As a Worship Pastor, when I hear that, I feel two things simultaneously… a sudden urge to give someone a hug, and a sudden urge to throw up in my mouth a little bit.
I know… people are out to encourage the worship guy. And they probably did have a genuinely inspiring time connecting with God. I get it. As the encouragee, that’s the part of me that wants to embrace my encourager with an “I love you, man” back slap.
Truth is, I get a little bit uncomfortable rating worship on a scale of “horrible” to “awesome sauce.” Truth be told, if we are “rating” our worship experience, we don’t really understand worship, right? Now, I’m not an idiot. (Some of you may want to chime in here, but we’re moving on…) I do understand that this may be a matter of semantics to some degree.
But words matter.
Precise language matters. Sometimes you can accidentally communicate all kinds of things you never meant to say, simply with careless word choices. So, as a Worship Pastor, I’m careful about this stuff.
Worship doesn’t = music. You probably came to that conclusion years ago. But what is it again exactly? Worship is our response to God for who He is, for what He has said, for what He has done, and for what He is going to do. We love God because He loved us. Worship at it’s core is a response of love and gratitude expressed to God because of the gospel. Music works great to help that happen, when a whole group of people are in the same space for the purpose of worshipping God. That’s why churches use it. Music helps focus many individual hearts on some aspect of God, so that we might respond with love… or examine our hearts and humbly confess our need for God… our brokenness. Our sin. But the response – whatever God prompts – that response is the worship.
If we keep that in mind, how strange to rate our worship experience on a quality scale, right? But we do.
At Living Hope Church, I love it when people talk to me about the music AND their worship experience – as two separate thoughts. It shows me that they get it… The quality of their WORSHIP response to God has much more to do with their view of GOD then it does with the quality of the MUSIC we lead.
This stuff has been rattling around in my brain these last few days since a friend of mine posted a thought on Facebook about excellence in church production…
AMEN. As a long-standing and vocal promoter of excellence in church art, music, design, programming, production, etc. I think this bears repeating often. My ultimate standard in measuring “excellence” in ministry production is this… Is it effective?
I don’t mean “effective” as in just “good enough for church.” I’ll even take “inspiring.” Good times. But my ministry PURPOSE must help clarify my methods. As a worship leader and service planner, my purpose is to help clearly communicate the hard truth that we are all depraved sinners, dead in our sin, needing rescue and resuscitation… and the AMAZING true love story that Jesus Christ died on a cross and rose from the dead for us, to restore us to life and meaning and joy again. Our purpose is to provide space and opportunity for people to respond to that truth week after week. That’s it. The heart of it.
Therefore, if our music and lighting and production becomes SO “excellent” that it begins to draw attention to itself… then it is no longer “excellent.” Because it is no longer effective. Because then the production is drawing attention AWAY from the Lord. In fact, that’s not just a little bit of a focus problem… that is the polar opposite of the ministry purpose.
So, can BAD musicianship / drama / art / lighting / production hinder worship? Absolutely. And can AMAZING musicianship / art / drama / lighting / production hinder worship. Absolutely. Non-distracting + inspiring + authentic + humble = thumbs up. Amazing showmanship with extra flash sauce = thumbs down.
So if you’re in the habit of giving your worship leader at church a high five after a particularly rippin’ guitar solo and telling him “The worship was AWESOME today!” you might want to take a step back… Ask yourself if you gave yourself to Jesus again today, fully surrendered, as a walking THANK YOU to God for who He is and what He’s done in your life. If so, worship WAS awesome today. Even if the Praise Team played with the sensitivity and musical agility of a pregnant yak. Doesn’t matter. What matters is what was going on in your heart, and how you responded to God’s love today.
If you’re a worship leader who is in the habit of rating your church’s worship experience based on the quality of the music you produce, you are giving yourself too much credit. Worship isn’t “better” if you sing like Tomlin, play like Brewster, and your light system looks like a Pink Floyd retrospective. Remember that the music, the art, the production is the TOOL.
Worship is the goal.
“supressing my gag reflex :: worship leading with excellence… but not too much excellence” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.