I recently overheard a conversation between two elderly ladies: "..all that twanging on the guitar, it's more about musical prowess than about worship"!
This got me thinking. The comment was made after a large worship session at a recent Christian conference, and the ladies in question did not know the band personally.
Is that really how people see us? I know there have been discussions here before about this, and as Christians we all try hard to make our playing about serving God and serving the church in order to lead the congregation to a place of true worship. We try to focus on being servants rather than performers.
So when we play well do we give the impression of being "about musical prowess" rather than" about worship"? Or is the real problem that people like this are making false judgements? How do we combat this? Or do we press on regardless, knowing that God knows everyone's heart and He is the only true judge?
I recently read Martin Smith's biography. Essentially Deleriou5? started off as a worship band that made an increasing number of 'artistic choices' because of what they were doing. They remained at heart a worship band, but also pushed the prowess and showmanship envelopes as hard as they possibly could (this is not exactly how it was put in the book!). I don't think Martin has any trouble with his conscience about it, and many many people loved what they did, yet depending on the heart of the observer they could have been either incredibly gifted or blatant showmen.
Purely as an observation, I find that the songs which have endured from that creative stream were those written in the earliest days as Cutting Edge - Lord you have my heart, did you feel the mountains tremble - etc. rather than the later material. Make of that what you will, and others may feel differently.
From some of the discussions here we can see that for some, musical prowess is next to godliness, while for others it is a small part of what is required. It is important that we are careful about our hearts in this, but also that we have our eyes and ears (and hearts) open to see the effect that what we do is having on people. Worship should go much deeper than whether we filled the hall/sanctuary/auditorium with people that waved their hands in the air and sang in the Spirit. We need to consider whether it spills over into their every day lives and how it enable or prevents them from finding ways of worshipping God personally.
Now I have certain perspectives about this that I don't want to push, but we need to consider whether our corporate worship is like an evangelistic rally where hundreds of people respond but very few actually go on anywhere afterward, or whether it is the coming together for lives that have focussed on God during the rest of the week, and a source of inspiration to press on deeper into Him in the next week.
I love musical prowess when I'm listening to music in the car, whether it's a worship song or a pop tune. But, during a worship service we have to be aware of how our musical forays affect the worshipers. We don't want to suddenly turn people's attention from God focus to guitar solo focus. There's nothing wrong with a guitar solo in worship, but we have to be careful where we put it and even how it's played. IMHO, If it doesn't enhance the worship experience then leave it out.
I am with you on this. There is some good stuff in this thread.
If a song we are playing calls for a solo, I find that if I don't play the solo, but just pick the chords that go along with the solo it really adds more to the "support role" of the song than being out in the open by itself (if that makes sense). Now if we are playing at a concert, or say at the carnival our church puts on every year, then I will play the solo...
I think that kind of comment is more peoples' judgment on others' supposed motives.
Hurtful? Yes - but I have learned to discount remarks like that.
Read "Addicted to Mediocrity" by Franky Schaeffer
This is a very broad question with a massive number of possible meanings for "musical prowess" and "twanging on the guitar". My general preference is to see a person contributing to the song at hand and the corporate worship service. It's a fine line to traverse between contributing your talent to the corporate effort and standing out as a performer.
I'm not even sure it's wrong to perform in a worship setting. But I can think of dozens of times when I've seen an indulgent solo that wasn't appropriate. It's not about excellence vs. non-excellence. It's about contribution and why and how it fits into the whole. If I sit there and feel that the solo I here is only another voice along with mine, it seems fine. But if I find that everything suddenly shifts focus to the guitar player on stage, something's amis. It doesn't matter how good or bad the solo is, this is the first principle I go by.
If you can look in the mirror and know that the person looking back truly wants to serve God and to play as skillfully as God intended, then play on Friend. God gave you gifts to use. Not to use in part, but fully, and skillfully. There will always be those who will judge.
A lot of it does come down to taste, but that still shouldn't translate into a judgement, should it?
I think what I was trying to ask was - is it possible to teach people to trust the attitudes of the musicians?
What about Philippians 2:3?
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.
If we apply that verse (which we all should!) and our lives reflect that attitude then people who know us will generally not make these kind of comments. But these ladies did not know the band members so an assumption was made (which may or may not have been true). Should we have more teaching on leaving the judgement of our brothers and sisters hearts to God?
:) Love it!
Just one more set of thoughts to roll in..... those who are talented need to exercise their talents in submission for everyone's benefit.
If I play my guitar and it's my skill to use as I want when ever I feel I should then I have a haughty and independent spirit, and although some may feel they are blessed by what I do (because God is so often gracious with us) I'm doing it for me, even though I think I'm doing it for Him. It's a bit like the I Cor 13 chapter - if I give my all but without love (and if you aren't placing yourself in submission then you aren't acting in love) then it's not really worth that much.
The short version of my thoughts in regards to your scenarios are this:
It could be either or both. It could be overly judgmental folks. It could be overly showy musicians.
How do we make sure that people on both sides are not "in the wrong"? Teaching, Discipleship, and Accountability.
Musicians/Worshipers are rarely taught on a regular basis about the balance of surrendering their gifts and abilities in a manner that honors God and keeps their pride in check. And, congregants are rarely taught and held accountable for judgmental statements and attitudes, whether they be about music or any other area of ministry in the church.
Spiritual Autopilot will always lead to the flesh creeping in, on both sides of the platform.
I think it is important to try and empathize with the person who spoke the complaint. This is my attempt:
"all that twanging on the guitar, it's more about musical prowess than about worship"
I don't feel this is a matter of playing skillfully versus bringing mediocrity to worship. One can definitely play skillfully and not play with an overemphasis on musical prowess. It is possible to focus too much on musical content, which is not the same as musical quality.
It is also possible for those in a congregation/audience to focus on the music too much and not focus on bringing their own worship to God. What can we do to change that?
I am no stranger to an extended solo. As a guitar player who does not sing this is my form of expression. I keep it tasteful and try as much as possible to play in "the Holes". I have had people offended with what I play that sound just like what you are describing but I have had more people, who also cannot sing, tell me how they appreciated that particular lead section. Many of my friends told me they kept coming to church because the music was exciting and once they were there had an encounter with God.
No worship team can be all things to all people. Your expression of worship is going to come out of your team based on the sum of its parts. You can only be who you are and not everyone is going to like it but just as many probably will. Poll and entire congregation and I am sure you will be pleasantly surprised. Only offended people actually speak up. The happy ones just go home happy.