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Worship and RockShows

February 26, 2012

So what makes a worship service “worshipful” ?

I’ve sat in many different types of services and found myself drawn into worship not because of the music style but because I entered that service with a desire and expectation that I will seek and find God there.  I’m convinced that there’s no band, pastor, denomination, music style, teaching style (either highly polished/equipped or scaled back/ resourceful) that can dictate if I worship or not.  (quite frankly, they just don’t wield that much influence.)  My attitude, heart, and relationship with God however, does.  And a gifted worship leader with a competent team will enhance that.  Consequently, if leaders, players, signers, and tech artists (either large-scale or small-scale) are not actually skillful and not expressing themselves out of a heart for God, entering into worship is difficult at best and their presence on the platform can be utterly distracting at worst.

Sometimes we hear about those “mega” churches (apparently referring to those churches that are growing with people who actually look forward to going to church each week) being all about the “performance” or they “look like a rockshow” – as if to imply poorly presented music by singers who can’t sing, players who can’t play, (or unwilling to learn a couple songs and rehearse), with sound that can’t be heard or understood  is somehow more Holy, spiritual, or authentic. 

I’ve seen small worship teams that would probably consider themselves under-resourced, lead amazing worship experiences.  They weren’t perfect but they played, sang, and sounded well, they loved God, they supported each other, and they put in real effort – as if what they did was being done unto the Lord. What made them effective was not, however, the fact they were small, unprepared, or lacked gear. What made them effective was they loved God, loved to worship, and they were gifted at what they were called to do.  In short worship mattered.  It was worth getting out of bed for, preparing and rehearsing for, equpping for, and doing well with the best possible level of excellence. It involved a worthwhile sacrafice of some time and energy.

Way too much credit (or blame) is placed on the music style or venue size to determine what is “worshipful” and not enough on the hearts of those called to use their gifts before a group of people seeking to encounter God.  When in fact, that’s all that matters.

Here’s the thing – whenever musicians and singers are placed in front of a crowd, for whatever reason, it will by its very nature look like a performance.  What is actually projected from any platform is the heart for God and the purpose of those called to play, sing, control tech and teach.  And just because things like lights, sight lines, sound, relevancy, pitch, timing, tempo are actually taken seriously, by those who are gifted to take them seriously, does not necessarily make it a “rockshow”. The issue is much deeper than appearance, style (or even if a church is  mega/ mini or traditional/modern etc.)

Worship that engages probably includes good music (or at least not poor music.) But If one’s heart is far from God, all they can and will ever get from any experience is just good music.

The bottom line is this.  Assuming that the platform artists are in it for the love of God (and using their gifts to lead others closer to God), what really can make a service a rockshow or specticle is not the size of the room, style of the music, or relevancy of the technologies.  It’s the attitude and heart of the listener.  That’s what determines perception in churches large and small.  If the listener does not have at least some “value for worship” and is seeking God whole-heartedly, then what goes on in any church service (tradtional/modern or large/small) can never be anything more than just music that is observed and critiqued (often based on little more than nostalgia, preference, and personal taste.)  And in that respect it doesn’t have to look like a  “rockshow” to not be worshipful. 

Worship in any church is a function of the artist’s heart/attitude AND the listener’s heart/attitude.  Without that it’s ALL just a “rockshow” and always has been.  Because unlike rockshows or any rote church rituals,  Worship, by it’s very nature, cannot occur as a spectator event.  It starts with the heart of the listener.

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One Comment
  1. I like what you are saying here when you say “ti’s the attitude and heart of the listener.” I feel many settings and styles can be worshipful depending on where my heart and focus is. I agree worship is not a spectator event!

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