a bad word. It speaks to caring deeply, preparing fully, and loving your people. But make sure you focus your “preparation” and “performance” on getting people to engage and sing.
We don’t want a room of spectators, though that’s not always a a terrible sign. Spectators may be a sign that your church is reaching unchurched people, which is beautiful!
Worship leaders, it’s about your downright desperation for Jesus and your pastoral care for people that matters.
You can do both of these things with progressive music, fog, lights, and air tight programming. You can also subtract these tools and sing “I Exalt Thee” every weekend and miss the point of loving Jesus and helping other do the same.
Maybe you want to simplify your services for a season, like Jaime suggests. But the most important action step is to fight hard to stay amazed by God. Humble yourself and you’ll be ready to worship come rock show or Bach invention.
It’s all for Him – from Him and to Him and for Him.
Worship Leader, I love you. I care about my church, your church, and the quality of our corporate worship experiences. Let’s continue to keep it real.
Recently I have been leading a small group at my home through the connection groups of New Walk Church in Zephyrhills Florida. We are doing a study by Louie Giglio called, “The Air I Breathe – Worship As A Way Of Life”. Although we are only a few weeks into it I have to tell you that it has sparked some remarkable conversation about what Worship really is and why we should do it.
I have spent the last ten years or so involved in Worship teams at multiple churches. I was part of a choir, then a contemporary vocal team. I filled in when the choir director wasn’t available on Sunday to lead the congregation in hymns (which was interesting). Then I moved on to a fully contemporary church where I participated as a musician and vocalist. Following that I took over as the Worship leader for about 16 months. Afterwards I stayed on as a team leader when they hired a full-time Worship leader. And when he left, I took back over those responsibilities for over a year again. Finally, after struggling with the direction of the church, and my desire to provide relevant and meaningful Worship to the almighty God, I left.
Now here I am at New Walk. It is a remarkable church that is reaching the community for Christ in a mighty way. If you just stop right there then all would be right with the world. But the reality is no church is without its issues and problems. At no place where human beings are in play will you find perfection. You can throw that out the window when the door gets unlocked on Sunday. There’s a “human” in the house. Problems are not unique.
Psalm 96:4-6 (Amplified Bible)
4For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised; He is to be reverently feared and worshiped above all [so-called] gods.
5For all the gods of the nations are [lifeless] idols, but the Lord made the heavens.
6Honor and majesty are before Him; strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.
Being a Worshiper and seeking Worship on new levels will really open your eyes to your surroundings in a church environment. There are so many people who find the time of Worship so unimportant that it actually gives them an extra 20 minutes to get to church because they don’t mind missing it. Heck, the head of our Administrative team at my last church was rarely ever in the sanctuary to hear the announcements or anything. Last guy in. Even at New Walk, people are up walking around, and going in and out of the room while the pastor is delivering the message. People, please go to the bathroom before you leave home for church! It’s a distraction and down right disrespectful to the pastor, and the congregation trying to listen.
And then there are Worship teams. This is not a jab at any team in particular, but just a general observation about Worship teams that I have watched, participated in regularly, or have done fill-in work for. For the most part I feel the majority of churches do their best to put God-loving service minded Christians in place to lead their congregation. However, some choose to hire players to get a more professional sound. Sometimes that works, and sometimes not. Yes, the band may play better, but they probably aren’t Worshiping better. As a matter a fact, if they didn’t get in from playing the club until 3:30 – 4:00am then they probably are not even giving you their best musical effort.
The same goes for vocalist. Speaking of which, I feel like vocal teams are the most anal position on a Worship team. I have seen so many of them focused on getting the exact part and pitch that they forgot the most important thing, “Worship”. This is not a choir or chorus, it is a band. You need to sing from your soul, find the groove, WORSHIP!
When vocal teams truly Worship, the congregation Worships with them. I don’t mean sounding good. I mean Worshiping. You see, if God is going to use your team to reach someone for the Kingdom, the mechanics aren’t in play. It is the witnessing of authentic Worship to the Lord our God that will set those people free. God will use that time of Worship not only as an offering of love to him, but also to bring others close to him. It is not an expression of perfection, but excellence; Worshiping God to the best of your ability.
I have heard many Worship leaders say that Sunday is the one day they just can’t Worship. Why? So much to do. So many things to worry about. But I challenge that. If a Worship leader cannot Worship on the one day a week he is given the task of leading others in Worship, he may need to look for another way to serve. Finding that place where you can turn all those Sunday morning issues over to God is vital to the Worship in your church. Without it, you may was well play the radio or show a video. It will be just about as natural. You see, it’s not about playing the top 5 songs on Christian radio, or blowing the windows out with volume, it’s about taking your congregation to a place where they can find God through authentic Worship.
Singer/Songwriter/Recording Artist Paul Baloche once said that it’s not the music, it’s the message. You can take a verse of scripture, put a melody to it, and that will be as pleasing to God as anything else we could sing. After all, it’s God’s word. Why wouldn’t that be pleasing to him?
I could go on forever, but to do so would mean a book, and that very well could be forthcoming. But I invite other Worship leaders to chime in and join this conversation with me. Not only Worship leaders, but Worshipers. It is the most important thing we can do for our spiritual walk.
“Not Your Grandma’s Church”
Have you noticed how many new progressively contemporary churches are popping up all over your community? If not then take a look around. They are there. They are in your shopping malls, schools, movie theatres, hotels, anyplace that has a room large enough to hold a gathering.
There you will probably find a Pastor and his congregation decked out in blue jeans and flip flops, as well as an untucked button down shirt, or Tommy Bahama knock off. The music will be loud and rocking. It will probably be led by some twenty something guy with spiked up hair and a go-tee, also adorned in the blue jean flip flop look. You will also no doubt find a table with coffee and snacks on it, as well as a dining area in the back for people to sit in coffee house fashion. Sound familiar?
Several years ago these rebels were on the cutting edge of church development. The traditional churches in the area were taking bets on how long they would last and the elders were offended at the very nature of their ministry. Church communities for the most part didn’t even recognize them as “real church”. They were “Blasphemers and Hypocrites”. Now the very church they looked so harshly on has brought Christianity back in America.
Don’t get me wrong. Not all of these little pocket churches got it right. Many fell to the wayside. Planting a church is just like planting seeds in a field. Not all the seeds sprout or make it to full maturity. Others produce in abundance above expectations. It depends on how they are watered and fed.
Don’t get me wrong about traditional churches either. There are some really good ones out there as well. But overall the traditional church as we know it is declining rapidly. So where do Christian churches go from here? What is next on the cutting edge? How do you keep the momentum going forward? By continuing to pursue the Acts 2 church.
The Fellowship of the Believers
42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Thousands of years ago someone got it right. It was right there in the bible. They ate together, hung out together, shared their views and ministered to one another. They helped those in need. They prayed God’s blessings on one another and it says in verse 47, ” And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved”.
If Christianity is to survive in this Pagan world then Acts 2:42-47 needs to be the Mission Statement. Nothing more and nothing less. Every church, denominational or not, should adopt this phrase as the guideline in developing a true “Fellowship of Believers”.
Christianity can longer afford to be bogged down in the administrative and political garbage that takes place inside the walls of Pastor’s offices and late night board meetings. If all energy is focused on the things of God, the things of Man will diminish, or, God will take care of them. By loading up the leaders of our churches with the issues of man, we have lost the Faith that once existed to trust in God. It is when the traditional Christian churches finally realize this, then they too when enable themselves to grow as the Acts2 church. Let’s continue to pray for that revival.