Healthy Leaders


Your Excellent Worship Isn’t

John BranyanJohn Branyan

“Come! Let us worship the Lord together!”

And the band launches into a lively riff.

The song leader steps up to the microphone.

His voice rings out.

It’s amazing!

As the music swells, I’m overwhelmed by one thought:

… “This band ought to produce a CD!”

… Luckily, they’re on iTunes.

I can’t make out the words to this song.

Fortunately, the lyrics are flashing on a screen above the stage.

“Lift your voice to God,” the song leader encourages.

… He’s kidding.

The band spent hours practicing this music.

Raising my voice would mess up the blend.

Besides …

… I haven’t been able to hit those notes since puberty.

So I’ll just listen.

Let the professionals handle worship.

… I’ll praise by proxy.

Wait for a part of the service where I can participate.

You know, the part that isn’t focused on music.

Ha ha!

I know. I know.

There is no part like that!

Music = Worship

Am I wrong?

Do you know any “Worship Leaders” who don’t sing or play an instrument?

I don’t.

I’ve been in a lot of different churches.

Lost count of how many times I’ve been told,

“We’ve got a great worship band!”

Reminds me of a Boston tune.  Hum along with me:

“Playin’ for a week in Rhode Island

A man came to the stage one night

He smoked a big cigar

Drove a Cadillac car

And said, “Boys, I think this bands outta-sight

Sign a record company contract

You know I’ve got great expectations

When I hear you on the car radio

You’re goin’ to be a sensation!”

I’ve had conversations with folks who left our church for one with “better music.”

I’ve heard this concern raised in Elder’s meetings:

“If we don’t upgrade our music, visitors won’t come back!”

Let that sink in.

… Abject fear of rejection for our music …

Now consider this …

… if visitors won’t tolerate music they find unsatisfactory,

… what will happen when they hear the cost of following Christ?

Admittedly, many churches do have a great worship band.

So what?

Boston was a great band too.

Neither group invited me to perform with them.

Though I’m welcome to sing along from the crowd.

THAT is contemporary worship.

Basking in a melodious wave of banal choruses.

Chided by a teenage worship leader for my waning enthusiasm.

“What’s the matter?  Are you ashamed of Jesus?”


To be clear …


not you,

is the reason I’m here on Sunday morning.

Jesus said,

“God is Spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

The painful reality, Mr. Worship Leader, is this:

I don’t need you in order to worship.

… and you’re distracting me.

“Stand up!”

“Raise your hands!”

“Bow your head!”

“Sing louder!”

All that’s missing is a whip cracking over my head.

Your obsession with “excellence” assigns me the role of spectator.

… Until I’m ordered to perform some worshipful gesture.

Sunday morning isn’t a gathering of believers for the edification of Christ.

It’s a complex production with split-second cues requiring a team of specialists.

Like a kid going to the museum.

I’m encouraged to attend …

… as long as I don’t touch anything.

(I was literally told not to touch anything recently.)

I’m just supposed to follow the leader.

… But you’re not really leading …

You’re too talented a musician.

I can’t keep up.

You’re an Olympic gymnast leading calisthenics at a nursing home.

Enthusiastically back-flipping along the balance beam,

… oblivious to the old folks passed out on the floor.

Musical types often remind me of this spot in the Bible:

“Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs …”

So there.

Justification for praise bands.

Scripture also says:

“By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.”

So …

… why isn’t staff-leaning part of Sunday worship service?

I’m certain that I could participate with competency.

Don’t need to carry a tune.

Don’t need rhythm.

… just need a stick.

… Anybody can get hold of a stick.

Think about it.

Staffs are for the lame.

Weak, sickly people who need aid in order to stand.

Crippled children praising the Lord in their affliction.

There’s a weird beauty in that imagery.

… I’m not kidding.

It’s time to expand the worship experience.

Let the non-musicians contribute.

… Let the lame lean.

The ordinary, unremarkable, untrained disciples.

Let’s rethink our definition of “excellence.”

Excellent worship is worship that’s accessible to EVERYONE.

An excellent worship leader makes sure everyone,

not just musicians,

has a part to play.

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