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Is Evangelical Worship Headed for a Huge Crash?

Healthy Leaders

Is Evangelical Worship Headed for a Huge Crash?

Jamie BrownJamie Brown
Shared 131247 times

Recently, I spent a couple of days attending a worship leader conference featuring many well-known speakers and worship leaders. The conference was held about 15 minutes down the road from me, so it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I’m glad I went.

I met some new people, heard some thought-provoking teaching, enjoyed some good meals and conversations with worship leader friends, and experienced in person some of the modern worship trends that are becoming the norm in evangelicalism.

It was eye-opening in many ways.

Over the last few days, I’ve been processing some of what I saw and heard.

The hosts did a fantastic job of putting on a worship conference that exposed the attendees to a wide variety of resources, techniques, workshops, songs, new artists, approaches, teachings, and perspectives.

I thought of Mark Twain’s famous quote, “If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait five minutes.” The same could be said of this conference. It’s an intentionally eclectic mix of different speakers, teachers, worship leaders and performers from different traditions, theological convictions and worship leading philosophies. You’ll hear and see some stuff you like and agree with, and then five minutes later you’ll hear and see some stuff you don’t agree with at all.

It’s good for worship leaders to experience this kind of wide exposure from time to time, and this national conference certainly provided it.

Yet throughout the conference, at different sessions with different worship leaders from different circles, using different approaches and leading with different bands, I picked up on a common theme.

It’s been growing over the last few decades. And to be honest, it’s a troubling theme.

And if this current generation of worship leaders doesn’t change this theme, then corporate worship in evangelicalism really is headed for a major crash.

It’s the theme of performance-ism.

It really is a problem. It really is a thing that is happening more and more. And we really can’t allow it to become the norm.

Worship leaders, we must identify and kill performance-ism while we can.

It’s not rocket science.

I am a worship music nerd. I listen to a lot of it. I follow the recent developments. I know who’s out there (sort of). I try to keep up (it’s not easy).

Even I didn’t know most of the songs that we were supposed to be singing along to at the conference. I tuned out. I sat down. I tweeted. I texted my wife. I gave up.

You’re not reading the ramblings of a curmudgeony guy complaining about all the new-fangled things the kids are doing these days, with their drums and tom-toms and electric geetars. You’re reading the heart-cry of a normal guy who’s worried about what worship leaders are doing to themselves and their congregations.

People are tuning out and giving up and just watching.

This is not a criticism of any particular individual, group, or even the conference. I do think they could make some changes to more intentionally model an approach to worship leading that isn’t so weighted on the performance side. As I said, this conference exposed us to what’s out there in the (primarily) evangelical worship world. The trend was glaringly evident to me.

It’s what’s out there that’s increasingly a problem.

Worship leaders: Step back. Take a deep breath. Think about it.

Do we really want to go down this road? It will result in a crash.

Back up. Recalibrate. Serve your congregations, point them to Jesus, help them sing along and sing with confidence.

Get out of the way, for God’s sake.

  • Kevin

    Well done Jamie, you have hit all the issues very well. I think the concern over performance driven worship leaders, unsingable songs with dodgy words etc have been around for some time. I am grateful that someone is now speaking out.

  • Mark

    Thanks Jamie for sharing this. One thing I would add is that worship takes on different forms for different settings. Certainly there may be a time for performance-based worship, like a concert or festival, but if brought to the worship service, we endanger the focus on true preaching of the gospel.

  • Richard Lynn Peachey

    I have observed that worship for the younger generation isn’t about singing, it’s about joining in emotionally. They worship at concerts hearing brand new material and expect the same experience in church. I’m not saying wether it is right or wrong. I am observing a culture shift. I don’t think worship is in for a crash because I see this is what many now want.

  • marie

    So refreshing to read this. To question the road that the ‘worship’ takes draws criticism, we are out of date etc etc. It concerns me greatly that we feel we need to present God on the same plane as secular bands. God is great , if we point those to Him for who he is our worship will be real. Worship is not just noise, even though there will certainly be time where it is. Worship comes in different forms , but when church’s become concert halls, and children are handed out ear muffs upon entry something is wrong. My daughter raised her concern about strobe lights in a children’s event, the organiser said that’s what people want. I disagree people want and need to see Jesus but in our case the children no longer attend as the lights and noise trigger sensory issues, God must weep. Oh please leaders hear what God is saying , not what the world is saying.

    • Kay

      speaking of sensory issues, the youngest of our grandchildren is autistic and the worship at their church, just causes the poor child to have a metldown!

  • Daniella

    I had to stop going to the church of my choice due to the extreme nature of “worship”. I love to sing and worship. I just couldn’t take the raucus performance from the stage and the constant worship direction – “raise your hands”, “dance in the spirit”, “spin around”. I need a quiet place of worship that is not at concert decibels. And, guess what! I am not a senior citizen. I need peaceful calm worship.

    • Dan

      So suddenly you only worship when it suits your needs? I thought we were going back to the heart of worship where it’s all about Jesus and not the kind of worship we need?

    • Abid Azhar

      Matthew:6:5,6
      Due:12:4

  • Rene Smit Taljaard

    Thanks Jamie for speaking up… you are voicing what a lot of us feel but had nowhere to voice it.

  • Pete Bultitude

    This sums up how i have been feeling for many years about these “Show” churches. I’m sure the heart of many of them is true but they have been swept up in this culture of trying to copy Glastonbury to gets bums on seats.

  • K.P.

    Most lack the sensitivity in Holy Spirit. Then you lack it all.

  • Glimari

    So get this. So glad it’s not just me! Thank you for articulating the issue so well.

  • Dan

    I think a good step in the right direction would be to stop calling those who lead the singing ‘Worship Leaders’. Worship is the whole of your life and such lazy terminology feeds the compartmentalisation of out Christian lives. For many us just turning up at a gathering is worship.

  • Patrick Flynn

    sadly it seems we’ve replaced the Glory Cloud with smoke machines. we need to get back to focusing on God in our worship

    • Stromox

      This ‘Glory Cloud’ you’re referring to is part of the new-age worship hysteria. It’s nonsense and shouldn’t be important. You’ll find no such reference for this term in the bible.

  • Fr. Bill

    Jamie,

    Fifteen years ago I led a group of “refugees” from contemporary worship as it was being practiced in our community to found an Anglican parish using the American 1928 Book of Common Prayer for its worship liturgy. It’s about as distant from what you saw at the conference as one can get. On the other hand, it is as close to how the Church has worshiped for 2000 years as you can get and still speak or sing in English while doing it! Insofar as we were all committed Protestants and our cultural heritage is rooted primarily in England, the Anglican model for our worship was going to feel the most familiar to everyone, even those of us who were reared and lived most of our lives in evangelical climes that are historically averse to liturgical worship.

    The bullet points you list under “It’s not rocket science” above – every one of them is satisfied in a Grade-A Number 1 Super-deluxe manner via the worship you find in smellsy-bellsy Anglican or Roman or Lutheran or Orthodox worship. And, you’re right – it’s not rocket science! Rather, it’s the wisdom of the ages, the wisdom of centuries of Christians who faithfully avoided all the pitfalls you point to.

  • Mark S

    “Use your original songs in extreme moderation.”

    Glad King David didn’t read this!

  • Mari Tatlow Steed

    I’d say the issue has more to do with “worship leaders.” You used the term “worship leaders” or “worship leading” thirteen times in this piece. And end it by saying “Get out of the way, for God’s sake.”

    See the problem? “Leadership” and “leaders” getting in the way of God has always been the downfall of religion. And always will be.

  • Billy

    Thanks! Needed to be said! Our team has a common goal: we worship Jesus; everybody else can join us and we hope they do, but we’re worshipping, if you’ll forgive me for the reference that sometimes sounds corny, but the “audience of One”. Our prayer before we start is that He will accept our worship as joy. Our team were not necessarily chosen because of talent, but of dedication to what we hold, such as prayer and integrity. I don’t like the “concert style performances” myself either. We have a stage in a school auditorium that holds the screen for lyrics, but we’re on the floor, a decision we made a long time ago to “be” with our congregation instead off above them. It has been a good team, focused on the worship, and admittedly there are those who have left because they didn’t like the style. I used to play rock on stages in bars and did the whole performance thing – coming to Jesus was an experience of the ages (to put it mildly), and it would be easy to do what you described above, but that doesn’t seem “real” to me, at least in my opinion. We work out arrangements in rehearsal but even there it’s all about the worship too, and at church we’ve become”loose” as to allow the Holy spirit to guide our worship, even changing what we’re doing on the fly – we come in with a song list, but sometimes, you just know, to take things in a different direction, sometimes for just one person, and the team is in sync when this happens. There are some days we wish it wouldn’t end, moments of high worship…
    Since I’m doing this, you know what else bugs me? Worship music that has these long dragged out endings, trying to “bring in the spirit”; I went to one service where they played three songs where we’ll do 7 to 10, these long, long endings. Yes, we’ve sometimes put some extra at the end, when we are led to, but I like to think it’s when we’re told to, hard to describe, you just KNOW. I hope this makes sense. There’s a lot to the phrase “let go and let God”, and I’m pleased that I’ve been led to where I’m at, because most of my life (I’m over 50), I wasn’t at peace most of the time with corporate worship. Now I do it, for free, and in the worship I go to places I can’t put into words, where words like “love” and “joy” take on deeper meanings. You know what I mean?

  • maggie

    We have for a long time been discontented with the direction to larger churches, more electronics, bands and big screens. We grew up in churches with a minister, a choir master/organist, and a secretary. It just doesn’t feel right to be spending so much of the tithes of the congregation on these huge coliseum sanctuaries, sound systems, etc. not to mention the huge full time staffs. In church the purpose was to cover the mortgage and the pastor’s salary, which was a pittance, and to serve those who needed the assistance as needs arose. Then we saw the admonitions to give “til it hurts” to the church, and we saw families who couldn’t keep shoes and coats on the kids, and sometimes couldn’t buy groceries, admonished to give to the church and trust in God to provide for their needs. What is the justification in these huge buildings and staff in an area where the schools are falling apart and children are hungry? Where is the justification of basketball courts, bowling alleys, and swimming pools in the church buildings where families who can’t afford necessities are paying for all this?

  • Linda Rodriguez Pitzen

    My husband and I have been seeing and feeling this for years. It’s one of the reasons my soul/spirit feels battered when I attend the four-walls organizations. I hate the loud noise of the “band” and concert being held without hearing any of the people singing. I can worship alone and enter God’s presence….why would I subject myself to such hype? It’s chased me away and I think Holy Spirit has left the building.

  • James Abrahams

    I wonder if this blog post goes far enough? I think the author is correct to pick up on something and his list of things to sort out worship I think form a trend that points in the right direction but is it enough?

    As someone mentioned, Mat Redman’s “heart of worship” kind of said the same thing and this happened a long time ago. I found this post because Mike Pilavachi saw it and shared it as it is what he has been thinking for a while. I don’t know what is in his head and what he is referring to but to some degree of course that is what he has been thinking it because he has been thinking and saying it for years.

    However, way back then their immediate (though probably not only) solution was to cut out worship for a bit, go back to an acoustic guitar without all the fuss of a full life band. I think this is good … but is it enough? I wonder if way back then they fell prey to the same issue that this blog post has.

    Both think the solution to the problem that worship music provides is to some degree musical. Whilst the author hasn’t said this in the rest of the post, the list of things that need to happen are things to do with the selection of songs. Whereas some seem to think that cool expensive lighting will make a difference to the presence of the Holy Spirit, he almost goes the other way too much by saying that getting rid of the lighting would make a difference.

    It might, for a time, just as it did with soul survivor. But I’ll bet if worship leaders started following what this blog post had to say, less lighting, more well known songs. Within about 5 years a new blog post by someone else would post up saying much the same thing but this time complaining that people are to complacent in their lighting or saying that worship leaders are too ego-centric because they only go for the songs they know and like rather then thinking about what their congregation really needs.

    I think the author got it spot on almost with: “Back up. Recalibrate. Serve your congregations, point them to Jesus, help them sing along and sing with confidence.”

    I also think there is a trend behind all those points that the author is trying to get to. If you take each bullet point and ask “why”? Why go for songs with more theological lyrics, why sing in a key that is easy to sing to, etc. You’ll see that the author is seeking out for worship leaders who are aiming to both serve others, point to jesus and help others get to a place where they can point to jesus. He is suggesting that a worship leader who has keys that only they can sing but a congregation can’t is probably not thinking about what is best for them. Instead this worship leader should be focusing to some degree on what is best for them (other points are more to do with pointing to Jesus).

    But then the author still focuses on the singing?

    I’ve heard, though I’m no expert on Greek, that when the word worship is used in the bible it is sometimes used to mean “lie prostrate”, like literally bowing before a king, sometimes it is used to mean “service”.

    I wonder if we are to go back to the “heart of worship” it requires more then singing the song “heart of worship” or changing our music sessions at all. I wonder if the answer to this author’s worries lies in the church getting too fussed about arguments about whether or not we should raise our hands or not raise our hands and instead we have a church where we serve god and we serve others.

    Does this author really want a worship leader to follow these recommendations to the letter? Or would they be happy with a worship leader that truly loves God and their congregations, who meditates on what is both best for their congregations, the people they are surrounded with, and the wider, even non-christian community they are part of and then responds in love accordingly. Maybe that worship leader will choose songs that are easy to sing, because that is what people need, maybe that worship leader will deliberately choose songs that are so difficult to sing that people give up on the singing and focus on the God behind the words, maybe that worship leader will give up on music entirely and worship by cooking them a meal or teaching them to cook for others.

    I’ll bet the author would be ok with that, I’ll bet the author in a congregation with a worship leader who does the exact opposite to everything said in that list of bullet points would still find himself turning away from his phone if in a congregation full of people (including the worship leader) who wanted nothing more then to serve both him (the author), each other and the people around them because they were full of God’s love for them.

    Paul was able to worship God with all his heart in the middle of a prison surrounded by physical pain. Surely we can worship God in a place with loud lights, annoying people “showing off with their dancing”, terrible keys, etc

    We have a motto where we work “Supporting individuals in their pursuit of God” although I like to add “together” at the end of that. I’d like to suggest that behind everything the author is finding annoying and pointing out, he is pointing to something similar. That the church in its aim to fight some aspects of western individualism has become to focused on itself, that instead all of us as Christians need to spend more of our energies supporting other individuals in their pursuit of God, this is service.

    It may be through theological teaching, it may be through music, but it may be through none of those things.

    I’ll bet you anything, that if you were part of a community, supporting individuals in their pursuit of God, and then you did this yourself. You would find yourself moved to worship whereever you are because there is so much horrible things in this world in need of God’s love and there is so much of God’s love still left to pour out. The music will sort itself out, when people’s hearts are drawn to him.

  • Barry Hall

    I agree with so many of these sentiments. I’ve been to a few places where the “performance” of the worship leader was just that – a performance. And sometimes you just don’t know where these guys are going next with repetitions of verses or choruses in songs. You have intelligent people out there in the congregations who just want to find a connection with God. That’s the most important thing of all. When God connects, all kinds of things are possible. Indeed, get out of the way!

  • Jerry O’Neal

    And start by asking God to forgive us, and then ask God to lead us in his will not ours, and quit following everything but God! Lastly don’t let up, follow Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and The Father!

  • David Wenger

    Jamie,
    I have served as a worship pastor for the past 20 years and have been saying this for at least the last 15. In so many of our churches the the stage performs, the congregation is the audience, and God facilitates the gathering. The stage should facilitate, the congregation should praise, and God is our Audience. Sadly, most of our people are watching; not worshiping.

    Dave

    • ed

      I have been saying the same thing for about 15 years. It is a few folks calling themselves “worship leaders” performers putting on a show to please mostly themselves. Unfortunately the congregation just stands & watches with little involvement & worship involved. In too many cases the Dress code of the band is a distraction all by its self.. Too many songs are not easily sing-able. How then can you Praise & worship ?
      I have said many times. Do you ever really watch/observe how the folks respond when you throw in a familiar song or a hymn ? ( 100% hymns would empty the church eventually ) Even some of the young people sing along. Hopefully we will get our fill of the “garage band” that’s in many churches today and then what? Rapping ?

  • Actually it does sound like you an old man complaining about these new fangled things. The truth is that thousands of people are being reached with the new styles of worship . Just to give some perspective. I have a congregation of older folks and they have complaints about the new styles of worship also, but when I asked them why many of there own generation don’t go to church they answer, because we hated being forced to go to church and sing those boring hymns. Every generation has something to complain about. I for one love the energy in the new worship styles and as far as good or bad theology, that’s the job of the minister. Most worship songs are just fine theologically, it’s up to the minister to make sure the whole service points to a deeper relationship with God, and that starts by showing up. If your service is so boring no one wants to come, you can’t do much discipleship

  • cfischer69

    One word: AMEN!

  • Spencer

    This article is SPOT ON. If only everyone would listen carefully and see how much truth there is in what this guy is saying. Worship needs strong theology, spiritual reflection and a “Be still and know that I am God” element. And worship leaders MUST find a way to include EVERYBODY. So much worship today is proud that it is “cutting edge” and leaves many people out. If worship is truly of God, it won’t be divisive to the body of true Christians. This article is a ray of hope . . . a possibility of a start . . . to true worship. The article encourages me. However, sadly, so many of the responses are defensive, reactive, and consist of picking apart the language. Some of the responses make me think, after this man’s wise analysis gave me hope, that there is no hope after all.

  • Spencer

    There ARE “Biblical absolutes” about worship, and they are NOT stylistic preferences. Corporate worship should be planned to include everyone. The service should be built on and emphasize theology. The music and words of worship should engage the mind as well as the emotions. And the leaders and the people should be filled with humility.

  • Spencer

    The problem with the songs is not that “we don’t know it.” Most of them are so shallow and repetitious that it’s no problem to “Learn them.” The problem is that they are short on theology, do not engage the mind as well as the emotions, and promote a visceral, physical high rather than a serious and edifying learning and affirmation of Scriptural truth.

    • Glenda Engquist

      I total agree with what you have said.

  • Peter L

    I don’t see anything judgmental. Please avoid the ‘Christian’ reflex to dismiss criticism as judgmental. The auhor simply identifies real issues and I think it’s wise to consider those.

  • Kiann

    I think you’ve entirely missed the point he was making. It’s not about whether your worship is loud or soft. He is saying people are making it to where the church can’t get Involved. It’s a stage, a concert. A place to be seen and an atmosphere reflecting what is self pleasing. It has nothing to do with loud music. Where’s the heart of these worship leaders? He’s not pointing fingers, he’s pleading with their hearts to come back to focus.

    • Mike C

      Where’s the heart of these worship leaders? You really can’t judge that if you’re just looking at them on stage.

      I know many worship leaders, some on large stages with lots of lights, speakers, and instruments, and some in small rooms with a few chairs. Some of the large stage leaders are among the most humble people I know, and some of the small room leaders have the biggest egos. And vice versa. Judging one’s heart based on their level of production won’t get you very far.

      Conversely, I agree, this is an enormous issue for the church, and one that isn’t going away any time soon. It’s something we constantly need to address. But let’s not pretend that it’s a sudden crisis brought on by the advent of good production in modern churches – it’s the same issue as it’s been for the past two thousand years (and beyond). It’s about glorifying God instead of ourselves, and that’s a struggle for anyone – on stage or off.

  • Rod Du Toit

    I think that because many young talented people- get their first platform for their musical talent in the Church=- the culture of “being on stage” to Ï am the star” evolves- the initial entrance is to worship God- and that is sincere- however they move to the feeling like being a rock star soon follows. The focus moves from facilitating the congregation to worship- to a concert for themselves and the attitude that the congregation comes to see them and not the Lord! Agreed- dangerous ground.

  • Jörg Pasquay

    just to throw in my 2 Cents here as a worship-leader. It’s not about the worship leader or the needs of the people. It’s all about GOD being worshipped. “I need a peaceful calm worship.” I read. I say – no you don’t. You don’t need worship at all. GOD deserves it, he delights in us worshipping HIM. It’s not about us. The presence of the Lord is to be hosted, loved, perceived, cherished. I hope we can agree to that… 🙂

  • Garnet Campbell

    personally I’m inspired by the big show worship videos and conferences by groups like Hillsong in Australia and Jesus Culture in Redding, CA, what guys like Tim Hughes is doing with Worship Central.

    If a soundman wants a better mic for a kick drum why should I tell him its not important. If an architect wants to design a better room for lighting and sound, go for it! Honestly I think we need explore creativity deeper and harder than we are doing now… some say forget about lighting … I say we haven’t even begun to explore the possibilities of light and sound in a worship experience. Be creative and stop copying off of everyone else, get out of your box.

    I think people want a diversity of worship experiences… some want stained glass and candles and others want a concert type atmosphere, both can be spirit filled and powerful.

    My beef with most church worship programs is that they invest a lot of time into practising a set list for THE SHOW, that’s not a bad thing.. in fact most musicians, singers need to practice their craft more. It’s distracting when you play the wrong notes, sing off pitch, and cant keep solid time. Nobody wants to listen to that, sadly the sound man often gets blamed for music that is too loud when the reality is that its not too loud… its off pitch, out of time, and subpar music. So ‘be excellent’

    Now let me contradict myself… my beef is that we spend too much time practicing songs, setting up lighting, soundchecking instruments but not enough time actually practicing worship.

    I’ve been to a thousand ‘setlist’ practices, sure you pray at the beginning, maybe sing an acapella song to get everyone unified before you start your practice but I’ve never seen people practice worship. I know it sounds crazy but think about it.. there is a difference. I think it’s why alot of worship services feel empty. It’s ok if you don’t know how to ‘practice’ worship… but don’t be afraid to ask if it’s a possibility.

    Your church or bible study might not have fancy lights, your guitar might be out of tune, and maybe you can’t sing worth beans, but when the worship is authentic it doesnt matter. So to summarize, I’m for better sound, better lighting, more guitar pedals, a better kickdrum mic. but not without authentic worship. I want the worship cake and the ice cream too.

  • betsy

    THANK YOU for posting this. True at every level. I am so tired of going to churches where the “praise and worship team” is nothing but a rock band performing for a clapping (and maybe hand raising) audience. For some reason, it seems like churches have turned to music as entertainment in order to “stay relevant” or “attract millennials”. There’s a place for Christian music as enteterainment, and that is at a concert or listening in the car, at home, etc. At church, music needs to be able to be shared and sung corporately. The lyrics need to be memorable and sound theologically. Like hymns or not, they did/do just that. Finally, it seems that so much of popular Christian music is about “what you do for me”, “how you love me”…its all about me and the God who saves/loves/carries ME theology and God can do for me. That’s not worship, that’s narcissism . Regardless of what God has and does for us, worship is about celebrating and praising Him for who He is. Looking forward to and praying for a renewed center on corporate worship!

  • zoopunk

    I tend to agree with much of what the article discusses, although I don’t see that trend changing. As some already commented, music and sing-a-longs are not the only form of worship, as we are called to live our lives worshipping God in sacrifice (giving of ourselves) in all we do as worship to the Lord, yet corporate worship can be very powerful/impactful in growing spiritually. While many worship leaders “seem to” fall into the performance trap, I think many pastoral leaders also fall into the perfection and performance trap of what they expect out of their creative arts leaders. It’s often what leaders feel draw in people in (typically a seeker) church, yet lacks so much. Unfortunately I don’t see many walking away from this trend for various reasons, but hopefully those who truly want to grow in their spirit can and will find alternative churches.

  • oldagg

    The number one problem with modern worship is that the “worshippers” do what makes them feel good while biblical worship is about doing what God wants. And how do we know what that is? Read the bible – he tells you. Want a good example of what I am talking about? See Leviticus 10:1-2).

  • Glenda Engquist

    I have grown up in the church. My parents were pastors. Today, the songs we sing in our church have very little message about the cross and God’s redeeming power. You can call me an old “Foggie” but I and many others of my generation can’t really worship with all the songs that are sung and having to read the words “Off-the-wall” as my Uncle called it. Worship leaders today don’t bring in the old hymns that have such a great meaning. I find myself sitting out most music as there is to much “twanging” guitar, bass is to loud and volume so loud, worship has just lost it’s meaning. Yes, I am from the 50’s and 60’s and I enjoy worshiping my heavenly Father. There is just to much show “performance” and “rock band” feeling. I do not like to be told to raise my hands. I like to feel the presents of the Lord and raise my hands when I feel like it, not told when to dance, raise my hands and how to Praise my Lord and Savior.

  • Thanks for the great article Jamie, My wife first read the piece and immediately forwarded the link to me. You’ve captured things I’ve been saying for nearly 30 years now. One recent church I led worship at I was asked to move away from older (hymn based) worship music in favor of the very contemporary styles. Don’t get me wrong, only about 20% of our worship was hymn based even at that point but I refused to do so. When asked why I told them I wouldn’t leave our aging members with no place to sing to Christ in a congregational setting. I was only a stand-in at that church until their reach committee found a permanent leader (they wanted a youth pastor too so I wasn’t the fit they needed). The new guy charged headlong into all the modern music and last I heard was having difficulty with the leadership once they realized they elderly were leaving (along with their otherwise reliable financial support).

    The next church I was at included me as a worship leader, one of three at that point. Each leader had very different styles to the point that even the common songs we used were all done differently thus making it difficult for the congregation to follow any of us. By the time my professional work took me out of the area the church was up to seven leaders, I was bowing out anyway after that.

    Another area you didn’t touch on but certainly could have is with the musicians themselves. Many have become quite elitist and prefer not to play if too many newer, less skilled musicians are onboard. Now we have drum cages, in-ear monitoring or over the ear headphone with all the instruments being run through the main mixing boards for the perfect mix and for syncing with the big screen displays that you’d think the church was a recording studio with a live audience.

    Thanks for the needed jolt to those that are reading this and wondering what they can do to return to a better way.

  • Constantine

    You need to go visit your nearest Orthodox Church.

  • ecwalke

    I went to a great church with a big, fantastic choir I participated in, but the pastor wanted to modernize the service. He hired a cool rock band that sounded like something off K-love. Then, he just got rid of everything the congregation could participate in like choir. The music got louder and I felt like I was kicked out of worship. It was terrible. Most of the choir went where they could be active participants in the service. It was very sad and hurtful, but the worship service is way more cool.

  • Audrey

    I attended church for the greater part of my life. Then they changed the music to more rock oriented. The music was so loud, I had to wear ear plugs. Comfortable pews turned to folding chairs. The sermons were based on how loud they could shout. They were not really based in biblical principles, but politics, commercialism, and personal relatis.onships. Tried going to different denominations and fell asleep. There was a couple of good ones, but we moved away. Then I was injured and couldn’t sit during a service. Now I just remember the past and listen to hymn. I would love to see worship services go back to what they used to be.

  • François Foisil

    From Britanny, France. Many thanks brother. As pastor and worship leader, I agree 200%. Many ones mix concert and worship, service to God and self service! On day an italian pastor said how the Lord showed him he took a part of the glory of God instead of giving back glory full 100% to Him… this is the problem when songs ans music become idols. Be blessed for your papper. I am translating it to send it to internet France.

  • Pittctycitizen

    I have been warning of this since the 1990’s when this began to crop up around the country. All worship should be God centered and focused, but man focused. The havoc this performer centered approach has done to the music ministries of many churches is unbelievable. My former seminary which used to have a very well rounded curriculum which gave instruction on working with all ages and multiple music groups has thrown the baby out with the bath water and now the curriculum is solely based on the praise band. Very sad.

  • Pittctycitizen

    Please don’t throw out the “judgemental” argument To judge means to discern right from wrong. The writer is giving their opinion which they are fully entitled to do. You may disagree, but don’t throw the worldly attitude of “don’t judge.” We are called to discern right from wrong given the full context of the guidelines provided by the Bible. Not just a few words taken completely out of context.

  • Lynda Ranahan

    I believe we are to sing from our hearts to Him!!! Loving on Him through our songs. Ministering to Him….entering His throne room. Focused on Him.. pleasing Him with our hearts. That’s leading….anyone who wants to will follow

  • Ashley J

    There was a time when I needed exactly what you described that I didn’t. I was a teenager and my church felt very “old” in many senses. The way everybody stood on the stage felt very regimented, the ratio of backing vocals to leading vocals always remained the same. The lights were bright and I felt like everybody could seem me as I sat in the front and it made me very self-conscious. I remember thinking “these are ok songs (some older worship songs are GREAT, some are really just ok) but there are SO MANY great songs today. Why can’t they choose one??”
    So I NEEDED a place where it was dark, where it felt like I was alone, to worship freely as I ought. I needed to hear new songs, whether or not I knew them, though they were mostly the ones I worshiped with at home.
    Light shows seemed flamboyant (although very cool to my teenage mind). I would have preferred to just have words on the screen, not faces of musicians, though I understand that cinematography is a ministry in some churches and they record the service to put online.

    Today, in my mid-20s, I don’t NEED that. Admittedly, my church has moved into the 21st century, finally. Natural light pours in while the lights stay off (a look I like because it feels calm, though not necessary). I can relate more to the songs today, including the older ones that they do. I couldn’t tell you who led worship on Sunday because it wasn’t the same group as last week and I wasn’t focusing on them.

    The point is, though, that there are people (mostly young, “bored” or new Christians, maybe) who do need everything that you described. There are people who worship in these places because they feel they can relate. So long as worship is Christ-centered and gets the gospel across, there is no wrong way to do it.

    Just a thought: why did you resort to tweeting during worship songs that you simply didn’t know? Why not learn them instead? Did you feel like you were stifling the spirit when you shut out the music you didn’t know to catch up on social media? Just honest questions, not judgments.

  • Susan Obaza

    I have been on a worship team over the course of my adult life for probably 15 years, most recently about two years ago. I became a Christian in the mid-seventies when modern worship was just taking hold, and I came from a Catholic background. Presently I look back and treasure the years I “grew up” in the church, learning scripture and Biblical concepts from the great hymns of the past which I had never heard, and the scripture songs I learned from the Catholic charismatic movement and evangelical churches I attended. I went back to study piano in my 30s because I felt God’s leading to participate in worship. So I’ve heard a lot of music and been through a lot of change over the years. I went through a very rough patch in my life, more or less dropped out of church for a year, and then tried to get back. I found I had to do a lot of searching to find a place I belonged. A wise friend in the ministry told me recently that not every area of any church will entirely speak to you, and I know that. I was open to pretty much anything that God had for me being where I was. And I did find that a church with a more performance based type worship was the place for me. The people are wonderful, the sermons impacting and powerful, ministry great- and I came to serve. But the worship was hard for me and the teams are just so good-humble, loving folks, wonderful musicians. What I finally felt God say was to pray, if I really struggled to sing, pray for everyone around me, focus on the lyrics or be still and quiet. But I’m trying to perhaps create a place for myself and offer an alternative in one of the areas where I serve-do something that is unplugged. I just feel like I need to be part of the solution, or at least don’t gripe if I won’t give. But it was good to read that a leader was feeling the same way I was, and believe me, more mornings than I care to admit I just stood there frustrated. I decided I could not remain that way. I just don’t know where it is all going-seems like our younger folks really don’t know the origins of some of the combined songs we sing that include familiar hymn lyrics. That does trouble me. I’ve just felt like it is not my place to speak up. Not sure what is right.

  • John Oaks

    what an amazing article. Exactly what our family has been saying for a long long time now! (You DID however leave out the light show and smoke machines—at a church we attended in Florida)! This is well said and I am also glad that a young person said it so I can’t be accused of being too old. (I am 76)! Thank you!

  • Guest

    I agree with the major theme of this post. Just have a comment about this sentence: “Don’t sing songs with bad lyrics or weak theology.” This applies both to new and older music. Over the years, we have sung some hymns with weak (or worse) theology.

  • John Earll

    I don’t agree with Jamie but he’s on the right track. “Performancism” has been and will always be a problem. People are people. The REAL problem is the “Primacy” of the new worship movement. Evangelical services are approximately 2/3 music, which takes away from teaching, preaching and reading of the word. It doesn’t reflect the proportions of what is in the bible. Sure, we are commanded to sing, praise, clap, play instruments, etc. I’m all for that regardless of form (assuming it represents good doctrine). It’s just not 2/3s. Not even half…

  • DWTV

    Extremely well written. Insightful.

  • Deb

    You know when those old hymns first came out the people objected to them as well. Also back in those days the priests objected to people reading the bible for themselves.

  • Deb

    “Do not stop him, Jesus replied, “for whoever is not against you is for you.” Luke 9:50 Some really great worship music is being written and shared today for the youth, which I enjoy as well at 63, that were being pushed out of the church by old fashion traditions. As long as the name of the Lord is being honored and people are being brought to the Lord I say go for it.

  • Kay

    our youngest grandson is high-functioning autistic, and the typical church worship, all the lights, sound, drums, it’s too much for him. The bible allows for worship in your home, where you live. Just engage in worship or with a few others who share your heart. We attend two bible studies, don’t attend ‘church’ even though for us in our 70’s now, the bible studies work, a gentle guitar, a mix. Just hearts united in true worship, I’m sure it’s pleasing to God.

  • Mark Woodson

    I couldn’t agree more with this article. I’m reminded of some things A.W. Tozer said in, The Pursuit of God. We have made the mosterous substitution of entertainment and noise for the presence of God…and sadly the church at large doesn’t miss or even recognize the lack of His manifest presence.

  • Anonymouse

    one more…..
    Turn down the amps!
    When the congregation can’t hear themselves sing, they’re not GONNA sing. At that point it becomes about the band and what’s the point of that.
    Also, I’m glad you touched on playing the songs in singable keys. I find myself often not singing, because I can’t reach the notes.
    …and what’s the deal with jumping octaves. The worship leader starts quite low in one octave and midway thru skips to the next octave. Most people can’t do that….and again, it becomes about the worship leader being on display. ugh.

  • Mark W

    Our church still has the paper format as well as the screen. While many do only use the screen there are still a good amount that prefer the paper. Maybe a suggestion to make at your church.

  • Mark W

    Hi Robert- help me understand what you mean by exuberance.

  • David Traverzo

    This is a balanced, thoughtful, and honest presentation. It is also a critique much needed. Western Christianity as a whole has compromised the gospel for a capitalistic, individualistic, and egotistic version of the Christian faith. As a close friend once stated, “it’s not about the money, IT’S ABOUT THE MONEY!” This version of what is called “evangelical” is not very evangelical. It’s more opportunistic in the goal for more consumption, more monetary benefits, more fame, and more space, buildings, assets, and staffing. This was a good piece, but much more needs to be said to condemn the apostasy that has become a staple of “evangelicalism” in the western world.

  • ESLCommando English

    Performance-itis is part and parcel of the consumer culture, business model style of church that has been recently plagued the church at large. It is a nightmare.

  • TruthvLIes

    Could be right. A church I have just left as the system takes president over people, has a focus on praise and worship and it is good BUT…. I noticed that when the band stopped playing and just the people sang (400-500), it was very quiet.

    No doubt that volume can get one very excited or so it seems.

  • Eva Trice

    A short while ago the (very demonstrative) worship leader in our church remonstrated with the congregation for not raising hands when the lyrics said that’s what we do. I felt crushed because I’m really not like that.

    The next verse talked about kneeling before God. Nobody did it. Nobody complained.

    I appreciate the challenge, but I try not to let it bother me if I think differently.

  • I. E. Konstas

    Good article Jamie. During the Time of the Common Tradition, when the
    Church was one, following the ascetic and (therefore) psychotherapeutic
    theology of the Church Fathers and the OT prophets, worship was liturgical and they had no
    such problems. Trying to reinvent the Church has the side effect of
    reinventing problems that have been solved since the wilderness
    Tabernacle, cause this is where liturgical worship started.
    – Greetings from an exhausted charismatic preacher, teacher, bible school founder, writer and seeker.

  • Lynne Stringer

    I used to sing a lot and it was a big part of who I was. I was both a worship leader and a singer in the onstage worship group for many years. When leading, I always tried to be careful to pick a varied selection of songs, including hymns, which I freely admit I like, but I also knew a number of people in the congregation loved them too, so I thought they were worth including, so as many people as possible could feel like they could meet God in worship. I knew from my own experience that I was more likely to be able to worship God if I was singing something I knew well and also felt said what my heart wanted to say to God.
    Unfortunately, the pastor of our church hated hymns because they were too old school. I only found out much later that he bullied another worship leader into no longer using them but he knew he couldn’t do that to me, so suddenly I was removed from the worship leading team, being told that they wanted to have only three worship leaders, not four. However, when other people were later added to the team to swell their numbers to about six, it was clear that the issue was not numbers. It was me.
    I much later found out that the pastor had requested that I be removed. I have been told it’s because I picked hymns.
    Even before this, I was becoming more and more disillusioned with ‘worship’ (i.e. singing) and the prevalence it was given in church, particularly at the expense of other forms of worship. It seemed to me that the reason for this was because it was both the easiest option and the most likely to attract people who wanted to be involved in it, many because of their musical skills but sometimes I think because they liked being the centre of attention. I freely admit that I had to fight that response in myself.
    But the insistence on music=worship bothered me. When I left the music team, I started a prayer group, and I was lucky to have five people involved, compared with much larger number who were involved in the music group. Few in our church seemed that interested in group prayer, which was extremely concerning to me.
    This, and a few other things led to my husband and I leaving the church. We now attend a house church that has no singing at all and I much prefer that. I like finding other ways to worship, rather than just take the road everyone else is using.

  • Manie

    I agree whole heartedly. You nailed the problem as it is. Thank you for saying it out loud. I dont want to go to church just because of this problem. Church is not an attraction or enjoyable experience.

  • Mike Lord

    It’s ironic, as I’m reading this blog, that I happen to have Orthodox worship music playing on my phone. That, along with traditional western hymns, has become part of my quiet time routine – even though I occasionally fill in with my church’s worship team. There came a point where I had to have this ‘serenity’. A related concern is the tendency for loud, long-winded corporate prayer-leading. Does anyone remember the story of DL Moody shutting down a grandiose leader to get to the next hymn? I’m curious as to how often he’d have to do that in today’s services.

  • Gerd Voß

    In Germany we have a series of worship songbooks “Feiert Jesus” (Celebrate Jesus), relreased in the last 23 years.. The songs in the first four books became more and more special and difficult to sing an to play. Now they released the 5th of them an they learned: Way more easy to sing and to play for the congregation and the musicians. If worship-songs are so difficult that a small group leader can not play them with his guitar they are probably too complicated for the congregation and they fall back into the visitor-mode.

  • annie anderson

    I completely disagree. In worship, there is a vulnerable emotional space for God to sift and sow that nothing else can reach. Music is ageless, timeless and everyone has vulnerable wounds that need a probe for God to heal. Where else in the world do you ever see such genuine smiles and heart pouring stability, but in a moment worshipping.

  • Adrian

    Absolutely spot on. Accurate. My church is going down this way. This is not Evangelical. Evangelicalism is being sidelined which is centred on the word of God. Our worship must do the same.

  • Kay Headley

    I’ll put in my 2 cents … i come from an acappella background. I started singing alto by ear at the age if 9. However, I’m not opposed to instrumental worship. Now, I agree that in many settings worship leading has become performance. I hear “vain repetitions” in many contemporary songs. I always felt closest to God and my fellow Christians when I could sing and harmonize with them. With the volume so loud that I cannot hear the praises of those around me, much less my own voice, I no longer feel like I’m worshipping WITH others, but feel very alone.

    I, too, feel great concern for the eardrums of the children. For a generation of parents who micro manage every little thing regarding the health if their babies, why do they subject them to this health danger?! I feel very deeply for those with sensory issues.

    I guess I just wish these performers would take a personal inventory and discover the “why” behind their “how.”

    Whatever happened to “Be still, and know that I am God”?

  • Tamara Bates-Rhodes

    NAILED IT! I’ve been saying this for over a decade as the American church has succeeded in turning worship itself into an idol. When you sit in a service and feel like your in the audience of American Idol or relegated to a “background” singer where you are expected only to sing on certain aspects of the song and then expected to sit back and let the “polished-accomplished talent” take the lead, then why even bother. Talk about marginalizing the person who is there to enter into worship. No one wonder so many churches are dying.
    Some of the most beautiful worship services I have ever been have been lead by people who who sang off key, but it didn’t matter because of the authentic heart that only wanted to worship The King.

  • yayazanny

    We’ve lived outside the USA for many, many years now so it’s always a jolt to go back and visit many churches. On our last visit we noticed that very few congregations sing. As the article says, it’s so performance oriented that people just watch. We heard the explanation that you have to lean towards performance in order to attract people to church. Reminds me of another experience about 3 years ago. We attended a conference at Grace Community Church (Dr. John MacArthur). I’ve only visited there for a Sunday one time. They have an average weekly attendance of over 8,000. They did an interview with Dr. MacArthur, whose church One of the questions was in regard to his building a big church. I was impressed by his response. He said that he never set out to build a big church and that if you had attended his church 40 years ago and returned today you would see nothing different. The preaching of the Word is central. They still sing hymns; they have a choir and an orchestra but not the modern “worship leader”. The typical worship leaders I’ve personally seen seem to have to give a mini-sermon to introduce each chorus and in case people don’t understand that mini-sermon they repeat the same chorus 4 times and people have stopped singing. This article was right on. Thanks.

  • Michelle Chiappelli Zvyagin

    Here’s a scripture that displays the heart of true worship. And it was extreme! This from the one who wrote almost every Psalm- King David.
    Notice what happened to his wife who criticized his over the top expression of singing, shouting, dancing before the Lord. She was stricken barren for lifeI!!! David was making a total spectacle here. Embarrassing to the onlookers. God saw his heart and honored him but judged VERY harshly the one who criticized him. Selah…

    2 Samuel 6:14 Then David danced before the Lord with all his might; and David was wearing a linen ephod. 15 So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting and with the sound of the trumpet.

    16 Now as the ark of the Lord came into the City of David, Michal, Saul’s daughter, looked through a window and saw King David leaping and whirling before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart. 17 So they brought the ark of the Lord, and set it in its place in the midst of the tabernacle that David had erected for it. Then David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. 18 And when David had finished offering burnt offerings and peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts. 19 Then he distributed among all the people, among the whole multitude of Israel, both the women and the men, to everyone a loaf of bread, a piece of meat, and a cake of raisins. So all the people departed, everyone to his house.

    20 Then David returned to bless his household. And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, “How glorious was the king of Israel today, uncovering himself today in the eyes of the maids of his servants, as one of the base fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!”

    21 So David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me instead of your father and all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the Lord, over Israel. Therefore I will play music before the Lord. 22 And I will be even more undignified than this, and will be humble in my own sight. But as for the maidservants of whom you have spoken, by them I will be held in honor.”

    23 Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.

  • BroJim62

    Ouch…have you ever read Mark 9:38-41? Apparently not…so here you go! “John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, because no one who does a miracle in my name will be able soon afterward to say anything bad about me. For whoever is not against us is for us. For I tell you the truth, whoever gives you a cup of water because you bear Christ’s name will never lose his reward.” I await the remarks that tell me that I am going to hell because I am not using the “right” version of the Bible. This is all so very senseless in these last days. It is about REACHING SOULS. It is NOT about the DIMWOD (Do It My Way Or Die) attitude that is prevalent among the “traditionalists” of our society! SMH…I will be praying for those who have these “clouds hanging like curtains” from their eyes…(Keith Green). Be blessed…

  • Syl Lobato

    Excellent…I love that song…I’m coming back to the heart of worship and its all about you Jesus. We sang that Sunday with an acoustical guitar..no hype..thanks for sharing this article.

  • Emerson

    The crash has already happened awhile back. If we get outside our
    protected circles, we will hear upsetting and yes, disturbing stories. I
    am glad to you identified it so clearly.

  • Julie

    Not sure why this continues to be such a divisive thing. Why can’t we just be happy that people worship in different ways? Of course it’s wrong if Christ isn’t glorified, but just because you don’t think He is being glorified, doesn’t mean that someone else isn’t able to worship and glorify God through it. Just because it doesn’t minister to you doesn’t mean it isn’t life changing for someone else! For my parents the old hymns is what they prefer. I grew up on those hymns and, SHOCKER, some of those old hymns have words/phrases in them that don’t line up with Gods Word. My husband and I prefer the more “modern” style and we are in our 50’s. I still love many of the hymns, but for worship, I prefer the more upbeat music. We really need to let this go and let people worship the way that works for them. It’s about a relationship with God. People read the Bible different ways, use different versions of the Bible, and prefer different styles of worship music. I truly believe God is ok with it all! He loves us to come to Him and worship Him!

  • Kit Wheeler

    Emily Dickinson wrote:

    Some spend the Sabbath going to church
    I spend it staying at home
    With a bob-o-link for a chorister
    And an orchard for a dome

    Some don their Sunday surplice
    I just wear my wings
    And a passing breeze does instead of a bell
    And my little chorister sings

    God preaches — a noted clergyman!
    His sermons are never long
    And instead of getting to Heaven someday
    I’ve been here all along!

  • Frank Silano

    I agree with the article. We rarely see real worship any more. It’s more fake worship as a response to the musical performance. I stopped leading worship in church because of this. Just listen to the songs on the radio, they all sound the same, bland lyrics, totally not moving anybody, it’s really lame. Choose this day….

  • Lou Beyl

    Amen,so very true. The day I walked in a church and the lights were out and the wall was black, I just had to walk out. The spot lights were all on the people performing. I had to just bye folks, not for me. Went to another church, the music was so loud, I could not stand it. Stayed for the entire thing, but it was horrible. Then I went to a church that I used to attend for 25 years. It was deader than a dead mouse. I could not believe what happened to this church. My heart cries to see what all is going on in churches across American that used to be the best of the best and going to the dogs. Sad, but very true. The church members can do anything and think they are doing God a favor. Nothing is a sin anymore. Are you thinking about eternity folks? Where will you and your young people spend eternity. Eternity is forever and forever. No coming back, friend.

  • Lou Beyl

    Are you kidding me? That certainly isn’t what that scripture mean, I promise you that one.

  • Lou Beyl

    Oh yes, they did object to it. My family were Catholic. The priest would not let any of us read the word of God.

  • Lou Beyl

    Real worship is when we worship Jesus in Spirit and in Truth. No putting on, just worshiping our creator, the one who gave himself for us. He bled and did that we could live again.

  • Kevin

    So true. modern Christianity has become a celebrity culture with a light show and performers. I gave it away a long time ago when i realised it for what it is…..show time at the cross between the video announcements and the collection…. and if you miss the collection plate there is the eftpos terminal out in the foyer. It is not the brand of Christianity I participate or underlines my deep rooted faith. Tweet your favourite hymn to get it on the favourites poll. Showtime starts at 10am at the Cross Road. Theme this week is how Jesus can make you happy.

  • Jeree K Gamble

    So agree. We have used the word performance or concert as we have described our dissatisfaction with our worship music, . i can’t sing it. It literally hurts my vocal chords at times. We have noticed how most people are mumbling at best. Then they decide to blow the dust off the hymnal and wow — they all woke up and singing brought life to their worship again. It was actually loud.

  • crashtx1

    The heart of the worship leader can be bad in any type of worship. For the most part this is another story about preference. If it’s not your style then it must be of the devil, right?

  • Geoff Stokes

    James Brown, that couldn’t be more on the mark. I have both music lead and sung to entertain (which I have now laid down). I consider, and so do others, that I have quite a good voice in the baritone range. I’m really a pentecostal but go to a Baptist congregation. I went to an inter-church gathering at a local pentecostal church. I do like my worship music a bit more lively but also enjoy singing the odd really good hymn. At the combined meeting, it was very clear that the worship leader had a smashing voice, and I told her so afterwards, but I could not keep up with her. I think people around me struggled too, if they were honest. It’s all about the young people.

    Nearer the end, and older man, an ex Pastor shouted to the Pastor of the church to “turn the noise down”. It seems he was really ignored. I think there becomes an acceptance of this stuff as ok, and anyone who speaks against it is seen as negative and not up with the times. There is a balance between content and liveliness. There’s a big thing in Pentecostal circles that people are being ‘critical’ if they say anything, and no one ever seems to listen because they have an agenda. This particular churches agenda is to attract under 25s because they believe that’s what the stats say.

    Whatever happened to simply following the Holy Spirit as the Bible teaches us. People have gotten away from that and not very many seem to either teach it or have a clue how to walk this way anymore. That’s where the anointing is, not in the sound or the attention or the creativity, it’s in the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

    Paul said, “But I fear, lest by any means . . . . your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” 2 Cor 11:3.

    Blessings for sharing this.

    Pul

  • wbd

    I have been active in leading worship music, toured Western U.S. and Canada back in the 70’s in a small Christian band, musician, a/v studio owner, won numerous awards, etc. for over 40 years. I think the best advice I ever heard for the role of a worship leader came from a Christian Worship Leader Conference back in the mid 70’s, from Pam Mark Hall, a then up-and-coming contemporary Christian musician.

    She said, the best “Christian” worship leader is one that is “invisible.” By that, she meant that our role as music worship leaders is not to perform or be the center of attention, but rather ones that aid our fellow believers in focusing their worship and song to our Lord, Jesus.

    Same goes with sound board operators. A well balanced mix is one that isn’t noticed, i.e., not to loud or too soft, as to pull away attention from worshiping. When people don’t notice the sound system, the sound engineer has done his/her job.

    We read in Jer 48:10a, “Cursed is the one who does the work of the Lord negligently”

    By that, we are instructed as servants of the Lord, to do and give our very best. That means we don’t show up at the last minute, throw on our guitar and start “leading worship.” It doesn’t mean we show up on Sunday morning only minutes from the start of the service, to run the Powerpoint or run the sound board.

    Rather, we practice, we hone our skills, we come prepared to give our very best, in order not be negligent in our preparation or performance. We take of gifts and our service seriously because our God deserves our first and finest fruits.

  • Ken Arts

    It’s in true worship we are changed and healed and made whole. It’s in the presence of God we see Him in all his glory, as the perfect sacrifice for my sins. When we welcome the Holy Spirit to teach, he takes away our agenda, and enters into worship with us. This is when we see weeping and the power of God, moving throughout the congregation.

  • RWilliams

    I agree with almost every single one of your points claiming “it’s not rocket science” except # 1.

    If people are constantly singing songs they know, I think we risk disobedience to the command to sing a new song. We are prone to drift into complacency and towards worshipping our own comfort and security. We need to push people out of that place towards expressing our worship to the Lord in new and creative ways, including new songs.

    So rather, than make that blanket statement…. why not encourage the congregation to actually do a little work to learn a song. Worship demands sacrifice.

  • Sonia Spangenberg

    I think the best path for worship is for the leaders to provide music that is glorifying the creator, not glorifying our experiences or feelings. From the stage, lead the worshipping to close their eyes an imagine themselves singing or praying to God/Christ/Holy Spirit. I like to imagine the passages in Isaiah and Revelations describing God on his throne, the seraphim worshiping God, the thunder and bolts of lightening. Some would benefit from that type of example of how to worship if they were never taught how to worship. I’ve seen pastors and worship leaders chastise a congregation for not engaging in worship, but they failed to give the congregation examples of how to approach God in worship and conversation. A teaching mode could really be helpful for some. The time in prayer before worship on the part of pastors and leaders, asking for the Holy Spirit’s leadership of the worship is critical. Love Toby Mac’s prayerful song “Steal My Show” as the example.

  • Steve Booth

    I’m not a pastor, but even I know that people were burned at the stake for possessing scripture. Many people were illiterate, but nevertheless, the inquisition was real and people were martyred for their faith.

    • rodger

      Let’s love God, love others and tell the whole world about Jesus. We should worship God and stop looking around and that includes worship leaders.

      “The perfect church service, would be one we were almost unaware of. Our attention would have been on God.”– C.S. Lewis

  • Chris Barnes

    GREAT article. But the author left out one, very important thing (maybe one of the most important things):

    TURN THE VOLUME DOWN

    Not everyone enjoys having their ears blasted into oblivion. I have been a “2nd row” person my whole life. Yet I found I had to move to the very back in order to get further away from the speakers. And even then, I wore the same ear plugs I wear to the rifle range.

    It finally got to the point, I had to simply quit going.

    What’s worse – we visited a dozen or so other churches. And every single one of them was at least as bad as the one we left.

  • Chris Barnes

    When your form of worship drives other people away, God is no longer being worshiped.

    • Justin Stone

      I don’t agree, and maybe it’s the wording of “drives other people away”. Some worship styles may not be preferred by some people and they choose to go to another church who has a style that fits them better. That doesn’t mean that God is no longer worshipped.

  • cicada69

    Yes, Yes, and Amen!
    (or: one yes and two Amen’s)

  • Marlayne Giron

    I left a church with a great teaching pastor that I had been going to for over 4 years because of the worship. Smoke, lasers, concert lighting but mostly because the volume had gotten to a painful level. I complained to the ushers who gave me ear plugs and told me I wasn’t the first to complain. I literally had to stand with my fingers in my ears to protect my hearing. Finally I went to the head pastor. Earlier that morning one of the ushers had asked a sound person to turn down the volume. I witnessed them do this and the sound level was more comfortable. After the service I spoke to the head pastor and told him about how uncomfortably loud the music had gotten. He basically told me that I didn’t know what I was talking about and that I didn’t see someone turn down the volume on the sound board, insinuating that I was hallucinating. Disgusted I never went back and several of my friends left with me. I visited a couple other churches and finally found a local Calvary Chapel where I know the music and can actually hear myself sing and where we don’t feel the need to “clap” after each song. Something that has really bugged me for a while. This is a disturbing trend and not getting any better. Most of the congregation at my former church actually waits until the worship time is over to come inside. That includes my friend’s 21 year old son. Thank you for this article!

  • OkieTee

    Don’t miss the boat on what GOD said by catering to your feelings. Feels are earthly, sensual, deadly while God’s Word is spirit and life. Better re-think your Bible interpretations.

  • NottaBotBotWot?

    Simon says “clap!”

  • David

    Here’s a fact that needs to be recognized in this argument:

    Whatever you see or hear on Sunday mornings at “your” church is driven by the top leadership. For the most part that’s a senior pastor or core leadership team or an executive team. Worship leaders are carrying out the vision of the top leaders in the church. And by in large that vision is to reach the people no one else is reaching, with the desire to see people experience the living God. On Mondays there are usually numerous “anonymous” comment cards criticizing the worship leader or the band and the style of worship. Rest assured that if they were rebelling against what the leadership wanted, they wouldn’t last long. It’s easier to vilify that young worship leader thinking he’s the one ruining “worship” than it is to see them as human beings with families who honestly desire to see people experience the presence of God and are doing that at the direction of their leadership. I heard some of the worst things come out of people’s mouth to my Dad about my Dad in an effort to school him or put him in his place. He would just humbly thank them for their feedback. He was hired by the senior pastor to come in and transition the church from traditional to a blended service. What does that do to a man or woman over time? What does it do to their kids? We all desire to serve the God who calls himself Love, that’s the higher thought, but for almost the entirety of the churches history we’ve been stuck in reptile brain thinking, which is fight or flight mode.
    Who knows, in 10 years the church could lose its huge tax breaks and it could be illegal to have an organized meeting of more than 20 people for a religious gathering and we’re all meeting in people’s homes again. Even without all the building campaigns and numbers driven goals, there will still be people walking out of a church gathering upset at musical direction. Music, art, poetry, prose. It’s all subjective. Love is the objective. Love without condition.Can we do that?

  • ah.1960

    A question I read on a different article about worship resonated with me and I think is worth reposting here: “If the fog machine (or confetti cannon…I’ve seen both used in “worship services”) is broken, does the Holy Spirit still show up?”

  • Hank Schmidt

    I have a mixture of feelings on this… Music truly is a catalyst or enabler to help us enter in, expressing our love to the Father. David, the psalmist knew this well. There is of course
    celebrative music, and battle music that sets our mind on victory, and winning
    the fight, so to say… It’s kind of like blowing the shofar before a battle..
    A rallying cry…

    Then there is intimate worship music, which places our heart and minds in a deep place of quiet before the Lord.. My favorite place for sure. A Deep calling unto Deep experience.

    Physical things of this world can be a HELP or DISTRACTION when entering the presence of God. There was a reason that Jesus had his alone time with the Father away from all the earthly
    distractions. The physical, is a very real part of our totality. For instance, if our thoughts are not lined up with His truth we can indeed be in peril, or even shipwrecked.

    One thing I know for sure. I have determined in my heart that My Father is worthy of praise and honor, regardless of how I feel. Therefore I will not only praise and honor Him when the “right feelings” are present with me. My focus is rather upon His Purity and Perfection, His Righteousness and Mercy, His Forgiveness and Grace…… Bottom line…. His Worthiness to be Praised. That in itself is enough.

    I would think that if we hinge the value of worshipping our Father on anything else except His worthiness, It will not be enough to sustain us.

  • Nic

    We must worship in Spirit and in Truth. I am from the south eastern United States and this reminds me of a lesson the Holy Spirit taught me through my travels in breaking down my paradigms of what I thought worship was. I was standing in the Dream Center in LA where they had the concert style rock concert worship going on. It was far from what I knew and was use to. The Spirit challenged me to worship where I was. He prompted me to listen to the words. And when I heard them and listened with the Holy Spirit, I realized the worship was coming from an authentic place where it pleased God. The hearts of the worshipers were loving on God. And it freed me to jump and shout with all of the youngsters.

    The Holy Spirit revealed to me that Worship is cultural. Each culture has their own style of worship and they connect with God in a different way from what was present in the south eastern US African American Worship Experience.

    As I traveled to many countries and Have worshiped with saints from Rome to Afghanistan and Dubai, to South Africa, Puerto Rico, and all across this great country from the Carolinas to the Golden coasts of California. I have seen an experienced a wonderful tapestry of God’s Worship! The styles are all different however the Heart of worship is in Spirit and Truth!

    Many people are in performance and they don’t have the heart of worship.

    I pray that God will make us all the one that he is seeking after… one that worships in spirit and in truth. Not those who perform the best and hit all the correct notes but has the correct posture in heart mind and soul before the Almighty God! I’m not saying do not strive to be skillful at your gifting like David was a skillful musician, but do not let your skill/gift cultivation surpass your spiritual cultivation of your relationship with the Father God!

  • Johnny Hoops

    Well said Heather! Praise and worship is vastly over rated. It has become a “ministry” all of itself.
    “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” James 1:27.
    It is what we do from Monday through to Saturday
    “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 5: 16.
    “Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Hebrews 5:11-14

  • Edward Humphries

    There are several good points here worth noting. I found the article to be encouraging and enlightening. History has proven that every new innovation in music has carried with it a segment of critics who fear that the human race is moving away from God. This goes back to Vespation’s introduction of instruments into the chapel to Bach’s “St. Matthew’s Passion”, the hymns, choirs, electronics, various instruments, and styles. I’m sure when Solomon’s Temple was built (which, by the way, was the first ‘mega church’, there were critics who said that it was too ornate and Solomon was showing off. We marvel at the Cathedrals of old, which were decorative, lush, and artistic, and filled with aesthetics, yet we deride the modern churches for having technology and aesthetic appeal. We have to remember that religious music has ALWAYS been written in the cultural style of the day. There has never been a time when religious music has completely separated itself from style and culture. In fact, religious music has always taken its cue from secular music. Whatever the style of music will be 100 years from now in culture, you can bet that the church will follow suit. It’s a constant tug of war of the old guard pulling back, and the younger generation pushing forward. Nothing new here. This is why this article doesn’t alarm me one bit. It’s the same ole’ same ole’, but a different time in history. My heart is right, and my aim is to please God while using every bit of technology at my disposal. King David did it, the Jews did it, The early church did it, Beethoven, Bach, Haydn, and Handel did it, and everybody since then has done it. Our worship team is filled with musicians who want to honor God and lead people to worship. It doesn’t matter that we have a sound board, lots of instruments, a nice stage, a big screen, and some lighting. We all know what’s at stake every Sunday morning. Nothing is going to change that. And nothing is going to change the way we do worship…..that is, until the next big thing comes around.

  • Dick Silk

    Small point of hypocrisy the original post needs to address:
    1) complaint / observation that performance-ism puts removes all the participation from the congregation and puts it on the stage.
    2) summation statement to “Get out of the way, for God’s sake” which is *exactly* what the congregants are doing.
    So, does the author support getting out of the way for the congregants but not the stage hands? or should the stage hands get out of the way for the congregants?
    Any idea, concept, rule, or law one wishes to impose on others must *first* be imposed on one’s self.

    I’d like to point out that “getting out of the way” (God’s way) is equivalent to “not my will, but Thine, O Lord” be done.

    And, for the record, God’s Will is to Love God and to love all that opposes loving God.

  • Josh Militello

    Newer worship songs seem to depend on a catchy beat, the electric guitars and drums and bass to get people stirred up. In A true spiritual song or hymn the lyrics point directly to Jesus and the words of the song is what’s stirring your heart and causing you to praise Jesus. I’ll take a good old fashioned hymn over this modern rock and roll worship any day of the week.

  • Gavin Finley

    I could not agree more. The worship music we are seeing performed on stage in front of us is strident and forced. Dare I say, carnal? Where is the unction of God that normally attends true worship? We have not seen it for years.

    A second point. The worship song-writers today, with few exceptions, are professionals at pleasing church leaders. They just seem to do choruses repeated over and over again and with a big bass line to stir up the lower nature. That is supposed to be “powerful worship”.

    A third point. The song writers today do not know enough Bible or enough real Christianity to present lyrics. All they seem to do is present chorus’s with a weak inoffensive message. Often it is whinny “We will worship you” or words to that effect bolstered up with the drums and precious little else for the next 15 minutes seemingly to either try to pump up the crowd or to run down the clock. This lack ability to present a meaningful Biblical message or some Old Testament poetry with lyrics is very worrying. The old hymn writers had no problem putting out hundreds of hymns full of lyrics. And the Scripture in Song movement t of the early charismatic renewal was a wonder in its time. Alas, the merchants have bought out the true and genuine songs only to replace it with the false and shallow ones.

  • Thomas

    No, the Priests are Representatives of Jesus in HIS absence. We as the Church are to Pray for the Priests and NOT to laugh in judgement for Jesus WILL correct the wrongs.I was always reading from the Bible in our Catholic Church. No wrong was said or done.

  • David Lloyd Ehrmann

    Faith that comes is from the Rhema word(Living Word) in agreement with the Logos written word

  • linda_marie

    I am so thankful that I “enjoy” almost any style of music — and I have a verybroad definition of worship since I believe that worship comes from the heart — not the music. It also makes life easier for me when I get invited to “someone else’s church”! (P.S. Our UMC choir is doing a work in Latin by John Rutter for Christmas…)

  • standfortheconstitution

    I have a friend that grew up Catholic. After he had a spiritual awakening, he went to his priest, and the priest told him not to read the Bible on his own. Let me read the Bible and I will tell you what it says.

  • Barbara

    I was sick of this kind of worship years ago. I was accused of not being able to handle change. Not true. I found the Roman Catholic Church and the change has been overwhelming and wonderful.

  • Doug Rowland

    I am from the old school been preaching 44 years Pastored 5 churches ad held countless revivals I am in evangelism now . My problem is that this new not so new now is NOT reaching everyone it is not all inclusive . The older people need to hear “There is Fountain filled with Blood” and “The Old Rugged Cross” just as it used to be sung no messing with it changing it or anything . The hymns f the faith are still powerful in their own right . I see worship leaders trying “Work Up” worship and that is not pleasing to the Object of our worship Jesus Christ . I am not trying to be stick-in-the-mud but remember you have to try and minister to ALL the saints . If I were to ever pastor again I would make t manitory to sing Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so because there are kids that need to be reached also . I know I know you will call me an old foggie out of touch . But quit trying to work up the spirit and allow the spirit to work us up

  • carolmorrisey

    Most contemporary worship songs are hard to sing. I have difficulty following the tunes, which are usually not very melodious. The old hymns are more beautiful in both tunes and quality of the words (speaking as a former English teacher who loves poetry).

  • mark1702

    So true!