Rick Warren once said something to the effect of, if you want to change cultures - become a musician. Music is extremely powerful. It has the ability to, in one fell swoop, to provoke thought, action, and emotion.
When we talk about our worship offering as a group, the tendency is to say "it's just music", as if, for some reason, it is less important than anything else we can offer God. Yet, I see the power of music in our congregation. I see how it moves people, I see how people leave with it and rely on it during the week, I see how it causes people to contemplate God.
Our modern attitude towards music (in many churches) is that it is OK to half a$$ our way through our music worship offering. The consequence is that many churches have sloppy music and poor mixes for their worship offering. I have to wonder: does this work against us when it comes to reaching people?
The poles are unified: we are not a Christian nation. Less than 40% of our population attend church, of any kind. Start doing the math of ratio of people attending Christian churches vs the total population in almost any demographic, and you'll find that Christianity is practiced by almost 30% of the population. It has been this way for 30 years or more, and the number of Christians are shrinking.
Back in the early 80s, and certainly through the 90s, it was seen that if a Church wants to increase its fruitfulness, our musical worship offering to God is the place to start. Certainly, the churches that have taken this to heart and send up a top notch worship offering that is relevant to the demographic around it are virtually the only churches that grow today. Sadly, these churches are in the minority in many parts of the US.
Do we discount the importance of our music worship offering to God?
I would suggest that any church that works to exercise emotional, cognitive, and volitional aspects of faith in balance, is going to explode. Lean too hard to either of these and you lose important things.
I have no problems with the church that practices highly emotional corporate worship services, as long as they provide other exercises of faith too.
My church excels at teaching and volitional aspects of faith, but struggles in the emotional area. It does well for itself, but the leadership knows that they need to do better at emotional exercise. While we still worship conservatively (and probably always well when compared to some of the more vibrant churches out there), they are working on changing this aspect.
Looking back, I'd say that churches whose freedom of worship helps people to become (or return to being) their real self (as opposed to a Church Self, a mask applied for social acceptance). This is not to say that self-identification is the most important thing (it isn't); but it is a good thing, I think, to be able to express one's emotions in church. There ought to be some place people can be emotional without being judged for it. Jesus was quite happy with the woman who washed his feet with her tears, and with the healed leper who came back to thank Him. Who thanks a friend without emotion? It would be kind of creepy: "T-h-a-n-k-Y-o-u."
Now, what is "passionate", what is "expressing emotion", and what is "freedom", and what is "Pentecostal"? Tough to define any of these without getting your own version in. After thirty years of sojourning in churches with a Southern culture (suspicious of "culture'), I'm now in a semi-liturgical church where I can play Bach preludes again -- any idea how wonderful this is to me, and to members (and even street people who secretly love classical music)? It is exactly as emotional as when I was playing fiery syncopations to Jenn Johnson's "Dance".
This resounds with me.
Reference to? Hard to tell with so many replies...
What Stevo said.
Wow, this is a crazy discussion to follow. I don't even know what I was resounding with initially . . . anymore. This is what I think. I am incredibly turned off by over produced, over done musical shows during worship services. I think a lot of it borders on entertainment and emotional manipulation. Is worship, transformation, and exchange taking place? Or strange mob-like chemical/hormonal surges taking over people? I don't get to judge this, as I cannot see into the heart of man. I must be careful, because only God can judge the intentions of a heart. Perhaps a lot of this comes down to preference and personal wiring. I connect with quiet, reflective, thoughtful lyrics. I am a musician, and sometimes silence is the best worship. Ah, the delight God must feel also for our silent mouths and listening "spiritual ears". There is a time for all of this. There is a time to play loudly, there is a time to reflect. I detest the idea of conjuring a response from people, but again, I cannot judge a heart response from a surface one in anyone but myself. Worship is a response after all. A response to who God is and His sole worthiness of glory, honor, an praise in whatever I am doing, . . . or not doing:)
As for who can participate . . . well, I believe everyone can participate; and a dedicated person, if given the opportunity, can improve. I believe that when I come along side someone who longs to express themselves in song or in some other way that I can assist, 1.) That is an act of worship, 2.) God has an amazingly long-suffering learning curve, 3.) If you are distracted to the point of anger or frustration, perhaps you should ask the Spirit to examine your heart. Again, there is a time and place and lots of grace for those who are learning. . . and teaching. Perhaps some will never be "skilled" outwardly, but who knows what heaven is hearing when they play or sing.
I must also make it known that I am not a subscriber to what is often referred to as "Seeker Services", however, I am very relational in ministering. If I speak to a group, I treat them as I would an individual. Again, this is my wiring, and I am thankful for those who have the heart and ability to think and act on a larger scale. Anyway, because I do not care to treat large groups, small groups, or "mixed" (believers and "seekers") groups much differently from one another, . . I could care less if people are being trained in front of seekers or members, or whomever.
I think originally this discussion had something to do with the power of music. It is mysterious, isn't it? There is something more than physical, more than emotional to it. It does have some God created characteristic that moves passed people's defense mechanisms. It has some "supernatural" quality to it. God was the first to sing, He created the phenomenon. Amazing to think about.
In conclusion, if the purpose of having a time of musical worship in a church service is to worship God, then worship Him with all your heart, strength, skill, mind; and be careful not to make your own qualifications to what that looks like, or should sound like for everyone. I am accountable to God as "the" music leader to do my best with what I've got (personal skill or devoted participants). I know the pressure that the world, masquerading as the Church, puts on musical worship leaders, but the truth is that the Lord wants our hearts, not a show.
Father, I pray that You would increase our measure of discernment as worship leaders. I pray that You would bring freedom to us where we have been ensnared by the rules and traps of the world. I asked that You would free our hearts and minds from the lie of marketability. I pray that You would give us courage to be the leaders that You have made us to be. As creative, colorful, loud, quiet, eccentric, as you've crafted our hearts to be. We belong to You first, empower us, Holy Spirit to act upon our beliefs. In Jesus' Name.
Amen and amen
At the end of the day worship is an issue of the heart and the instrument takes on the heart (spirit) of the worshipper, the instrument in itself is amoral.
The fact that using people as they are gifted is something that is difficult for Churches to understand. Even Paul contended with this issue with the Corinthians. Use people as they are gifted and God will be able to do fantastic things. Use people as they are not gifted and you crimp the ministry that the Church is supposed to do.
Would we ask somebody who doesn't know how to plumb to plumb our houses? Probably not. Yet, the Church does this all the time. We are so enamored with the common model that we deploy it, regardless of whether or not we have the people with the skills to make it happen. The net result is that many put up a worship offering to God that is sloppy. The world, which is much smarter than we like to admit, sees this and, rightfully so, questions why they would ever want to worship a God that will not use them for what they are good at, instead pigeonholing them into one of a few areas. It is tragic.
It isn't back peddling to note that what I'm presenting here is confusing for some. The issue that I'm presenting is something that is deeply ingrained in our culture - and let's face it, people struggle to see and think differently than what they have been taught for decade after decade.
The fact is, we need to be more prudent in finding ways to fit people into roles that they are gifted for and not pigeonhole them into whatever we think we need. We don't know what we need. God does. Yet walk into virtually any church and you'll find the same small selection of ministries repeated over and over and over again, despite how effective it is, or is not.
Are my comments here unfounded and uneducated? Absolutely not. 24 years of working in along side of various churches, thousands of conversations of pastors from all over the world have shown me that we are in a serious and sad state. We are so overly concerned with keeping the people in our doors happy that we literally rule out millions of others from participating. So I have to ask: who are the real judges here? The ones who try to put forward a quality worship offering by using people as they are gifted, therefore, growing a church that is capable of including virtually everybody that walks in the door, not just as consumers but as contributors? Or the ones who let volunteers do whatever they want to do, despite their own talents, that make church worship offerings barely tolerable except to a select few?
Simply put, if a person can't sing, they have no business singing on the worship team. If they can't tech, they don't have any real business teching, teaching, cooking, building, fixing, etc. But what if they are teachable? Well - the answer is right in front of us: teach them and let them loose when they are ready.
But come-on Church, we say that God is great to us, we declare this to the public, then give God a sloppy worship offering, and then wonder why all but a few people struggle to buy into our testimony.
So I would blame the unmusical pastor's wife in this case. I've seen the husband-wife one-two punch all too often. It's an assumption of authority by proxy and it's very choking. It happens in the secular world as well. I experienced it one time and that was one time too many.
It isn't back peddling to note that what I'm presenting here is confusing for some.
I'm not confused, I just disagree with your focus and many of your points. I said that you are reformulating your logic - that's backpedaling. I said calling people confused when they disagree is disengenuous. First you said some absurd things. When you were challenged, you reformulated your logic to account for that. Then someone still disagrees and you call them confused. Maybe you don't think that's what's going on here, but I can only go by what you're writing and while your music may be excellent, I think your arguments may be a little sloppy. It's truly not your gift.
It seems like you have a fairly simple point to make. No need to imply that the lack of gift optimization is a major crisis and the cause of it. It's always been that way and it will always be. No need to call people 2nd and 3rd rate. No need to call people "confused" if they disagree. That's disengenuous.
Generally, when you make the kind of broad sweeping claims that you're making, you need something more substantial to back it up other than:
24 years of working in along side of various churches, thousands of conversations of pastors from all over the world have shown me that...
Either you mean that you had these conversations, or you're trying to imply it slightly to add weight to your statement. It's actually absurd - it's like one conversation every other day for all 24 years, all on the same subject. If you can do that, you're an animal! If you don't mean it that way, then it's kind of a messy way of making us think you do. You need to be more excellent in your presentation of facts.
But come-on Church, we say that God is great..then give God a sloppy worship offering
I think we all struggle to make it real. What I'm reacting to here is that your definition of sloppy keeps shifting to suit the moment. It's easy to see. And I'm also pretty sure that I fall into the 2nd rate category on many days. Can I meet your 2nd rate people? We might be able to start a church. We'll call it "Sloppy Seconds Bible Church".
And make no mistake, good music should only happen after we've set our sites on the Great Commission. You even said that 4 out of 5 dentists agree - we languish because we don't evangelize enough (then later you seem tim imply that a lower quality offering is the issue). We can evangelize without music. It's secondary, but of course that doesn't mean it has to be second rate. And I like it to be great too.
I'm sure you saw my first reply. After thinking about it, I decided to omit it and try again.
1. I'm not changing my logic. I am changing my approach in an attempt to find a way to be more clear. Part of the problem is, I think we splintered off from the OP into slightly different topics that carry with them different thoughts.
2. I'm sorry I don't put more authority behind what I'm attempting to express. The truth is, I love talking to pastors, pastors love talking to me. Sometimes I do it for free (most of the time). Sometimes I get paid. While you don't like what I put here, there are some who email me and encourage me to keep putting out more stuff as they find some value in it. This post alone has initiated some really interesting discussion from some guys who read it and want to explore more, but in a different venue. No I'm not going to say who. No I'm not going to print their letters here. This is a public forum and merely a place to field and share ideas, not out people who are struggling with a particular thing.
3. You keep suggesting that I'm speaking out of turn, which is why I keep suggesting that I'm not. As noted in number 2, this is a public forum. I have to keep things generic will still trying to present an idea that is outside of the norm. Seriously, this is what forums are for. I suppose we could just talk about everything else that everybody is talking about, but that wouldn't be fun.
4. As far as my gifts are concerned: There are people who think I'm an idiot and not at all gifted in this area. Then there are some who (and I don't agree with this) think that I'm brilliant because of my approach to various issues that face contemporary churches. Either route, I don't really care what people's opinion of me is. I am attempting to put my most interesting ideas forward (which are usually based off of something somebody said or presented), I'm doing it with my real name so that people who are interested in discussing these things on a, perhaps deeper level, can contact me so that we can talk.
5. Your church looks to be pretty sizable. Heck, your own website even boasts about your attendance figures (something that seems to be a bit unusual for a church to do, but that is a different discussion). From what I can tell, your church is probably close to the same size as mine. I'm inclined to think that you have the same problem that we do: people who want to be on the worship team who don't have much in the way of musical gifts. Do you really just allow those people on the team? Or do you try to find another place for them to serve? I can honestly tell you that my church will not kick them to the curb (nor have I ever practiced this), but rather, we try to help them find out what they are good at so that they can serve there. So please, share with us your approach. What happens when Stevo is presented with this problem?